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Emile Peynaud dies at 92

Professor Emile Peynaud, the forefather of modern oenology and a former Decanter Man of the Year, has died aged 92.

Over a career spanning 46 years, Peynaud wrote nearly 300 scientific articles as well as books on tasting and oenology. He played a key role in influencing winemaking practices in Bordeaux for several decades.

Peynaud, who was born in 1912, started his career at the age of 15 working for the Bordeaux négociant Maison Calvet. At 20 he published his first article in the Revue de Viticulture and in 1946 he presented his thesis on oenology. He went on to work alongside professor Jean Ribereau-Gayon at the oenology research department of the University of Bordeaux.

His most famous books include The Taste of Wine (1980) and Knowing and Making Wine (1982).

Throughout his career, Peynaud maintained that winemaking should be based on three simple principles: first, that the grapes must arrive at the winery in a healthy and mature condition; second, tannins must be extracted with maximum dexterity; and third, fermentation temperatures must be controlled throughout and maceration must be long enough.

Although once slighted in his home town for the ‘peynaudization of Bordeaux’, his influence has remained.

‘Using only the very best grapes is a new phenomenon. For me, this is the crowning achievement of my work,’ he told Decanter magazine in 1990.

At one time, Peynaud was advising 70 properties, working seven days a week to visit 15 properties a day. After retirement, he continued to act as a consultant to châteaux, wine-cooperatives and wineries in Spain, Greece, Italy and Mexico.

When he was named Decanter Man of the Year in 1990 Peynaud was still advising Châteaux Margaux, Léoville-Las-Cases, Lagrange and Pontet-Canet.

The most respected members of today’s wine community are unstinting in their praise of the man they considered ‘a great teacher’.

‘I owe him a lot and Château Margaux owes him a lot. I will remember a man who was both professional in his work and also a real gentleman who always talked with the greatest respect for humanity and for wines,’ Margaux general director Paul Pontallier said.

Decanter consultant editor Steven Spurrier said, ‘He was the most impressive and inspirational Bordeaux wine professor and a great influence on Bordeaux wine for over four decades.’

Wine writer Hugh Johnson said Peynaud ‘did more than any other Frenchman of the 20th century to modernize French wine philosophy. He was as wise about wine appreciation as he was about wine making: positive, open and generous. France needs such a philosopher of wine more than ever today.’

Wine critic Michael Schuster added, ‘He was wonderfully generous, gentle, friendly, and a great teacher.’

Written by Oliver Styles

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