Actor John Malkovich has launched a range of French wines under the Les Quelles de la Coste label. Made from grapes grown on the family estate in Luberon that Malkovich owns with his long-term partner, film director Nicoletta Peyran, the range currently includes a Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé, a single-varietal Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon, plus two Cabernet-Pinot blends: Les 7 Quelles and Les 14 Quelles. All are classified as IGP Vaucluse.
‘We decided pretty soon after we had our first child that we didn’t want to live in a town like LA or London, and we wanted to bring up the kids somewhere more rural. We looked all around France, then a friend of a friend said we absolutely had to go and visit Luberon,’ said Malkovich at the UK launch of the range, explaining how he first arrived in this area in the heart of Provence
Despite owning the 10ha estate since the mid-1980s, Malkovich and Peyran only decided to plant vines in 2008. ‘When we first bought it, there were already farmers working some of the land. Eventually the farmers retired but the land was looking so unkempt that we decided to do something with it again,’ he explained.
Much like the idiosyncratic roles and films he is known for – including playing a version of himself in the Spike Jonze film Being John Malkovich – the actor made a left-field choice when it came to deciding what vines to plant. In an area best known for its Mourvèdre and Grenache, he chose Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.
‘In fact the idea for growing grapes came from an article given to me by a wine connoisseur that said in Louis XIV’s day in our region, only Pinot Noir should be grown. That interested me a lot and I like Pinot and I like Cabernet, more than say Grenache or Syrah, which they generally grow there,’ he said.
Ralf Hoegger, who joined the LQLC team in 2018, after working for the singer Sting’s Italian winery Tenuta il Palagio, added: ‘Our region is called “Petite Siberia” and it is a harsh climate, with big differences in day and night temperatures. Pinot Noir works well here because of that. Our soil is clay mainly but with a lot of stones and an important factor is that we have 14 wells [‘quelles’ in French] on our land, from an ancient lake, which means we have enough water for the vines if they go deep enough.’
The 4ha vineyard is currently in conversion to organic viticulture, though it won’t be certified. Plans are already in motion to expand the vineyard, with soil specialist Pedro Parra advising the LQLC team on which varieties to plant; while Jean Natoli is consultant winemaker.
Although he doesn’t have any winemaking skills himself, Malkovich is as hands-on as he can be. ‘I designed the original label and I can taste,’ he said, explaining that he and Peyran were involved in the blending sessions for the current releases. ‘I was shooting in Rome all last fall and so we went back three or four times for tastings.’
Does he see any links between acting and making wine?
‘Maybe my acting could lead one to believe I was inebriated…’ quipped Malkovich.
‘It’s like the difference between making movies and television; in this life there are only details. The broad strokes, the general themes don’t mean anything. The details of what you do and how you do it – and how you apply your thoughts or your intellectual, emotional, instinctive or educational rigour to something is really all there is.’