Margaux Hemingway Waxes Rhapsodic on Wine for Les Amis du Vin

Times Staff Writer

The national convention of Les Amis du Vin was held last week in Los Angeles, and the international wine society discussed and tasted some noted wines during the course of the three-day gathering. Beyond deliberating upon the question of whether Oregon's Pinot Noirs are the nation's best, there were some celebratory moments at the $100-a-ticket dinner events.

Certainly a high point was when model and actress Margaux Hemingway presented the group's annual awards at a Saturday evening meal. Hemingway, the granddaughter of novelist Ernest, has had a lifelong association with wine, if for no other reason than that she was named after the famous French chateau renowned for Bordeaux wines.

Her thoughts on the subject appeared in an article published in Wine magazine to coincide with the convention. Now a spokeswoman for Spain's Paternina wines, Hemingway was quoted as saying, "I'm a woman, I like those sensual feelings. A good wine; after holding it in your mouth, that dry feeling on both sides of your mouth, it's so sensual. This does it to me . . . "

More on Hemingway--Wine played a significant role in many of Ernest Hemingway's books, and one particularly quotable passage is in "Death in the Afternoon." Hemingway wrote:

"One can learn about wines and pursue the education of one's palate with great enjoyment all of a lifetime, the palate becoming more educated and capable of appreciation and you having constantly increasing enjoyment and appreciation of wine even though the kidneys may weaken, the big toe becomes painful, the finger joints stiffen, until finally, just when you love it the most you are finally forbidden wine entirely."

Snag Over Salami--Few salamis are celebrated with a press party when introduced to a new market area. However, precedent was broken last week when an American import company sponsored a gala tasting to introduce Pick Hungarian salami to Los Angeles.

The debut of the $8-a-pound smoked meat was certainly an event in itself. But to embellish the evening, Liberty/Ramsey Imports of New York organized a Zsa Zsa Garbor look-alike contest.

A slight snag developed in planning the competition when Zsa Zsa heard of the impending contest and demanded that her name be removed from the promotion. The day was saved, though, when the company decided to rename the event the "Miss Hungarian Movie Star Look-Alike Contest."

Twelve Southern California women vied for the grand prize, which was a round-trip ticket to Budapest, Hungary. The 11 runners-up were consoled with a free Hungarian salami.

After hearing several dozen poor Slavic accents intoning "vell, darlink, " the judges awarded the grand prize to Pat La Pearl of Santa Monica.

One organizer of the salami party, public relations representative Ruth Morrison, said the event and look-alike contest was designed especially for Los Angeles.

"We only do this in Los Angeles. In New York we do straight food (events), but we know we're in Los Angeles."

Defacing the Dom--Anyone who has purchased a 1978 vintage bottle of Moet-Chandon Dom Perignon probably noticed an unsightly sticker applied to the fine Champagne's elegant label.

The thin, oblong sticker is slapped on the distinctive green bottle by a Culver City firm that now imports the celebrated French sparkling wine. Most importers do, in fact, place a label stating their company name and address on each imported wine, but normally it is attached to the back of the bottle.

There is an explanation for the lack of aesthetics, according to Robert de Berardinis, wine buyer for Jurgensen's, a market chain that sells significant amounts of expensive Champagne to its well-heeled customers.

About a dozen fast-moving importers have decided to flood the American market with Dom Perignon priced significantly less than the same wine imported by the winery's official U.S. agent. The small firms draw attention to themselves with the stickers, which also come in white and silver.

"These importers are hiring some minimum-wage guy to do nothing but take a bottle out of a case and put a sticker on it so that it can pass through customs. They're not too terribly concerned with where the sticker goes," De Berardinis said.

"Yeah, it's defacing the label," he added. "But most people would rather have a defaced label and inexpensive Dom Perignon than go back to the expensive Dom Perignon."

De Berardinis said that stickerless Dom Perignon at his stores would sell for $89.50, whereas the Champagne with the less-than-attractive ad for an unknown importer is $60.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World