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What does a 160-year old wine taste like? A historic event at Marqués de Riscal has the answer | Culture

When Marqués de Riscal produced its first wine in 1862, Americans were immersed in the Civil War and French writer Victor Hugo had just published Les Misérables. These milestones provide some perspective on the historic event that took place last September, when the Spanish winery opened three of the only 16 remaining bottles from that vintage to kick off a unique tasting that spanned three centuries and showed that history can also be told through a glass of wine.

That wine from 1862 represents the oldest bottled Riojas in existence. With less than 10% of alcohol content (today the region’s reds range between 13% and 14.5%) and a more than decent color for its age, the liquid that poured out of the bottles at the tasting expressed earthy and tobacco notes, while excellent acidity served as the backbone to provide energy and persistence on the palate. It could have easily passed for a 40 or 50-year old red, except that it was 160 years old instead.

Inside the Botellería Histórica at Marqués de Riscal vineyard in Elciego, Spain.
Inside the Botellería Histórica at Marqués de Riscal vineyard in Elciego, Spain.Joseph Fox

The collection that Marqués de Riscal carefully guards in its old wine cellar, the Botellería Histórica, is unique in the world, and it has miraculously remained intact through the ages in the silence and darkness of its underground cellars. The only changes to have taken place down here were to replace corks from specific bottles under the supervision of the Regulatory Council [which oversees adherence to the quality standards of the denominación de origen, similar to France’s appellation d’origine.]

The Marqués de Riscal winery, recently declared the second-best in the world, was born with the desire to produce fine wines that would age well. This was the vision of its founder, Guillermo Hurtado de Amézaga (1795-1878), the Marquis of Riscal, who had moved to Bordeaux in 1836 to avoid the political turmoil back home. The Spanish nobleman made the most of the vibrant commercial life this French city had to offer. His business prospered and he began to rub shoulders with members of a society that included the owners of some of the area’s most prestigious châteaux.

Very soon, he would have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps: he inherited a wine-producing property from his sister in Elciego, a municipality in northern Spain located in Álava province, within the current limits of what is now known as La Rioja Alavesa (because of its wine production and geographical proximity to the region of La Rioja, which the wines are named after). At the time, Rioja wines lacked the quality and prestige of their French counterparts, but the local administration teamed up with other producers with the common goal of raising the standard, and this gave birth to the Médoc Alavés. This initiative, named after the most famous area of Bordeaux and financed by the Álava Provincial Council, benefited from Hurtado de Amézaga’s contacts: they were able to hire Cadiche Pineau, an enologist at the then prestigious Château Lanessan, who showed up in La Rioja in the summer of 1862, in time to buy barrels, vats and all the necessary material for that first historic vintage.

Color is a sign of age in wines: first come the ruby tones, then orange, and finally ochre.
Color is a sign of age in wines: first come the ruby tones, then orange, and finally ochre. Joseph Fox

One of the commandments of the Bordeaux philosophy was that wine had to be stabilized by aging it in oak barrels for at least two years, which created fixed assets and delayed profits. Although the wines were a success, a shortage of resources put an end to the Médoc Alavés. But the marquis carried on: he hired Pineau and continued to apply the French model. This included the sale of wine through Bordeaux merchants, the cultivation of French grape varieties alongside local ones, and the habit of hiring French enologists, a custom that continued until the mid-1950s.

If the 19th century was particularly turbulent at the political level, European vineyards also had to deal with plagues brought over from America. After mildew, the devastation created by phylloxera was a turning point in the world of winemaking. The only effective deterrent to the root-eating insect was to graft the European vines onto American rootstock, naturally immune to the pest’s attack.

Thus, nothing interfered with the flow of sap between the root and the aerial part of the plant in the vines that fed the 19th century red wines. Cultivation was restricted to the poorest soils, yields were low, and grape berries were small and concentrated. Only this can explain the fact that vintages such as 1870, 1876, 1886 or 1899 have amazingly preserved not only their color (1870 could pass for a 1970), but also their presence and volume on the palate, when the most common type of old Riojas are comprised of light and silky reds outlined by their acidity. In Riscal, in fact, the two styles coexist (there is the delicate and subtle expression of an 1871 or the evocative character of a ١٩٢٨), but it is the first one that gives the winery its differential touch.

La Botellería Histórica at Marqués de Riscal contains bottles from every year since 1862.
La Botellería Histórica at Marqués de Riscal contains bottles from every year since 1862. Joseph Fox

The aromas of these centuries-old wines range from powdery notes to much more complex and even Baroque expressions: hints of brandy, dried fruit, sweet spices, coffee or chocolate. At the turn of the century, the 1909 and 1911 vintages, thinner and lighter, evidenced the lesser depth of the young vines and the slow reconstruction that followed the phylloxera crisis, although they retained a certain liveliness, particularly those from 1911. The wines from the 1920s were full of energy: with fruity notes in the 1922 vintage and mentholated, round and elegant ones in 1924. And 1935 made an impact due to its silkiness, rich nuances, herbal freshness and long finish.

Inside the documentary archive at Marqués de Riscal, there are old books, detailed descriptions of the different harvests and even characterizations of varieties developed by French engineers. “What there is no written record of is the percentages of varieties that they used in the wines,” notes Francisco Hurtado de Amézaga, the winery’s technical director for the last four decades and great-great-grandson of the founder. In the 19th century, it was common to mix grape varieties, including white and red ones, in the same vine. If the Tempranillo grape has always been present (Hurtado de Amézaga says that the best examples are exceptional), Graciano was the most difficult variety to bring back after phylloxera.

Because of their deteriorated corks, the oldest bottles are opened with hot tongs that cut off the top of the neck.
Because of their deteriorated corks, the oldest bottles are opened with hot tongs that cut off the top of the neck.Joseph Fox

Of the grape varieties brought from France, Cabernet Sauvignon began to gain relevance starting in 1870, and it is the one that has had the greatest continuity to this day. Starting in the 1920s, but especially in the 1940s and 50s, the wines in which it was most present were internally labeled as Reserva Médoc or XR (Xtra Reserva). The paradigm of this style is the 1945 vintage, which produced a wide, exultant, very fine, serious wine with an endless finish that provides the characteristic notes of leaves and currant of this grape variety. It could pass for a great Bordeaux, and it is, without a doubt, one of the best reds that have ever been produced in Rioja and in Spain as a whole.

After a period that focused on wines with less aging capacity in the late 1960s, that indisputable wine from 1945 was the inspiration for what is considered the first modern Rioja. Barón de Chirel made his debut with a 1986 vintage that looked to France and benefited from the advice of renowned enologists such as Guy Guimberteau, Paul Pontallier or the current consultant, Valérie Lavigne.

More than a century and a half after its founding, Marqués de Riscal is perhaps best known for the Frank Gehry architecture that greets visitors, but its essence remains contained in each of the more than 140,000 bottles that sleep in its venerable cellars.

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‘Monkey Man’: Dev Patel makes directorial debut with a delicious stab at action cinema | Culture

Dev Patel has always had an intelligent glint in his eye. From his big screen debut in Slumdog Millionaire to his role as a journalist in Aaron Sorkin’s series The Newsroom, the British actor usually brings a sense of peace, calm and intelligence to his performances. Perhaps that is why it is no surprise that, at 32, he has made his directorial debut with a film in favor of social outcasts, which he also produces, co-writes and stars in. The surprise is its genre: Monkey Man is a fierce action and martial arts film, revolving around hand-to-hand combat, dismemberment and knife fights.

Patel returns to India, the land of his ancestors, for his story of revenge that is strengthened by the creative arsenal applied to its sequences — and not only those of combat. While there was a serious lack of design in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, one of the worst choices for Oscar for Best Film in Oscar history, Monkey Man has at its heart a physical and moral entanglement, involving a sadistic police chief, a luxury brothel that serves as home to both fornication and power, and a ragged young man who seeks to atone for the death of his mother through the most savage forms of violence.

Monkey Man is also set in a slum overrun by gambling and fights, with Patel earning a few rupees as an underground bare fist fighter wearing a crude monkey mask. With its colors and the camera’s handling of Bombay’s chaos, the movie has echoes of Brazil’s City of God.

Image from the movie 'Monkey Man.'
Image from the movie ‘Monkey Man.’Universal Pictures

A comparison can also easily be made with the John Wick saga, which has revolutionized commercial action and martial arts cinema in the past 10 years. Patel even mentions John Wick in one on-screen exchange. Yet, despite the similarities, the staging and editing of their spectacular fight sequences set them apart. In the four installments of the John Wick movies starring Keanu Reeves, the choreography regarding the confrontations is developed through a paradoxically harmonious staging of continuity, with general shots extended in time. The dynamics of their contenders and their movements are visualized with hardly any editing, almost like a classic fifties musical but instead of dances, there is physical destruction.

The action in Monkey Man, on the other hand, is not one of continuity, but of rupture. The cuts are incessant and move at an unrestrained pace; the shots come in quick succession, with barely a second or two between them. Patel’s handling of cinematic language is brutal. For a novice director, he displays a dazzling energy, cadence and expressiveness. This is demonstrated by three of the only four fights in the ring, each one based on a dynamic sense of space and narrative. The first is defined by the close-up shot, with the camera directed at the waist of the opponents or even lower — giving the viewers a sense of overwhelming closeness. The second offers a very different vision of the fight, which is both more poetic and exquisite. And the third uses surprise as the main exponent, and is raw and concise.

With rough textures, contrasting colors and ochre photography, reflecting the social mud in which most of the characters are stuck, Monkey Man only slips off kilter in the second half, when the Hindu demigod, Hanuman, assumes the tragic halo that envelops the protagonist. Although it gives him authenticity with respect to his lineage, the visualization is tinged with a somewhat tiresome messianic muddle of lyrical ambition.

Monkey Man

Director: Dev Patel.

Cast: Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Pitobash, Sobhita Dhuliwala.  

Genre: Action. United States, 2024.

Duration: 121 minutes

Release date: April 12.

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Paramount Studio Prevails in Copyright Battle Over ‘Top Gun’ Sequel

Paramount & The Copyright Battle Over ‘Top Gun’ Sequel

The Voice Of EU | Paramount emerges triumphant from the legal showdown triggered by Maverick’s triumphant return to the big screen. A U.S. district judge swiftly shut down a lawsuit brought by the widow of the Israeli scribe who penned the piece inspiring the 1986 blockbuster, Top Gun. The heirs of Ehud Yonay alleged Paramount breached intellectual property rights with the sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, which soared to unprecedented heights in 2022, raking in over $1.5 billion worldwide. However, the judge decreed that numerous aspects of the sequel, including its narrative and dialogue, bore no resemblance to Top Gun. The sole shared element? Both narratives orbit the U.S. Air Force pilot training hub.

Judge Percy Anderson’s verdict laid bare that many of the claims raised by the Yonay clan failed to meet copyright criteria. In a 14-page ruling, he affirmed that the sequel’s themes, dialogue, characters, setting, and overall presentation diverged significantly from Yonay’s original article, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

Marc Toberoff, the legal maestro representing the Yonay lineage since 2022, swiftly vowed to contest the ruling. The estate had dispatched a cautionary missive to Paramount in May of that year, weeks before the sequel’s release, forewarning of potential copyright infractions due to the family reclaiming story rights in January 2020.

The judge’s decree solidifies that Top Gun: Maverick marches to its own beat, with little homage paid to its predecessor or Yonay’s source material, which meandered through life at Miramar Naval Air Station in a non-linear fashion, honing in on pilots Yogi and Possum. Instead, the latest installment, helmed by Joseph Kosinski, unfurls a linear tale set years later, spotlighting a fresh squadron at North Island Naval Air Station, also in San Diego.

With the lawsuit dismissed, the runway is clear for the trilogy’s third chapter, headlined by the indomitable Tom Cruise. Currently in pre-production at Paramount, the script by Ehren Kruger, architect of the sequel’s success, fuels anticipation. Talks are underway to enlist Kosinski’s directorial prowess once more, though industry pundits speculate production could hit turbulence if Paramount falls under SkyDance’s umbrella. The titans of entertainment are in deep discussions about the fate of Tinseltown’s venerable studio.

Regardless, Ehud Yonay’s legacy won’t grace the credits of the third installment, as Judge Anderson quashes any such notion.


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‘Ripley,’ The Best Treatment Of The Patricia Highsmith Classic That Sheds Light Onto The Cursed Human Condition

‘Ripley,’ The Best Treatment Of The Patricia Highsmith Classic

When faced with another adaptation of Tom Ripley, the character, the very human villain created by Patricia Highsmith, the writer who tried to understand the evil that nests in each one of us, one wonders what was the need for it? I mean, hadn’t Anthony Minghella nailed the idea of such a charming, queer criminal in The Talented Mr. Ripley, a luminously dark film that became an instant classic in the 1990s? You might ask if the present is so lacking in ideas. But let me tell you that it suffices to watch a few minutes of Steven Zaillian’s Netflix miniseries Ripley to think quite the opposite (Zaillian is also the creator of The Night Of). That is, one wonders why hadn’t anyone done this before, how Minghella could have stayed so far away, so much on the surface of the character, really?

The feeling that, from the beginning, Ripley has been much more than an apparently seductive guy, that he actually never was — for Highsmith, he was always a strange guy — who nevertheless managed to make others trust him because, by observing them, he gave them exactly what they wanted, at all times. What they wanted was attention, to feel understood. The sense that through Ripley the world and the human being — everything that someone is capable of doing to get what he wants, and what he wants is not necessarily a good thing, you will see why — can be explained and has been there from the beginning, but it would seem that what we knew about him was that he was a fake, a trickster, a perpetual mask. And why, how did he experience that mask, where did he leave the rest? Well, Zaillian answers all those questions one by one and raises a few more.

And Ripley does so thanks to a hypnotic and fascinating narration that brings back the best film noir, inhabited by a present in which subjectivity reigns. Thus, there is an excellent intention in the use of black and white — and not only because of the classic air it gives, the tribute to noir from high neo-noir — because there is no color in Ripley’s world, everything is governed by Good and Evil, and the nuance is painful because no one in the society of the time (1961) is seeing it. And it is also there in the third person who constantly becomes the first person — that is, the viewer is both outside and inside the character, because what he is seeing is not only what is happening, but how Ripley himself feels what is happening. And how does Zaillian achieve this? With the sublime use of sound and fixed shots, objects and an environment that only seems to stalk the protagonist. The calm before any storm.

Ripley
Andrew Scott in an image from ‘Ripley’. Lorenzo Sisti

The way the crimes are told is the best example of that latent — and immersive — subjectivity that achieves what Highsmith set out to do, time and again, in her novels by telling how darkness, the damned, nestles in each of us: to empathize. They know the story. The writer’s recently divorced mother drinks a full glass of turpentine when she finds out that she is pregnant. And yet little Pat survives. And she grows up to become a writer who wants nothing more than to understand what her mother did. Her mother must have loved her; but she tried to get rid of her: did that make her horrible? It was through villains who were nothing more than ordinary guys with one foot on the edge of the abyss that Highsmith tried to understand her mother. And Ripley, her most perfect, her most polished, creation.

Remember the story. Tom Ripley (here, Norman Bates-like, played by Andrew Scott with a coyly sinister touch) is a small-time con man who lives by intercepting mail that isn’t his and forging identities to collect small sums. He is hired by a shipping magnate to bring his wayward son, Dickie Greenleaf (a magnetic and superb Johnny Flynn) home. Dickie lives in Atrani, a small Italian seaside town, with his girlfriend Marge (played by a cold and suspicious Dakota Fanning), where the two lead a small bohemian life. Ripley and Dickie are supposed to have been friends at some point — Dickie doesn’t remember him — and the attempt to convince him will turn into an impossible impersonation that Ripley painstakingly improvises as he goes along, criminally eliminating one obstacle after another.

Ripley
Dakota Fanning as Marge Sherwood and Johnny Flynn as Dickie Greenleaf in ‘Ripley.’
Courtesy of Netflix

On screen, the subtlety with which Zaillian portrays the fine line that separates Good from Evil — or what we should not have done from what we have done — is drawn by the narrative’s attention to detail and symbols. There’s a narrative beneath the narrative we’re contemplating, which Minghella overlooked; here, they give the character abysmal depth. Those stairs that Ripley climbs, which are at first intricate, labyrinthine, and then cease to be so; they remind us of Sisyphus, in his repeated ascent, the effort, the awareness of the Evil that weighs heavier and heavier. The annoying, insidious clock that marks the race against time that we will never win. The oppressive silence. The silence of death. Ripley is alone with himself when he kills, and the viewer is inside him.

“Tom Ripley is nobody, and so he can be anybody,” Patricia Highsmith herself said of her character. “In that sense, he’s an impostor. He’s someone who gets under someone else’s skin, and so he reflects us a little bit because we’re all a mask in a way,” she added. Yes, Tom Ripley is a mask. He is an animal destined to be someone else, who survives by being someone else, and here each twisted monologue in front of Andrew Scott’s mirror takes another step toward some kind of abyss. Because, as we said, Ripley — and any Highsmith villain — is capable of doing anything to get what he wants, and what he wants is not always, as we also said, a good thing. Not even for him. And here’s the thing that every one of Highsmith’s creations hides: an imperiously savage desire to destroy his world. Zaillian’s miniseries — pure suspense, an intellectually superior suspense, you’ll see — shows that desire better than anyone else.

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