Bryan Ferry - Wall Street Journal - Mon 10th Oct
Bryan Ferry couldn't remember exactly where he'd been the night before. Unwinding a very large scarf from around his neck, he confessed he was a bit hoarse. It seemed Mr. Ferry had caught a bit of a chill while singing outdoors "somewhere in Atlanta," he said. That's the trouble with long tours—they render places and sometimes whole cities entirely anonymous. "Some places you only see from the window of a car," said Mr. Ferry, who is in the middle of a U.S. tour that ends in Los Angeles later this month.
Widely regarded as one of the most literate and soulful rock stars of the past 40 years, the former (and occasionally ongoing) front man of the English band Roxy Music has been on tour for the better part of the year, pretty much all around the world. The highlights so far, he said, included performing at the Vienna Opera House and at Leeuwin Estate, a winery in Australia's Margaret River where the wines—particularly the Sauvignon Blanc and the Riesling—had impressed him.
Mr. Ferry's tightly packed performance schedule also meant many wine-free evenings, as he doesn't drink on performance nights. "But I make up for it on the nights that I'm off," he joked.
Last week we met up on one of those nights, at Marcel's restaurant in Washington, D.C. Mr. Ferry seemed a little embarrassed when I mentioned that I'd heard his taste in wine was French and expensive. "I like to drink regular wine," he protested. "And I love Italian wine. Spanish wine, too."
But as we examined the wine list, which was dominated by French selections chosen to match chef Robert Wiedmaier's French-Belgian fare, it soon became apparent that Mr. Ferry was not much concerned with price (my first lesson in the wine-selection process of rock stars).
Mr. Ferry says he doesn't smell wine; he listens to it. ('Doesn't everyone?')
."I'd like to start with a glass of Pouilly-Fumé," said Mr. Ferry, putting the list down. Marcel's wine director, Ramón Narváez, was standing nearby and promptly produced a rock-star-worthy magnum of 2007 "Silex" Pouilly-Fumé ($470 list price) from the late, great Loire Valley producer Didier Dagueneau. Silex is a wonderfully complex, gorgeously transparent wine—one of the greatest Sauvignon Blancs in the world. (I had a glass of the 2010 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé—a very nice though not exactly rock-star rosé.)
"I hate that," Mr. Ferry said, gesturing at the bottle of Pouilly-Fumé when it arrived. "You hate the wine?" I replied disbelievingly. "No, the label," he said. He did have a point. The label featured a rather ugly brown rock. (Silex is the type of soil found in the Dagueneau vineyards.) "It is kind of ugly," I admitted. "But the wine is so good."
"I can't drink a wine if it has an ugly label," said Mr. Ferry, who studied art before he founded Roxy Music in 1970 with Brian Eno. Mr. Ferry possesses a prodigious art collection including works by Lucian Freud. His album covers are often just as striking as the music inside. His most recent album, last year's "Olympia," featured a glamorous and sultry Kate Moss sprawled, perfume-ad-style, on the cover. (Mr. Ferry was artistic director of the cover; Ms. Moss is a close friend of his.)
One of Mr. Ferry's favorite wines is Château Figeac, a wine from the St. émilion region of Bordeaux, in part because of the label—though he likes the wine as well. He is a big Bordeaux fan and has a fair amount of it in the cellar of his home in Sussex.
When Mr. Ferry examined the wine list once again and pointed to a few appealing selections. "There's a 1982 Angelus and a 2006 Lynch-Bages," he said. I noted the prices ($3,560 and $650, respectively) and tried to keep my voice steady as I casually inquired if he didn't think Bordeaux was really "awfully overpriced?"
In the meantime, Mr. Narváez returned to our table. I told him we were thinking of Bordeaux, or perhaps Burgundy instead. (I saw an appealing 2009 Côtes du Nuits-Villages for $70.) Mr. Narváez said he'd recommend the 2005 Michel Magnien Morey St. Denis Les Chaffots ($145). "Excellent choice. I was thinking of it myself," I lied. It was twice as much as I was hoping to spend.
"Really?" Mr. Narváez said, sounding surprised. (As an experienced sommelier, he was clearly familiar with a journalist's standard price range.) But Mr. Ferry seemed pleased at the prospect, though not by the glasses that Mr. Narváez produced, which Mr. Ferry called "bulbous." (He was right.) When Mr. Narváez disappeared to fetch a decanter and perhaps some alternate glasses, I asked Mr. Ferry about his American tour. He hadn't been on the road in this country for a long time. "Americans really know their music; they're a good audience," Mr. Ferry said. What made a good audience? I asked. "One that appears to listen," he replied, "and that cheers at the end."
Mr. Narváez returned and poured the Morey St. Denis out of a swan-shaped decanter, which Mr. Ferry admired even more than he did the wine. The wine was big and rich, though a bit oaky and still very young. The bulbous glasses were still in place. I shifted topics. Was Mr. Ferry working on a new album? He shook his head. Touring was a full-time job, and recording was too; he couldn't do both. But he did think he might record his next album in the States.
Mr. Narváez soon returned again with a wine he wanted us to try. The label looked familiar: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, the greatest Burgundy domaine. It was the 2008 DRC Duvault Blochet—a rock-star superlative wine (approximate list price, $700). I managed to keep from leaping out of my chair. Would we like a glass? asked Mr. Narváez. "Of course," replied Mr. Ferry. The wine was beautifully refined, the very essence of Burgundy. "I really like this wine—more than the other wine," said Mr. Ferry, who turned out to be not only literate and aesthetically gifted but, when it came to expensive French wine, quite discerning as well.
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