Seven influential wine industry figures who left us in 2016.

by Tom Jarvis

It will go down in history as one of the worst years in living memory for celebrity deaths, but the wine industry hasn't escaped scot-free in 2016.

Some major figures in the world of wine passed on last year. The roll of honor continued to lengthen, even through to late December, with the passing of Vincent Petrucci, professor emeritus of viticulture at the California State University, Fresno, who taught and influenced winemakers and viticulturists from 1948 until 1993 and who died on December 27, aged 91.

Other notable names who died this year include:

Denis Dubourdieu, academic and winemaker.

Winemaker, professor, researcher, teacher, successor to the enology legends Émile Peynaud and Pascal Ribereau-Gayon, at his death Dubordieu ran several family estates, including Doisy-Daëne in Sauternes and Clos Floridène in the Graves. He consulted for around 80 Bordeaux châteaux, and had published more than 200 academic papers, and been cited more than 7000 times in academic publications. He was nicknamed "the pope of wine" by Phillippe Castéja, president of the Conseil de Crus Classés 1855, and is the current (2016) Decanter Man of the Year.

Aimé Guibert, estate owner, "star" of Mondovino film.

The first vintage of Aimé Guibert's Mas de Daumas Gassac wine, the 1978, was dubbed the "Lafite of the Languedoc". It established the area's potential to make great as well as great-value wine, and was the first Vin de Pays to sell for the sort of prices normally associated with Bordeaux and Burgundy. As well as for the quality of his wine, Guibert – who was no stranger to promotion and marketing after a career as a glovemaker – gained fame for his battles with Robert and Michael Mondavi in the late 1990s and early 2000s, first rejecting overtures to buy his estate, then successfully leading opposition to the Mondavi attempts to buy neighboring land. In addition, he featured heavily in the 2003 film Mondovino, portrayed as a fervent opponent of globalization, industrialization and many other aspects of modern wine production.

Peter Mondavi, legendary Californian winemaker.

Peter Mondavi Sr of Charles Krug Winery was one of the pioneers of the modern wine industry in the Napa Valley, the winemaker in a partnership with his marketing-focused brother Robert, from the purchase of the winery in 1943 until their notorious falling out in 1965. On the technical side, the winery was one of the first to use cold fermentation to produce crisp fruity whites, and to use French oak barrels for aging. While Charles Krug was burdened by losing a protracted legal struggle with Robert Mondavi, resulting in a loss of cash and vineyards, it managed to fend off takeover bids and remain in family hands, something Peter Mondavi said was his greatest achievement. Though he began handing over the reins to his sons Marc and Peter Jr. in the mid 2000s, Mondavi. remained active in the business until the age of 100.

Margrit Biever Mondavi, wine pioneer and cultural trailblazer.

Like her brother-in-law Peter and her husband Robert, who died in 2008, Margrit Mondavi was heavily involved with the California wine region's rise to global prominence in the 20th Century. Her particularly legacy is comes from her involvement in establishing links between wine, food, performing and fine arts and travel. She joined the Robert Mondavi company in 1967 and began developing cultural and culinary programs. After marrying Robert in 1980, the couple helped found the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in 2002, and the now-defunct Copia center. More generally, she was a great supporter of wine-related studies at UC Davis.

Paul Pontallier, the face of Château Margaux.

Pontallier spent all but 18 months of his working life at Château Margaux, joining in 1983 aged 27 and becoming managing director in 1990. He developed a tight-knit professional partnership with owner Corinne Mentzelopolous, and was a fundamental part of the property's continuation of the improvements begun under her father André. Despite being essentially a one-company man, he was acclaimed as a consummate communicator, marketer, manager and technical specialist. While he worked with technical directors and winemakers at Margaux he was an eminent enologist in his own right, with a PhD from the Bordeaux Institute of Enology. He was one of the first Bordelais to develop (with Bruno Prats) interests in Chile, founding Domaine Paul Bruno, and consulted in South Africa with Plaisir de Merle.

Stanko Radikon, godfather of orange wine.

Not perhaps as universally-known among consumers as some of the other members of this list, he was owner and winemaker over 36 vintages of a small family estate in Oslavia, Collio. In the mid '90s he returned to his grandfather's winemaking methods, including an emphasis on long skin contact for white wines. In doing so, along with neighbor Josko Gravner, he was a forerunner of today's orange and natural wine movements.

Giacomo Tachis, the father of Italian wine.

In 2011, Tachis was named Decanter Man of the Year for his contribution to Italian wine during the 20th Century. He was integral to the revolution in Italian winemaking that took place in the 1970s and 1980s. Tachis was particularly associated with the development of the Super Tuscan category and led the introduction of Bordeaux varieties to the Tuscan coast. He produced Tignanello and Solaia for the Antinori family and, from 1968, oversaw the beginning of winemaking on a commercial scale at San Guido, the home of Sassicaia. He consulted for a limited number of high-profile estates including Argiolas in Sardinia (in which he had a share) and Tenuta San Leonardo in Trentino, famed for its Cabernet Sauvignon.

Other major figures who we fareweled this year include: Bob Oatley, businessman, yachtsman, and founder of Rosemount winery in the Hunter Valley; Henri Bonneau, leading traditionalist producer of Châteauneuf-du-Pape; Etienne Hugel, global ambassador for leading Alsace estate Famille Hugel; Louis Paul Latour, former president of Maison Louis Latour; Manuel Lozano, winemaker at Sherry bodega Lustau; Denis Malbec, consultant, former winemaker of Chateau Latour; Donn Chappellet, founder of Napa's Chappellet Vineyards; Jean-Pierre Mareigner, cellarmaster for Champagne Gosset for more than 30 years; Giacomo Rallo, founder of Donnafugata Estate in Sicily; Charles Rousseau, owner of Domaine Rousseau since 1959; Jacques Boissenot, celebrated Médoc consultant; Mary Weber Novak, owner, Spottswoode Estate; Arnold Palmer, golfer and wine brand owner; Annegret Reh-Gartner, scion of leading German wine family and head of Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt; Jean-Henri Schÿler, owner of Château Kirwan in Margaux and leading Bordeaux négociant.


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