Ridley Scott On Family Businesses, Winemaking And Trusting His Instincts

Food & Drink

Ridley Scott’s mark on the film industry cannot be overstated. With over 40 years in the business, the lifetime achievement award-winning director has been so pivotal in the success of Britain’s silver screens he even managed to get himself knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Still, beyond his many cinematic achievements (see: Alien, Blade Runner and Thelma and Louise, to name but a few), Scott has long set his sights on pastures—nay, vineyards—new.

The Scott family wine business, Mas des Infermières, almost started as an accident back in 1992.

“I was between making Thelma and Louise and 1492, I was on the road and really missing the countryside,” says Scott. “I’d given up my place in the Cotswolds and was starting to look for a holiday home for me and the family.”

He’d been visiting Luberon, a massif in the South of France’s central Provence, for years, and hoped to find something locally.

“We’ve always loved French culture, and it was so close to London and my kids, so it made sense. I didn’t want anything too big that would become a pain, and it took me two years to find what I wanted, but as soon as I stepped into this manoir, and one of my kids was with me, I just looked at them and said, ‘this is it’.”

As it happens, the estate also came with hectares of newly-planted vines, but Scott had only hoped to sell them to a local cooperative at the time. “I had no idea then that three decades later we’d have our own independent winery!”

From the outset, Scott and his family decided to preserve the Provençal wine-growing tradition and built a modern cellar capable of producing wines in keeping with the best local practices.

“The early years were just spent enjoying the estate, really,” he says. “It is somewhere the family and I were able to come and unwind.”

In 2018, however, The Scotts decided they were done with the unwind and decided to take production in-house. “It’s a tough business,” Scott admits “If you’re going to do it, you need patience, and it’s a process—you have to enjoy it.”

Five years on, the enjoyment is paying off. The estate now produces ten wines, expertly blended by master winemaker Christophe Barraud.

The ‘Source’ collection comprises of a white, red and rosé cuvée with fresh exotic fruits on the palate and fine tannins.

Similarly, the ‘Chevalier’ collection includes a silky-smooth white, rosé and red with more power, complexity and brilliant length on the palate.

The estate’s prized cuvée, ‘Ombre de Lune’, is exclusively available by magnum and boasts a delectable mix of 90% syrah and 10% grenache, aged for 12 months in French oak barrels.

Of course, Scott is hard-pressed to choose a favorite. “That would be like choosing a favourite out of my films!” he exclaims, settling on the idea that his choice will always depend on the mood he’s in. “On a hot summer’s day in Provence, Source White and Source Rosè is always tempting—they’re very elegant and fresh. On a colder winter evening, or if having a nice piece of steak, I’d probably open the Chevalier Red—it’s more complex.”

Beyond the wines themselves, Mas des Infermières also now holds the French HVE sustainability certification and has been certified ‘Bee-Friendly’ for its sustainable viticulture practice. ““It doesn’t change or affect the production process in any way, but for us it was non-negotiable,” says Scott.

In Luberon, winemakers are required to treat the vines against a certain type of insect, but there are currently only two insecticides you can use—one organic, and one that is not—but the organic insecticide is actually deadly to the bees.

“It was an easy choice for Mas des Infermières—if the bees die, we all die, so we use the non-organic, bee-friendly option,” he says. “We have also sown and planted different varieties of flowers among the vines to attract and nourish the bees and have a number of beehives dotted around the vineyard.”

With the passion he speaks about his latest business, one might assume Scott was close to leaving Hollywood behind for a life of entrepreneurship.

“To me, the two go hand-in-hand,” he says. “I have been blessed with a good eye and everything I do starts with a creative vision or idea, but I’m pretty savvy, too.

“When I decided to really go for it with Mas des Infermières, I was asked ‘why?’ and I just said ‘why not?’ You need to know and own what you do best and have a great team around you to do the rest. I am very driven because I love what I do, and I’m always thinking about the next thing.”

It’s not Scott’s first family business, either. Having started his career as a set designer before founding RSA (Ridley Scott Associates) with his brother in 1968, he’s found enormous success keeping his friends close and his family closer.

“When we started out, the main bulk of what we produced was commercials, I didn’t make my first feature film, The Duellists, until I was 40, but I’ve always been competitive, and I haven’t gone far wrong by trusting my instincts,” he says.

Today, Scott’s middle child, Luke, runs all the companies between London and LA; Jake, his eldest, is one of the business’ major directors; and Jordan, his youngest, has just finished Berlin Nobody, which she both wrote and directed.

“We gradually realised together that this could be a good way of forming a business that could come under the family umbrella,” says Scott. “The aim is for its legacy to continue and become a multigenerational family business.”

So, what are the Scotts toasting to in this first week of the New Year?

“Family, good health, and good humour,” he says, expressing gratitude for the beautiful pocket of the world he and his family now live and work in. ““I hope that Mas des Infermières continues to make great wine for many, many years.”

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