French Figure: Henri Maire & The “vin Fou”

Henri Maire was a winegrower and French businessman born on 16th July 1917. Coming from a long line of winegrowers and vineyard owners since the seventeenth century, Henri Maire worked hard to put the great wines of Jura back on the map. Whilst perusing through family archives, he came across a historical document that complied all the mishaps of the Jura vineyards, with one anecdote in particular capturing his attention and imagination.

He learnt that his ancestors would, from time to time, bottle the wine before it had finished its fermentation in order to conserve its natural effervescence. But the method was flawed, given that the bottles of the time were fragile, leading to many of them exploding! Around one in twenty bottles made it so far as to be actually tasted, making this wine all the more rare and precious. The wine is mad, as they would say!

Maire is best known for his out outrageous and, at times, controversial marketing strategies. With the assistance of his illustrator, “Vin fou” soon took over France at the start of the fifties, appearing in brash fonts on billboards all across the country. Many eccentric ideas were to follow. In 1952, he left a permanent stamp on the renowned restaurant Tour d’argent, building a structure whereby he enclosed and preserved bottles of his wines behind a wall for future generations.

He also filled a boat with thousands of bottles that he sent around the world. Upon its return, he carried out tests between the bottles that had been left behind and those that had travelled the globe to see the impact that this change could have had on his wines. Over the years, his marketing campaigns continued to expand, his ideas stretching even beyond the confines of our very planet. Maire entrusted Soviet astronauts with 1000 bottles, the very astronauts who were the first to bring back photographic evidence of the dark side of the moon.

It was only at the turn of the millennium, after 60 years at the helm of his company, that Maire passed his heritage on to his daughter, leaving behind a legacy of wit, extravagance and grand imagination.