John and Olivia: Great minds drink alike
By Frank Rousseau, our correspondent in Los Angeles - Photographs: all rights reserved, posted on 16 August 2023
Olivia and John were friends both on and off-screen. This year marks the 45th anniversary of the romantic musical comedy ‘Grease’ in 1978, when they got us all dancing and singing to its catchy score. When they got together to talk about “the carefree times of their youth”, these talented artists would often do so over a glass of wine. A drink the duo loved to indulge in, just like some old-school rock…
What is a good wine according to John Travolta?
I would imagine it is quite simply a wine you enjoy, without thinking too much about it, or asking how much it costs. Without asking, “Is it a vintage or not?” “What is its provenance?” “Has it received any awards?” “Has it been showered with praise by the critics?” You know, I have travelled an awful lot in my life and I have occasionally drunk wines served in a pitcher. Believe me, those unpretentious wines had more honourable flavours than some bottles with prestigious labels that sell for a fortune. It’s a bit like books. Sometimes you are influenced or attracted to the back cover, by the great photos on the cover or a well-written presentation, but once you find out more by flicking through the pages, you are a bit disappointed. I have learnt not to judge a book by its cover…
Is it your humble Italian origins that taught you that?
Maybe! My father was the son of an immigrant from Naples. In our family, we liked good things but our finances did not allow us to be spendthrifts. When my father would bring a bottle of wine home, he made sure he had bought something ‘good’ without breaking the bank. I think it would have given him gut ache to spend too much. So when Italian friends or cousins returned back to the United States with Parma ham, local cheeses and some bottles of Italian wine in their luggage, right under the noses of the American customs officers, it was a bit like Christmas had come early. My father had a soft spot for Taurasi, a wine from the Campania region. Not to mention Limoncello, the liqueur made from lemon zests. That’s when he could enjoy some good things without feeling guilty…
You told me one day that drinking wine was more effective than holding a hand out to someone…
Wine is so much more than just fermented grapes! It is a token of conviviality. Have you never noticed that when you share the same passion with someone, that’s when the magic occurs. Even if you don’t speak the same language! Let me give you an example. When I met Gérard Depardieu, he didn’t speak English very well. When we started to talk about the wines we enjoyed, we quickly realised that we were speaking the same language – the language of Epicureans! It was the same thing with Olivia Newton-John. We shared so many good times together. On-set and often over great dinners. Every time Olivia mentioned wine, her eyes would sparkle!
Olivia Newton-John, the memories
Last August, Olivia Newton-John passed away after a public battle with cancer lasting three decades. Newton-John, aka Sandy in Grease, launched two wines whose profits were designed to combat prostate and breast cancer. Produced in Sonoma under the ‘Pink and Blue for Two’ label, she was extremely attached to these Merlot and Chardonnay wines. In fact, she invited Gilbert & Gaillard readers to reach out to the rural community in the Anderson Valley, in northern California, which she felt was home to the finest wines in the world, without all the bells and whistles.
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