• At today's Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau midnight launch party in New York, the theme, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Nouveau U.S. partnership between Duboeuf and importer Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, was "Magique." The carnivalesque atmosphere sure lived up to that. A few character sketches in the Unfiltered notebook: "man in a fat suit lip-syncing opera and doing high kicks and flips," "stilts people dressed like a bird," "vest guy playing a xylophone thing, big hair," and the coup de grace, "topless head-between-legs woman." (That would be performance artist Narcissister, who wore a mask on her face, a mask on the back of her head and a mannequin head between her legs so she could flip over to a handstand and wave her legs like arms, which was all very disorienting to Unfiltered at 1:30 in the morning.)
Outré as it was, the spectacle was in keeping with the Nouveau spirit of showmanship. The wine has long been launched with fanfare on the third Thursday of every November; it is unveiled at literally the first second the French government allows a wine of the current vintage to be released. (Yes, there was a countdown clock.) Unfiltered caught up with Franck Duboeuf and Peter Deutsch, sons of Georges and Bill, who began the partnership, to ask about favorite memories of the past 30 years of campaigns. (Franck's first was 1983; Peter's, 1986.) "I was put in a sidecar, I was put in a rickshaw," recalled Franck. After throwing 800-person parties in France, "My father used to finish at 2 a.m. and then take the Concorde to be here [in New York]" for the rollout. Once, he arrived at JFK airport and not one, but two cases of Duboeuf Nouveau appeared on the baggage train: his own, for the presentation, and that of another passenger who had bought the brand new wine in Paris at 6 a.m. before the flight. Peter's memorable launches included driving Georges in a flashy Nissan 300ZX up to the Plaza Hotel to present the new wine to Ivana Trump (the eighties, man), a night when the Nouveau arrived with a crew of 15 bikers and one year when the first case was hoisted—from the ground—all the way up to the rooftop of the World Trade Center for its grand debut.
This year, techno-magician Marco Tempest designed the label, which becomes animated when you wave your smartphone in front of it. There were parties in Miami, Dallas, Paris, Moscow, Tokyo and the Ivory Coast last night. Both Franck and Peter emphasized the importance of engaging a new generation in Nouveau, and in Beaujolais generally (which recently Wine Spectator discussed at greater length). Nouveau "is a door opener," said Peter, adding that "we continue to educate the consumer about cru Beaujolais." Indeed, the partygoers were conspicuously young, and the range of Duboeuf crus were on tap. How's the 2012 vintage? Franck was "very satisfied with the quality of the fruit," but yields were way down in Beaujolais from previous years, and there will only be about half as much Duboeuf Nouveau out there this year as usual. Franck said it's "the first time in history" that Duboeuf had to turn down orders for the new wine, a reminder that behind the stilt-walkers and contortionists, as he put it, "c'est la nature."
For more on 2012 Beaujolais Nouveau, read Wine Spectator Beaujolais taster Alison Napjus' reviews of the wines and evaluation of the vintage, here.
• American basketball fans will soon be able to try Yao Family Wines stateside, as former NBA star Yao Ming makes his first foray into the U.S. wine market after launching in China. A limited supply of both the Yao Ming 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Yao Ming 2009 Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon will be distributed across the country, retailing for an estimated $170 and $625, respectively. In other China luxe news, the Louis Vuitton family recently launched a new range of wines, XLV, tailored specifically to the Chinese palate. The wines exhibit softer tannins and a fruit-forward style, with the grapes being sourced in part from the Vuitton family’s personal estate. But plenty of opportunists just skip the hard work and fake it: Most recently, 10,000 bottles of purportedly fake Lafite-brand wines were discovered in an abandoned house in Wenzhou. The home was guarded by five aggressive dogs, two of them rare Tibetan mastiffs, which are worth over $1 million themselves. The owner claimed to be unaware of the stash, noting that he had not lived in the house for nine years. If genuine, the collection is estimated to be worth approximately $16 million. However, considering the slim likelihood of its authenticity, perhaps dogs are a better investment.
• Unfiltered has always followed along with Madonna's wine exploits: her eponymous wine label, her father's Michigan winery, the way she chugs Champagne right from the bottle onstage, even the Mondavi wines that were served at a New York screening of the film she directed. So of course we took notice late last month as the Material Girl enjoyed a sip of rosé Champagne with Ellen Degeneres while appearing on the daytime talk show Ellen. After being served a flute of pink bubbly, Madonna examined the bottle and announced, "Krug Rosé," adding wryly, "That's one day's per diem," a nod to the bottle's current $299 release price. Per Ellen (and Olivier Krug, at this year's Wine Experience), Krug Brut Rosé Champagne is Madonna's favorite, and as it turns out, the pop icon isn't the only boldfaced name aligning herself with the venerable Champagne house: Master Sommelier Ian Cauble, one of the subjects of the new documentary film Somm, has just been named the brand's first U.S. Ambassador.
• Superstorm Sandy continues to bring out the best in the food and drinks industries. Two weeks after the storm, tens of thousands of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans remain without power, and the need for fresh food and water, especially in coastal areas, is still pressing. Ferrarelle, the Italian mineral water company, has been doing its part delivering pallets of bottled water to areas hit hardest. Working with the Red Cross and Marines, the company got truckloads of fresh water into Staten Island. In Queens, the New York Italians Sandy Relief agency helped distribute it, and Ferrarelle also sent 22 pallets to the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean County on the Jersey Shore.
Meanwhile, the benefit events and contributions continue at local restaurants and watering holes. The four BLT restaurants are donating 5 percent of sales throughout the month to charities. Gustiamo, the Italian food importer, is having a big sale on Nov. 17, with 5 percent of proceeds going to the Red Cross. At Otto Enoteca Pizzeria on Nov. 19, a benefit dinner will be served to help out Frank Langello, the executive chef at Babbo who lost his Staten Island home in the storm.