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Roger Federer Serves Moët

Plus, a Provence vigneron devastated by hail gets a little help from his friends, and a new matchmaking service in Bordeaux pairs aging heirless vineyard owners with young winemakers

Posted: December 6, 2012

• A few months ago, we brought news of Champagne house Moët & Chandon's new partnership with the U.S Open tennis tournament, including support for USTA Serves, a charity benefiting at-risk children and people with disabilities. Apparently, Champagne and tennis pair so well that Moët announced last week that 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer will serve as the wine's newest brand ambassador. “It’s more than just an honor to be Moët & Chandon’s brand ambassador, it’s an invitation to be part of a very glamorous tradition,” Federer said in a statement issued by the grande marque. “Moët & Chandon has always been the Champagne of international trendsetters and I’m proud to be part of a brand that is as dedicated to the pursuit of excellence as I have been throughout my career.” Federer posed with a bottle of Moët for fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier to get the partnership started, but the Swiss Maestro is not the first beautiful face to serve as Moët & Chandon ambassador. Hunky as he is, not even Demarchellier can make Federer look as good as Moët's European brand ambassador, Scarlett Johansson.

• It only took 7 minutes. On July 1, hail falling at 125 mph annihilated "150 percent" of the harvest on Château de Roquefort’s 62 acres in Provence. “I say 150 percent because I expect to only produce half the usual harvest next year,” said de Roquefort’s owner, Raimond de Villeneuve, who normally makes more than 12,000 cases a year. Doubting the extent of the damage, fellow growers stopped by and were horrified: “Putain, you have nothing left!” de Villeneuve heard. The biodynamic winemaker teetered on financial ruin: “I don’t have insurance because it’s extremely rare to have hail here. It’s only happened twice in 50 years.” He gladly accepted offers of donated grapes. Then an idea took root. A special cuvee blending wine from diverse appellations in the Rhône and Provence, labeled under IGP Méditerranée. Thirty-five vignerons stepped forward with plots to harvest, grapes and must—enough for almost 11,000 cases, mainly rosé and some red. “It was extraordinary to make this blend,” said de Villeneuve. “We met our objective in terms of quality and it has a beautiful harmony.” French authorities gave their final approval this morning following a long period of befuddlement: “How many appellations did you say are in this wine?" And should disaster strike elsewhere, the growers feel they have more security with this new concept in place. “Everyone knows, when there is a problem, banks and insurers take off running,” de Villeneuve said. Initially called the Coup de Pouce, loosely translated as “with a little help from my friends,” the official label is Grêle 2012. All hail the generosity of great neighbors.

• It's not just on the buyer side that Bordeaux is confronting a demographic problem: As winegrowers in the Gironde age alongside their best bottles, there is a dearth of young talent stepping up to replace them. Wine is the great patrimony of Bordeaux, but for small growers, a combination of difficult access to distribution channels, increasing competition from larger firms swallowing up properties, the current economic turbulence in the Eurozone and a host of other factors have made business a struggle. It's no surprise, then, that many find themselves without heirs to the family business in such a climate (steep inheritance taxes are also a drag). So, late last month, the Chamber of Agriculture in the region and the national land agency put their heads together to launch a new matchmaking initiative that will pair retiring growers with a fresh generation of vigernons. With a third of growers in the region over 55, it's an idea whose time has come; it is thought that a thousand of these vine veterans have no handing-off plan in place. The program would help fit enology students and young winemakers to a property that suits their taste in terroir, size and location, and perhaps more important, provide financial incentive to young buyers. A network of data collectors is already in the field(s) scoping out holdings of aging growers in four townships in the Entre-deux-Mers and Bergerac regions; the rest of the Gironde is soon to come. It's a promising move to inject fresh blood into the region while preserving unique terroirs that might otherwise be sold off to bulk producers. And it's much more appealing than speed dating.

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