For a Hollywood star, the first two months of the year bring a steady parade of award-show glitz and glamour, which in turn provides Unfiltered with so many celebrities congratulating each other with lots and lots of Champagne. Already at last weekend's Golden Globes, we saw Ricky Gervais return to the stage for his fourth hosting gig while Moët & Chandon celebrated its 25th consecutive year as the event's official Champagne.
Later this month, the Screen Actors Guild Awards will feature what has become an annual Best Ensemble battle royal between the casts of Downton Abbey (and its clarets), Game of Thrones, House of Cards (and its Long Island wine snobbery), Mad Men and Homeland. And Vitalie Taittinger will again kick off the red carpet parade with a Taittinger toast as the Champagne house returns as sponsor of the SAG Awards and SAG Foundation for the 16th consecutive celebration. But Unfiltered's newest favorite wine-loving media darling, fresh off her Best Actress Golden Globe Award win for Joy, was snubbed by her union colleagues. Sadly, Jennifer Lawrence won't be collecting a Saggie this year, but we hear she'd rather be drinking Cabernet than Champagne anyway: “My signature scent is red wine. I’m sure it’s always seeping from my pores,” she told Glamour last week. “I smell like a Cabernet.” Lawrence earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination this morning, however, so she still has something to smile about, and we hear the Academy Awards will have quite a bit of Piper-Heidsieck on hand if she's feeling bubbly.
There's been a break in the case of the DRC that walked off the dock. On Oct. 14, 2015, a shipment of Burgundy destined for Canada from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti passed customs in Le Havre in northern France. But when the Liquor Control Board of Ontario received the shipment, the container was short 31 cases of the 2012 vintage, worth more than $50,000 wholesale.
“It’s the first time we’ve had a theft from a container like that,” Aubert de Villaine, co-owner of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, told public radio station France Bleu. Investigators were stumped until early December when a wine collector saw two magnums of DRC on sale for $52,000 on Le Bon Coin (a French website that serves as a cross between eBay and Craig's List) and alerted DRC. Sadly, it’s not an uncommon occurrence for stolen wine to appear for sale on Le Bon Coin, where the French flog everything from used camping gear to—ahem—stolen wine.
DRC notified the police in Dijon and Versailles, setting off an undercover sting operation that pulled in two fences. The fences revealed that they’d bought the two magnums of DRC from a Bordelais. Cops found four more bottles of DRC with the aforementioned Bordelais, who led them to his supplier, a 34-year-old Honfleur dockworker. At the dockworker's home, cops found a stash of expensive grands crus, but not the DRC. Despite his claims to being just a simple, devoted wine collector, he was arrested. What has become of the rest of those 31 cases of Canada-bound DRC remains a mystery.
Back in May 2015 we reported that a second Burgundian winemaker, Thibault Liger-Belair, was facing criminal charges for failing to spray pesticides to fight a growing threat in France: flavescence dorée (FD), an incurable and highly contagious vine disease that causes leaves to yellow and fruit to shrivel and die. (Fellow Burgundian Emmanuel Giboulot was the first to face such charges.) The spray edict Liger-Belair had ignored called for the use of a synthetic insecticide to control FD’s primary vector, the leafhopper Scaphoideus titanus.
Last month, French website Vitisphere.com reported that Liger-Belair, an organic winegrower whose properties include vineyards in Nuits-St.-Georges and Moulin à Vent in Beaujolais, had been cleared of all wrongdoing in much the same way that Giboulot was: via the French government’s inability to follow protocol in agricultural matters. Liger-Belair’s lawyer, Michel Desilets, fought and won the acquittal on the basis that the order suffered from an “administrative aberration” on two fronts: primarily that Liger-Belair’s property straddles two regions, Saône-et-Loire—where the mandatory spray order originated—and the Rhône, where no such spray order exists. More important, the spray order was never officially declared mandatory by the Minister of Agriculture, and thus was unenforceable. This latter point was the same defense used by Giboulot to have his conviction overturned.
The reversals represent a victory for organic and biodynamic growers, but time will tell if these laws will simply be rewritten with more enforceable language, or if the Ministry of Agriculture will take into consideration the farming practices and convictions of individual growers, not to mention alternate methods of insect control.
The U.S. wine industry breathed a big sigh of relief with the repeal of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) laws on Dec. 18, via inclusive language attached to the federal spending omnibus. The repeal allows the U.S. to dodge more than $1 billion in punitive trade tariffs, some of which were aimed at the U.S. wine industry, which the World Trade Organization had approved as penalties for U.S. violations of international trade agreements among the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.
“We are happy to no longer be involved in this issue and no longer having to worry about the potential for punitive tariffs being used to harm the American wine industry,” Michael Kaiser, public affairs director for Wine America, told Unfiltered. Bobby Koch, president and CEO of the Wine Institute, added, "Passage of the omnibus will once and for all lift the threat of potentially devastating tariffs on California wine and allow our producers to get back to focusing on growing their sales in these key markets.”