Wine Meets Art in Beaujolais and Elsewhere

Plus, a Wine Spectator Wine of the Year prediction contest and an environmentally friendly new bottle
Nov 17, 2011

• The Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived, and this year it came in a Cadillac. A large 1970s-era Cadillac, covered in graffiti, specifically, at the Georges Duboeuf Nouveau unveiling in Manhattan last night at the stroke of midnight, during an evening of Beaujolais wines, art and, for good measure, breakdancing. Beaujolais Nouveau, the freshly fermented Gamay wine released the third Thursday of every November, is as much about style as it is about grapes, so it makes sense that Georges Duboeuf chose to showcase this year's wine in the United States with an art label, as they often have in the past. And, much like Caves de Tain recently did, Duboeuf chose a graffiti artist to fashion it, a Brooklyn-based guy who goes by the name Kaves. "The idea was to combine his own experience with our style of wine," said Franck Duboeuf at the event. The label, which depicts a bistro street scene (but all graffiti-like) is intended to "make the link between the French approach and the more trendy Brooklyn culture." Peter Deutsch, who imports the wine, explained that "the package has always been an integral part of [Nouveau's] success," but in case you were wondering, Kaves also endorses the stuff in the bottle. When the winery approached Kaves, Duboeuf said, "first, he wanted to taste." In promoting the happy union of wine and art, Duboeuf also sponsored the "Be Heard" art contest, winner of which received $1,000 and a free trip to New York (though winner Rebecca Suriano, who paints wineglasses with trippy nature scenes, lives just a hop away in New Jersey anyway). Kaves himself works in multiple media, including music and tattoos, but Unfiltered must report that there are currently no plans to develop a Beaujolais Nouveau tattoo (this year). But even if you missed the release party (or today's Nouveau festivities elsewhere; the mayor of Annapolis is delivering the juice to town by boat). Before you pick up a bottle, check out our recommendations.

• We've said it before and we'll say it again, Unfiltered loves wine and Unfiltered loves art, and when the two come together, it's always a celebration. We loved the aforementioned Kaves-designed graffiti labels for today's Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau bottles and last year's Cave de Tain labels from Meres, and of course the annual artist labels for Château Mouton-Rothschild. No word yet on who designed Mouton's 2009 label yet, but we can identify the artist of another Bordeaux label. The 2009 Rauzan-Ségla label, celebrating the château's 350th anniversary, was created by fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld, who is head of the Chanel fashion house (both Chanel and Rauzan-Ségla are owned by the Wertheimer family). Lagerfeld's depiction of the château is reminiscent of a painting we submitted in art school, which elicited our professor's disdainful comment: "You need a smaller brush."

• And you won't see it on their label, but Champagne house Ruinart is making its annual voyage to the Art Basel Miami Beach festival this Dec. 1–4 as the official Champagne partner, and this year they will be showing a special exhibition of works by Israel-born artist Gideon Rubin. Rubin created 19 portraits for the show after digging through Ruinart's archives (the house was founded in 1729) and created faceless portraits of figures from the world of Champagne, from Dom Thierry Ruinart, uncle of Ruinart founder Nicolas Ruinart (also featured in the exhibit) to King Louis XV to the winery's most recent artist collaborator prior to Rubin, Nacho Carbonell. The faceless images are perhaps disconcerting, but Unfiltered likes them—after all, it's not what's on the face of the label, but what's inside the bottle.

• Unless you've just awoken from a coma (and welcome back, if so!), you already know that Wine Spectator's 2011 Wine of the Year was announced yesterday, the Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2009. And you also know that trying to predict the annual Wine of the Year is a popular parlor game among enophiles. This year, blogger Wellesely Wine Press held a contest, with New York wine retailer Grapes the Wine Co. awarding a prize of a Kindle Fire e-reader to the first commenter to correctly guess this year's top wine before it was announced. Unfiltered was impressed with the number of Top 10 wines prognosticated by Grapes' readers. "Senelwine" guessed Château de St.-Cosme Gigondas 2009, our No. 10 wine, "Mike M" guessed Quinta do Vallado Touriga Nacional Douro 2008, our No. 7 wine, "James Z" guessed Baer Ursa Columbia Valley 2008, our No. 6 wine, and "RichardPF" nailed it, winning the Kindle, and the respect of his wine-loving peers. Looks like Wellesely's readers know their wine.

• It's true that glass bottles for wine are, in many ways, unnecessary, inefficient and antiquated, and alternatives exist. The last decade or so alone has seen the popularization of wine in TetraPak trademark cartons, wine in cans, wine in plastic bottles, wine in bags, wine in bags which are themselves in boxes… It's a wonder they didn't come up with paper bottles sooner, since, after all, paper meets all of the ideal qualifications for wine-containment materials ("inexpensive," "recyclable," "reasonably attractive") except one ("able to contain liquid"). But now a U.K.-based company called Greenbottle has risen to the occasion, innovating a new package for both wine and milk bottles. The handy new packages are a mere tenth the weight of standard glass bottles and are, of course, biodegradable. Oh, and as for the whole "holding wine" thing that paper is demonstrably poor at: Greenbottles actually have a plastic lining inside à la bag-in-box packages. They could hit store shelves as soon as next year.

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