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Duboeuf's Beaujolais Party Returns

Plus, Mouton-Rothschild unveils its 2012 artist label, Canada's ice-wine harvest starts early and Chile's José Guilisasti Gana dies at 57

Posted: November 20, 2014

• In 2011, there were breakdancers and a graffiti-blasted Cadillac El Dorado. In 2012, techno-magicians and a burlesque dancer who walked on her hands. But in 2013, there would be no party to announce at midnight on the third Thursday of November that le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé. That vintage, hail wiped out the crop in the world's most famous Gamay region, and there just wouldn't be enough Beaujolais arriving for Georges Duboeuf to throw his annual worldwide fêtes. But last night, it only hailed balloons on the unveiling of the 2014 Duboeuf Nouveau at the tony Tribeca Rooftop space in Manhattan which, for the occasion, had been gussied up to bring a bit of small-town French farmers' market atmosphere to the proceedings. Franck Duboeuf described a nice, long, sunny, un-hailed-upon season in Beaujolais: "This year, we are blessed," he told Unfiltered at the party. "Everything was in order to produce a great crop in terms of quality and quantity after two vintages of very low yields." We've got 100,000 cases of Duboeuf Nouveau coming our way in the U.S., and there's plenty more being spread around the globe: Franck's father, Georges, rang in the new vintage in Japan, and a nephew popped bottles in Moscow (apparently Nouveau is very popular there).

"In the past, we celebrated the circus, many themes. This year, we wanted to come back to the wine," said Franck of the party. Nouveau has been a controversial wine, though the tradition of making it is long. The first wine of the vintage out the gates, it's made by carbonic maceration, which means fermentation takes place inside the grapes themselves, resulting in a fruity wine that's low in tannins. Eventually, toward the end of the 1990s, drinkers began rejecting it as a marketing gimmick, but in recent years, cru Beaujolais has become sensationally popular. (At the party, leading up to the midnight hours, revelers could sample Duboeuf's Fleurie, Juliénas and Morgon, as well as whites like Pouilly-Fuissé, slices from "a cheese master who lives very close to Beaujolais," crepes, meats and olives.) "I feel there is a growing interest in more digestive wines, more affordable in terms of price and style, that can go with many types of food," Franck explained of the cru craze, meaning the wines are serious but elegant and lighter-bodied. Even Nouveau is getting its groove back though: No less a chef than David Bouley had been singing its praises earlier in the day, reported Franck.

• And Beaujolais wasn't the only annual French wine event Unfiltered could get excited about this month. November also brought us the unveiling of the newest Château Mouton-Rothschild artist label. The 2012 vintage of the Bordeaux first-growth will feature an image of a fresco by Catalan artist Miquel Barceló that depicts two rams, an animal that has long served as Mouton's emblem. "Its two rams, symmetrical and face to face, are a reminder that the balance and harmony of a great wine, already present in nature, still set a challenge to be met by the work of human hands," read a press release from the château. Barceló, whose watercolors have been displayed in the Louvre, was previously commissioned to create work for the Palma Cathedral and to decorate the dome of the Palace of Nations in Geneva. The late Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who died in August, chose Barceló to design the 2012 label; she had been responsible for selecting Mouton's label artist since the 1980s. Philippine's oldest son, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, has been confirmed as the company's new chairman, but her youngest son, Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, whose career in fine art includes work as an Old Masters researcher at galleries and museums and authoring a book on the Rothschild family's art collection, will be tasked with selecting Mouton's label artists going forward.

• You might have noticed that it's gotten pretty cold this week. Not surprisingly, it's even colder in Canada—so cold, in fact, that British Columbia's ice-wine harvest has commenced, its second-earliest harvest ever on record. In order to begin picking grapes for ice wine—the rich, unctuous sweet wine produced, at great effort and expense, from grapes frozen on the vine—temperatures must stand consistently at 17.6° F or lower, with the frozen grapes at 35 degrees Brix. According to the British Columbia Wine Institute, the earliest harvest on record began Nov. 5, 2003; this year, those eager vintners were lucky enough to begin harvesting Nov. 12, with temperatures at a glorious 10° F. In some years, the ice-wine harvest has gone into February, but earlier is better, said Inniskillin winemaker Derek Kontkanen, who began picking at 3 a.m. on the 12th. “You don't lose as much fruit to the birds, dehydration and what falls off the vines, so you get better yields,” Kontkanen explained to local BC news outlet Castanet.net. The ice-wine harvest is on Stateside as well: Geneva, Ohio's South River Vineyard started harvesting frozen grapes this week too.

José Guilisasti Gana of Viñedos Emiliana died yesterday, Nov. 19. He was 57, and the cause of death is unknown at this time. Ebullient and friendly at all times, Guilisasti pioneered sustainable production and fair trade practices in Chile as general manager of Viñedos Emiliana. Guilisasti began working at the family company, Concha y Toro, in 1980 as the assistant manager of agriculture. In 1985 he cofounded Viñedos Emiliana with his brother and current president Rafael Guilisasti Gana. A year later he assumed the position of agricultural manager and director of Frutícola Viconto, a fruit production, exporting and marketing company. In both of his roles, Guilisasti Gana instigated a conversion from conventional agricultural management to socially and environmentally responsible practices based on organic and biodynamic farming. His leadership and support for these practices in Chile was recognized in 2009 when the Prince of Wales visited Emiliana vineyards to learn and discuss their approach. He is survived by his wife, five children and six siblings.

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