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Graham Norton Becomes Chief Winemaker for a Day

Plus, former Mets greats celebrate the postseason with stadium food wine pairings, fungicide maker Bayer AG compensates vintners, Mouton's new artist label, and wine crime strikes Portland
Graham Norton (left) authenticates the blend for Graham Norton's Own Sauvignon Blanc with actual Invivo winemaker Rob Cameron (center) and cofounder Tim Lightbourne.
Photo by: Courtesy of Invivo
Graham Norton (left) authenticates the blend for Graham Norton's Own Sauvignon Blanc with actual Invivo winemaker Rob Cameron (center) and cofounder Tim Lightbourne.

Posted: October 22, 2015

Fans of the Graham Norton Show know to expect a few things: Graham Norton's wacky monologues, off-kilter celebrity anecdotes, and wine. Always wine. Tim Lightbourne and Rob Cameron, regular viewers and co-owners of New Zealand winery Invivo, took note of the latter mainstay and got an idea. "About four years ago, we approached Graham's show and said, 'We noticed that Graham likes a glass of wine on the show. Can we be the wine supplier?'" Lightbourne told Unfiltered. After sending their Sauvignon Blanc to the BBC One set for Norton to sample, the Kiwi winemakers received the green light from the show's producers and have supplied their Marlborough wine for every show since.

Last year, Invivo and Norton took their relationship a step further, partnering to produce Graham Norton's Own Sauvignon Blanc. But unlike some celebrity wine endorsers, Norton, who is now a small shareholder in the winery, insisted on being involved in the winemaking process. "So what happened, and you won't believe this," Lightbourne chuckled, "We flew 10 kilos of freshly picked Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Marlborough up to Graham's show." Norton then proceeded to stomp the grapes on stage during the show's warm-up routine. Lightbourne collected the freshly pressed juice, took it back to New Zealand and added it to the full batch of the limited-edition charity wine.

After last year's success—"It sold like crazy," Lightbourne divulged—Norton wanted more authenticity and decided to take on the role of "chief winemaker." So, Lightbourne and Cameron (Invivo's actual winemaker) flew seven tank samples to London and, over a few hours and multiple glasses of wine, the three men created a new blend. "Graham chose three samples that he blended quite specifically—he has a very good palate actually—to make this year's Sauvignon Blanc," Lightbourne said. The resulting wine, priced at around $12, will be available in the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. And it's great news for England's animal lovers, as Norton's portion of the proceeds will benefit the Dogs Trust, the U.K.'s largest dog-welfare charity, a nod to his beloved pooches, Bailey and Madge.


Former Mets Stars Celebrate Playoffs with Stadium Food Wine Pairings

The New York Mets are headed to the World Series, soon to be joined by either the Kansas City Royals or the Toronto Blue Jays. Unfiltered sadly won't be at the games, but we were there for the unveiling of Sheraton Hotels' new stadium food–themed "Pairings" menu in New York this week, in celebration of the hotel chain's new status as the Official Hotel of Major League Baseball.

Chef (and former WineSpectator.com guest blogger) Andrew Carmellini created a special Empire State hot dog recipe just for the occasion, featuring a brat from the Upper East Side's Schaller & Weber butcher shop topped with "beerkraut," New York apples and mustard, paired with Xavier Flouret Côtes de Provence rosé. But Carmellini and his dog had a challenger. Current Mets announcer and former All-Star first baseman Keith Hernandez was on hand to emcee a hot dog battle between the chef and former Mets All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, now with the Colorado Rockies. (Reyes won, though the partisan crowd may have participated in a little home cooking of their own.) Other pairings on hand, selected by Sheraton Times Square executive chef Joe Fontanals, Sheraton Centre Toronto chef Paul Paboudjian and Sheraton Seattle chef John Armstrong, included pork belly buns with Bodegas Ondarre Rioja Creator 2012, Italian sausage sliders with Whitehall Lane Merlot Napa 2012 and bacon asiago popcorn with Greg Norman Chardonnay Santa Barbara 2012. The Sheraton Pairings menus, which exclusively feature wines that have earned 85 points or more from Wine Spectator, are available nationwide. Reyes, who has his own charity wine label, spent the rest of the evening relishing his victory and watching Game 3 of the Royals-Blue Jays series with a glass of Greg Norman Syrah.


Bayer CropScience Offers Compensation to Damaged European Vineyards

Last month, Unfiltered reported on vineyard damage in Switzerland that cost vintners as much as $83 million and resulted in the loss of 14 million pounds of grapes. Around 900 winemakers—mostly Swiss, but also hailing from Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg—blamed Moon Privilege fungicide, made by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer AG, for the poor yields and deformed leaves and grapes. While Bayer AG has not assumed responsibility for the harvest damage, the company will begin to compensate affected winegrowers in all six countries “on a voluntary basis.” Bayer CropScience head of external communications Utz Klages told Unfiltered that the company hopes to offer reimbursements to all affected winemakers within the first quarter of 2016. Because grapegrowers who used the fungicide in the latter, rainier part of the year saw more damage than those who did not, Klages and other Bayer spokespersons have stated that the company suspects the atypical effects were caused by a combination of the Moon Privilege fungicide and environmental factors.

“The growth distortions have not been reported in any crop other than the grapevine,” said Klages. “Nor have there been reports of growth distortion following the use of our products anywhere else than in the aforementioned countries.”

For the time being, Switzerland’s Federal Office of Agriculture has suspended approval of Moon Privilege, while some Swiss winemakers struggle to regroup after losing their entire harvest. The Swiss agriculture ministry is reportedly working with Bayer to determine a definite cause, but has stated that growers will need to resolve damage claims on their own.


Mouton Taps Korean Artist for 2013 Label

Bordeaux first-growth Château Mouton-Rothschild released the label for their 2013 vintage this week, illustrated by Lee Ufan, a painter, artist and philosopher of Korean origin now residing in Japan, where there is a museum devoted to his work. He's also exhibited at the Guggenheim and MoMA, and won the UNESCO Prize at the Shanghai Biennale in 2000.

“I met Lee Ufan thanks to my father, Jean-Pierre de Beaumarchais, vice president of the family business Baron Philippe de Rothschild, who knew him through Madame Catherine Pégard, president of Château de Versailles, where Mr. Lee held a superb exhibition last year,” Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, the late Baroness Philippine de Rothschild’s youngest son and an independent art dealer, told Unfiltered.

“The initially indecisive purple of the drawing gradually attains its full richness, just as a great wine is patiently brought to fulfilment in the secret of the vat house,” read a statement from Mouton-Rothschild introducing the label.

De Beaumarchais de Rothschild said that he settled on Lee for a couple reasons. On the one hand, he was drawn by the aesthetic and intellectual interest of Lee’s work. “On the other hand, because we have never had a label illustrated by a Korean artist and, lastly, because minimalism is barely represented in the [Mouton label] collection.” Per the custom, Lee will be paid in wine.

Mouton

Wine Crime Strikes a Portland Winery, Again, and Again, and Again …

It's no fun to be a victim of wine crime, even once, but Portland urban winery Division Winemaking Company has been hit up by thieves no fewer than five times in the past six months, which co-owner Tom Monroe estimates has cost the winery more than $10,000. But unlike most wine crime, these burglaries haven't left the winery with a deficit of wine, but a surplus: A total of 17 barrels and a stainless steel tank have been literally rolled away. "This time of year we're in a critical moment. We need these barrels immediately," Monroe told KGW-TV news. "We have our wine in other containers waiting to be moved to barrels."

Naturally, the winery has tried to increase security and installed cameras, but the culprits remain at large. Why steal barrels? Some showed up on Craigslist not long after disappearing from the winery, and Monroe retrieved them from a supply yard. Monroe said that some of his stolen barrels were there, but that the rest of the equipment there at least seemed legit. But, you know, if you're a Portland-area winery and some of your stuff goes missing …

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