Contretemps! Scandale! The French are once again atwitter over whether wine should be categorized as joie de vivre or l'alcool du diable, after Minister of Solidarity and Health Agnès Buzyn declared last month that, when it comes to public health concerns, wine is no different than the beers and liquors favored by the uncultured and British.
Fortunately, Emmanuel Macron, recently seen winning blind-tasting challenges (and the presidency of the Republic), swooped in to side with wine last week in remarks kicking off the Paris International Agricultural Show last week. "I drink wine at lunchtime and in the evening," said Macron, adding that so long as he was in charge, there would be no attempts to tighten the country's contentious alcohol-regulating Evin Law.
Macron shored up his bona fides with an appearance at the conference's Pavillon des Vins on Saturday, where he ventured beyond his favored Bordeauxs to sample Château des Jacques Moulin-à-Vent from Beaujolais, Louis Roederer Champagne, and a Chardonnay/Vermentino blend called Cham-Cham from Mas de Valériole, a domaine in the Camargue region of Provence, according to Vitisphere. Maxime Michel of Mas de Valériole was on hand to present the prez a personal pour.
Michel reported to Unfiltered that Macron's reaction to the wine was, “true and friendly,” and the two chatted about the terroir that lent the wine its "salty notes."
“He really appreciated the wine,” said Michel. “It seems that Macron really likes wine and considers it a part of the French way of life." As for the debate over whether wine belongs in the alcohol-is-bad-for-your-health club, the president’s stance makes Michel “very confident for the future. It will not kill you if you drink one or two glasses of wine."
Representatives from Roederer also told Unfiltered they were pleased Macron enjoyed their Champagne, and that Macron's endorsement of all things vin proves "le débat est clos"—the debate is over.
In February, an icy dispute between British Columbia and Alberta over a multi-billion-dollar oil pipeline project escalated to the point that, for some reason, Alberta premier Rachel Notley called for a ban on the import of wines from her province's western neighbor. Though Unfiltered still can't figure out why wine was brought into the picture at all, the ban, which was announced Feb. 6, became a major cause for concern for many British Columbia wineries—particularly Summerland-based Encore Vineyards.
Just a few months ago, the small, family-run wine company scored a deal to provide the official wine of the National Hockey League's Calgary Flames, becoming the only wine served at their home stadium, Scotiabank Saddledome. The Saddledome, along with the rest of the city of Calgary, unfortunately, happens to be located in Alberta.
"We were definitely concerned … I can't move a building from Alberta," Christa-Lee McWatters Bond, director of sales and marketing for Encore Vineyards, told Unfiltered (certainly not a saddledome with a 19,000-person capacity). The company makes a collection of wines under its Time Winery label, which had made it a natural pairing for the team whose slogan is, "It's go time!"
"We were working diligently to try to get the ban lifted, not just for us, but for our entire industry. We're a small industry. Alberta is our second-largest market outside of British Columbia—a big market for us."
Luckily, the provinces reached a détente of sorts and Notley lifted the ban after about two weeks, on Feb. 22. The arena had stocked enough of Encore's wine in its inventory to ride it out, and now Flames fans can hammer their wine once more.
Sheep are useful vineyard pets when it comes to sustainable cover crop management, happily munching on weeds and grass between vine rows. But they've also got a more concerning appetite … for grapevine leaves and berries. A new invention out of Australia offers a fix, even if it evokes a famed accessory of a certain Chianti-loving film villain who also had problematic tastes: a special muzzle-and-harness kit that allows sheep to graze and drink on the ground but hinders them from plucking grapes from higher up.
WineBaa founder David Robertshaw said the muzzles, which he calls “vineguards,” allow vintners to use sheep as a natural source of land-clearing year-round, saving money and reducing CO2 emissions in the process. The critters are also beneficial to the soil itself, as they provide natural fertilizer and tread more lightly than machines.
“I saw a need for WineBaa when [I saw] vineyards being slashed [by mechanical clearing tools] between the vines, and felt this was a waste of feed,” Robertshaw told Unfiltered via email. “My initial concept was for a device that would stay fixed with counter weights, but I was still unsure how that would look. Several prototypes, and over a year later, we had developed WineBaa into what it looks like today.”
The vineguard fits over a sheep’s nose and mouth, leaving the bottom open for normal grazing, but swinging closed when the animal lifts its head toward forbidden fruit. Robertshaw, attuned to sheep chic, offers the muzzles in both sensible black and a kicky neon pink. But if you still don't dig the look, other sustainability-minded growers have addressed the issue by employing smaller breeds of sheep—or very, very large breeds of guinea pigs.
It's been a time of bold statements in Bordeaux, as these things go in the relatively buttoned-up region. Châteaus Margaux and Mouton-Rothschild unveiled special bottles, but Cos-d'Estournel is doing them one better, with the debut this week of Cos100, a limited-edition all-Merlot cuvée. The wine is intended to honor the 100th anniversary of the estate’s Merlot "Parcelle des Femmes," planted by women during World War I. It's also sourced from century-old vines in the parcel.
“The release of Cos100 signifies the incredible journey that began with Louis Gaspard d’Estournel,” said Cos-d’Estournel owner Michel Reybier in a press release. “With Cos100, I want to pay tribute to the terroir, and to acknowledge the women who, more than a hundred years ago, courageously worked in the vineyard to ensure the continuity of the estate."
The wine, vintage 2015, is in the process of being auctioned off, with some proceeds benefiting Elephant Family, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting Indian elephants. A Sotheby's auction in New York last night netted $80,000 from one 12-liter Cos100, with the evening’s total haul surpassing $200,000; another will be held in Hong Kong March 10. Or hop on Cos' website and order a double-magnum—if you've got $22,000 to burn.
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