Dom Pérignon : FIVE STARS

Gathering stars around Dom Pérignon was the idea for the European launch on Oct 6 of our new campaign: Never Stop Reaching For The Stars. Such a star-studded event found a perfect setting with the Paris Observatory—the former Royal Observatory created by Louis the Sun King a few years before Dom Pérignon took up his duties as the cellarer of the Abbey of Hautvillers.

I selected five stars in the world of French Gastronomy to create a dinner for 100 guests, proposing one dish alongside every single vintage featured in the new campaign of Dom Pérignon: 1962, 1976, 1996 with the addition of the current vintage of 2002. Jean-François Piège, contributing an homage to the 60s and the Nouvelle Cuisine of the 70s; Bernard Antony, master cheese maker and affineur; Christophe Michalak, winner of the World Pastry Cup in 2005, with a futuristic dessert; Christophe Vasseur, baker extraordinaire and his Pain des Amis; and finally Gérard Basset MW, the World’s Best Sommelier 2010.

Richard Geoffroy,
Chef de Cave, Dom Pérignon

Taste the First French Wine of 2010 (Beaujolais Nouveau)

France is undoubtedly the most famous wine-producing country in the world and Beaujolais is one of their most popular red wines. Each year at one minute past midnight on the third Thursday of November over a million cases of Beaujolais Nouveau begin their journey to Paris for immediate international distribution. One of the most animated rituals in the wine world has now begun – a worldwide race to be the first to serve this new wine of the harvest. At the same time, banners are erected proclaiming: “Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrivé!” – “The New Beaujolais has arrived!” and along with this begins the annual celebration of the arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau. This celebration is steeped in tradition, frivolity, grandeur, legend, and bien sûr great wine!

This wine-producing region covers parts of the north of the Rhône département (Rhône-Alpes) and parts of the south of the Saône-et-Loire département (Burgundy). This region produces twelve officially designated types of Beaujolais known as AOCs, which include some of the finest and priciest grand crus, including Fleurie and Cote de Brouilly. The most common two are Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages, the former accounts for half of the region’s annual output, and is used to make Beaujolais Nouveau.

Six to eight weeks earlier the wine was merely a cluster of Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc grapes (Gamay) in a grower’s vineyard. By expeditious harvest, rapid fermentation, and speedy bottling the wine is ready to drink. This wine is as close to a white wine as a red wine can get – the must is pressed after three days, therefore the astringent tannins normally found in red wines are not evident, leaving light, fresh fruity notes. Beaujolais Nouveau is bright cherry red or violet in colour and is to be served at 10°C (50°F). The race from grape to glass may seem absurd, but half the fun is knowing that on the same night around the world in restaurants, bistros and homes everyone will be celebrating the first wine of the year.

There are over 120 Beaujolais Nouveau festivals held in the region with the most famous Les Sarmentelles. This five-day festival is held in the town of Beaujeu and features wine tasting, live music and dancing. During the afternoon on Beaujolais Nouveau Day wine and local foods are available for sampling. There is also a tasting contest featuring all twelve Beaujolais with the winner receiving his or her weight in Beaujolais-Villages! Later that evening there is a torchlit parade through the town honoring the growers and producers, with the Grande Finale ‘Fireworks at Midnight which marks the release of the new wine.

The town of Salles-en-Beaujolais also holds a ‘Beaujolais Nouveau Hike’ each year, which features tours of cellars around the area. A less obvious event is Le Marathon du Beaujolais, which is a three-day event in which participants taste the wine after running a marathon! Everywhere in France street parties are held for locals and tourists to taste the new wine. It’s one of the few times you’ll ever see en masse drinking in France!

Making Dom Perignon – The Harvest Has Ended

The harvest ended more than one week ago: I wish we could rest and enjoy the current Indian summer but there is still a lot of work to be done. Bringing the crop in is a real achievement in itself, but the winemaking part is still in progress and will require considerable efforts before we can finally relax. The base wines will not be finished and ready for tasting before early November.

The harvest itself went reasonably well. As I mentioned before, the maturity of the grapes has reached very satisfying, largely above average levels, a relative surprise given the weather conditions over the summer. Chardonnays were healthy and the botrytis in the Pinot Noirs was to a large extent a non-issue—we only had to pay attention at the time of picking. However the very last days of the harvest were quite rainy and it was really time to finish. This harvest leaves us all with the great feeling of having done our utmost: good things should come out of it, but it is hard to say more right now. As usual, patience is key.

Richard Geoffroy

Recent Victory for Comité Interprofession du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) against Andrélon’s ‘Champagne’ Shampoo

Victory for the Comité Interprofession du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) last Friday in summary proceedings before the Presiding Judge of the District Court The Hague (P.H. Blok) against Unilever Nederland B.V., producer of Andrélon’s 70th anniversary ‘Champagne shampoo’. Some of the bottles were ‘dressed’ with a ‘collar’ bearing the signs ‘Champagne’, ‘70’ and the pay-off ‘Omdat we jarig zijn’(‘Because it’s our birthday’), depicted against a ‘sparkling’ background. Unilever accompanied the introduction of the shampoo with a commercial showing a garden party at which characters from previous Andrélon commercials are toasting to Andrélon with a glass of champagne. At the end of the commercial the shampoo bottle is shown with the text ‘Champagne Shampoo voor een feestelijke glans’ (champagne shampoo for a festive shine). Furthermore Unilever created an advertisement in which a bottle of shampoo is placed in a champagne cooler filled with ice with the accompanying text ‘Elke dag champagne’(each day champagne). After CIVC had summoned Unilever to cease and desist the use of Champagne, Unilever removed the wording ‘Champagne Shampoo’ from the text at the end of the commercial and rephrased the wording of the advertisement text ‘Elke dag champagne’ into ‘Elke dag feest’ (each day a party).

The Presiding Judge gives short shrift to the use of Champagne by Unilever (Unilever apparently did not resist the alleged infringement itself). Unilever is ordered to refrain immediately from the use of ( the protected geographical indication) Champagne and prohibited to market Andrélon Champagne shampoo. However the Presiding Judge also considers that not all use of Champagne is forbidden, but that consideration is not elaborated any further.

No mercy is either shown towards Unilever with regard to CICV’s claims for an injunction against the changed commercial and for a recall of all Champagne bottles located at retailers. The Presiding Judge holds that CICV has rightly argued that in certain circumstances a defendant who infringed a protected geographical indication is under an obligation to take appropriate measures to discontinue the wrongful situation created by himself. Accordingly the Presiding Judge rules that Unilever refrains from the promotion of the Champagne shampoo and to recall the remaining shampoo bottles available at retailers.

Parties to the proceedings discussed the issue of full procedural cost compensation. Unilever indicated that geographical indications might not qualify as intellectual property rights for which the full procedural cost compensation is applicable. According to Unilever geographical indications should be regarded as rights sui generis. The Presiding Judge disagreed and decided that according to article 2 par. 2 and article 22 et seq TRIPs agreement geographical indications are intellectual property rights. Article 2 par. 2 of the EU Enforcement Directive should be read accordingly, because the EU are bound by the Trips agreement. The Presiding Judge ordered Unilever to pay to CICV € 25.000 for procedural costs.


In case the worst happens …

From time to time a private collector will ask me to review his or her wine collection; to examine its content, evaluate the bottles, offer a few pointers on proper storage techniques, wine recommendations and followed (of course) by a few glasses — my favourite sort of recompense. Personally, I would argue that every fine wine collection should be examined at least once a year by a second, seasoned pair of eyes to make sure all conditions have been met. What I look at is to see that the temperature is constant and accurate, the humidity is appropriate, the racks are securely fastened, there are no pungent odours or leaks coming from the shelves or walls, inventory has been properly maintained, and so on.

In the wine industry, Insurance appraisals are highly recommended with an inventory of 10 or more bottles. Such appraisals are an invaluable tool toward maintenance and perpetuation of an ‘active’ fine wine collection, a collection that is both enhanced and depleted by the continuous compilation and heavenly consumption of its contents. And yet, all too often the collector will advise me that they have neglected to insure their collection. The reason? Most commonly, it just never occurred to them that their collection needs to be protected against fire, theft and breakage and a broad range of other losses.

Most fine wine collectors tend to be immensely proud of their liquid assets, their vinous pride and joy, which they might have spent decades building up, sourcing rare bottles from esteemed estates and the finest wine shops, housing them in state-of-the-art, custom-built vaults. You’d think that such individuals, oftentimes outstandingly moneyed, would be more concerned about a ‘worst case scenario’ befalling their collection! Not so.

There are, in fact, companies that specialize in providing comprehensive insurance policies for collections of fine wine. Recently, I sat down with Katja Zigerlig, Collections Specialist for Chartis Insurance, at Reds Bistro in Toronto. Over a few glasses of Flat Rock Cellars 2007 Chardonnay (VQA Twenty Mile Bench (88/100, $16.95)), it quickly became evident that the practice of proper fine wine insurance isn’t something to be taken for granted. According to Katja, “the majority of wine collectors do not have adequate insurance. They accumulate wealth in their cellars, but few think about the perils facing their ‘liquid’ investments.”

Initially, Katja addresses the subject of purchasing premium wines for investment. A subject of considerable controversy, and not necessarily for enjoyment (though a few bottles might be cracked open here and there), thus driving up the price of such wines for less affluent enthusiasts – is neither new nor going away anytime soon. Without question, the benefits of collecting fine wine as an alternative investment can be exceedingly attractive. For Katja, “Building a wine collection is not just a passionate pastime; it can also be a savvy financial move. Investment-grade wines – including high-end Bordeaux, Burgundies, and cult California Cabs – have consistently held their value. Many investment-grade wines get better with age, giving the collector time to decide whether they want to drink or sell select bottles.”

I asked Katja what kind of perils can befall a collection, particularly those found in southern Ontario? For Katja and her team, one of the greatest risks is water damage caused by busted pipes in cold weather. To combat this, it is always recommended to leave some space between the floor and the first row of wine racks, as well as to avoid placing cases directly on the cellar floor.

And the other risks? Katja states that “we find most claims result from five areas: temperature control malfunctions; theft or disappearance; power outages; water damage from flooding; and bottle breakage.” In the end, the owner of any fine wine collection ought to make efforts to minimize such risks, while at the same time ensuring they have adequate coverage in case the worst happens.

How do you calculate the value of your collection? You will probably have an idea of how much your collection is worth but for the purposes of obtaining insurance, this will simply not do. It is imperative that the provenance of each bottle (ex. proper transport) be verified as best as possible. Katja states that “If bottles are not tracked properly, it is much harder to determine how much insurance coverage is needed.” Next, one must go through the admittedly arduous step of determining the approximate value of each wine, something your insurance provider can easily guide you through. At the same time, your storage area will need to be assessed for potential hazards, otherwise referred to as “risk management.” This accomplished, you will now be able to decide on which policy is best for you.

On a general level, Katja states that a good wine insurance policy should include “broad, customizable coverage; mechanical breakdown coverage; immediate coverage for new acquisitions; worldwide coverage; and coverage for bottles in transit.” Even if you continually add and subtract wines from your collection (‘active’ collection), there are “blanket policies” available.

To protect your investment of both time and money against catastrophes, befoul (nasty stenches), minor earthquakes or other incidents, I highly recommend that you have your collection inspected and evaluated by a professional wine cellar expert and he will then direct you to an independent insurance agent or broker.