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Where No Wine Has Gone Before

Plus, Venezuela’s Catholic church is running out of wine, two molecular wine scientists put their brains together, and more

Posted: May 30, 2013

• For centuries, winegrowers have planted grapes in some of the world’s most remote terrains in search of the finest terroir. More recently, vintners have started aging wine at the bottom of the sea. We’ve even seen wine fermented with meteorites from outer space. But now a wine marketing team is going where no wine has gone before—to a 50-year-old science fiction series for inspiration. The space-age-sounding Vinport, with CBS Consumer Products, today announced the impending arrival of Star Trek wines, featuring labels by artist Juan Ortiz, known for his retro-styled prints depicting episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. The initial run will feature three labels honoring classic episodes: “Mirror, Mirror,” “The Trouble with Tribbles” and “The City on the Edge of Forever.” The wine is a Merlot, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc blend from Sonoma made at Viansa winery. There are 1,701 cases available, and the bottles are priced at $25 each. Appropriately, the wines are only available for purchase as futures at Vinport.com (or you can press your luck and wait until they come out July 1).

• Catholic church authorities in Venezuela could really use a Marriage at Cana-style miracle this summer. The church has just two months’ worth of sacramental wine left, and Venezuela’s leading wine producer has turned off the tap. “Bodegas Pomar have told us that they can no longer make wine because they’re facing difficulties,” church spokesman Monsignor Roberto Lucker told BBC News this week. Bodegas Pomar has about 200 acres of vineyards in Altagracia, Lara, in northwestern Venezuela; when they are making wine, Pomar specializes in Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo, Syrah and Petit Verdot, as well as sparklers and sangria. Venezuela is suffering from widespread shortages due to tight government controls on its currency, making importing wine a difficult and costly alternative. The church is also contending with increases in the price of consecrated bread, as wheat is not grown domestically and flour has become scarce. Perhaps worst of all, believers and non-believers alike in Venezuela are facing a huge shortage of toilet paper, with four-hour queues forming when new shipments arrive. Between the wine drought and the lack of toilet paper, Unfiltered is praying for all the Venezuelans trapped in this agonizing real-life game of “Would you rather?”

• Unfiltered readers who also enjoy a taste of wine nerdiness might recognize the names François Chartier and Pascal Chatonnet, the former for his work on the science of flavor, most famously in Taste Buds and Molecules: The Art and Science of Food and Wine and the latter for enological studies pertaining to pesticides at Lab Excell in Bordeaux. While Chatonnet is an estate owner, it seemed only a matter of time before Chartier would branch out into wine, and this fall, he will. “After traveling the world’s vineyards for 25 years and tasting over 60,000 wines, followed by an incredible amount of research into the world's foods and cuisine, let’s just say the fruit was ripe for the picking!” he announced in a press release. Wines Cuvées Chartier will launch with four bottles, chosen after careful consideration for vineyards, winemakers and assemblage techniques (with Chatonnet assisting): a Merlot-dominated Fronsac from Bordeaux, a Côtes du Rhône red, a Tuscan Sangiovese and a Chardonnay/Grenache Blanc-based Languedoc white. The bottles are each meant to represent one of the aromatic “families” Chartier has identified, making them ideal pairings for certain foods. Chartier, a man with pans on many burners, is also creating a documentary based on Taste Buds and Molecules with Oscar-nominated director Kim Nguyen. These days, it seems more and more like making wine before becoming a movie star is putting the cart before the horse.

• At a gala event held May 16 at the Royal Opera House in London, Sotheby’s auctioned off eight large-format custom bottles of Ornellaia 2010, raising a total of $364,900 to benefit the Royal Opera House Foundation. The unique bottles were designed by Michelangelo Pistoletto, the celebrated Italian artist and protagonist of the Arte Povera movement, as part of the winery’s Vendemmia d’Artista project, which raises money annually for institutions related to the arts. As part of the initiative, artists are commissioned to create custom bottles based on their own personal interpretation of the vintage to be auctioned for charity. This year, Pistoletto created labels for 100 double magnums, 10 imperials and one 9-liter salmanazar, all of which are signed by the artist. Renowned for his mirror paintings, Pistoletto’s 3- and 6-liter bottles are decorated with reflective labels of varying sizes and shapes, while the salmanazar, which sold for $122,400, is a three-dimensional work, featuring a spiraling mirror that encircles the wine bottle from top to bottom. In the past four years, Ornellaia’s Vendemmia d’Artista has raised more than $1,400,000 for institutions such as the Whitney Museum in New York, the Nationalgalerie in Berlin and the Luo Zhongli Scholarship in Hong Kong.

John Jorgenson
Santa Maria, CA —  May 30, 2013 7:03pm ET
Is the wine shortage in Venezuela an opportunity for the US to trade wine (or t/p) for oil?
By the way . . . I hope Kentucky Fried Chicken isn't real popular down there . . . that stuff's . . . finger lickin' good!

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