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Champagne on the Skids

Plus, Fifty Shades of Grey: The Wine, and two new applications for wine as a renewable resource

Posted: September 26, 2013

• The quiet little town of Griswold, Conn., became the unlikely location of the Champagne event of the year this past week, if we calculated such things by sheer volume of wine “poured." A tractor trailer traveling along Interstate 395 carrying several hundred cases of Veuve Clicquot clipped a Department of Transportation vehicle that was acting as a protective barrier for workers who were conducting routine tree maintenance along the highway. Then, not unlike an agitated bottle of Champagne itself, the trailer swerved, capsized and spilled its contents all over everything in its path; hundreds of the trademark orange Veuve Clicquot cases and gift-boxed bottles (along with a handful of lavender Grande Dame rosé cases) were sent bursting through the front of the trailer and skidding several hundred feet ahead of the truck, blocking both northbound lanes for several hours. The drivers of the tractor trailer and the DOT vehicle were both treated for minor injuries and released. The Department of Consumer Protection was charged with the Champagne portion of the cleanup, with the not-so-delicate help of a bulldozer.

• No doubt just like you, Unfiltered is a huge fan of the Fifty Shades of Grey book series in which a young vampire falls in love with a small-town hobbit only to realize that, though their love transcends the boundaries of wizards and muggles, they can never truly be together because winter is coming. The series became very controversial and popular in the media, as you will recall, because of some weird sex stuff that happens, and we don't want to spoil the ending, but the twist is that the characters were actually winemakers the whole time. So it makes perfect sense that author E.L. James would debut a Fifty Shades of Grey wine! James herself helped select the lots that would go into the wine at the Mendocino Wine Company custom-crush facility, and the results were Red Satin, a blend of mostly Petite Sirah and Syrah, and White Silk, which is primarily Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc. Both wines are priced at $18. According to a press release, after making the blend, James tweeted, "That was the most fun I've had with my clothes on in quite a while," as if any Mendocino winemakers bother to wear pants to work.

• Unfiltered has long suspected that wine might be the solution for the world's energy crisis. Now, researchers in Bilbao, Spain, have confirmed that chemical compounds found in many wines may be able to improve the quality of biodiesel. The molecules in question, acetals, often have an herbaceous character but seldom influence the perceptible flavor of a wine, since they are usually found in small quantities. When they appear in larger concentrations, as they do in Sherry, aged Port and Vin Jaune from the Jura, acetals provide aromatic complexity. The addition of acetals to biodiesel, the Spanish scientists have found, could improve the fuel's combustion efficacy and decrease its pollution output—and since they occur naturally in alcoholic fermentation, acetals represent a source of renewable energy. The researchers now must tackle the question of how to produce these compounds on an industrial scale, especially because they think that acetals could comprise as much as 15 percent of a liter of biodiesel.

Elsewhere in news of wine as a miracle renewable resource, computer giant Intel unveiled a new microprocessor that runs on wine. It functions in basically the same fashion as the old potato-powered light bulb we put together in junior high, with two circuit boards immersed in red wine that convert the alcohol into electricity. Like the potato battery, it unfortunately serves no practical applications for now, but further confirms for us that power lunches should always be fueled by red wine.

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