• Have you ever been offered a wine you couldn't refuse? There are a few of them on the market now that TV's Mob Wives are following on the "winemaking" heels of the Real Housewives. Earlier this week in New York, Mob Wives Chicago star Nora Schweihs hosted a release party for her new wine, The German Pinot Noir Finger Lakes 2012 ($26), at Saloon NYC. Schweihs named her wine brand after her father, the late Francis "Frank the German" Schweihs, an alleged hitman who the Department of Justice suspects of killing dozens of organized crime enemies as a member of the Chicago Outfit. The label also features an image of Lady, her father's German shepherd. The party featured a handful of celebrities, including X-Factor contestant Nick Tangorra and fellow reality TV personality Linda Torres, who hopefully won't lose her standing with the star of Big Ang by supporting The German Pinot from New York, which we can only presume will be in direct competition with Angela "Big Ang" Raiola's new line of wines …
Tonight, Big Ang will be launching her eponymous wine label at Tello's restaurant in New York. The Italian wines carry Big Ang's motto, "Bigger Is Better," and include a Chardonnay, Cabernet ($11 each) and Prosecco ($14), all made in Friuli. As for Big Ang's street cred, she is the niece of the late Salvatore "Sally Dogs" Lombardi, a former captain of New York's Genovese crime family who was twice imprisoned on drug trafficking charges. Keep that in mind before you turn your nose up at one of the new Mob Wife wines.
• The next time your dentist tells you that drinking wine is bad for your teeth, tell her that a classified Bordeaux could be the source of your next tube of toothpaste. Pessac-Léognan's Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte has unveiled its so-called "Stealth Cellar," or Le Chai Furtif, a winemaking facility designed to be carbon neutral. It's so carbon neutral, in fact, that you might not even be able to see it—its roof and interior insulation are composed of native vegetation. Le Chai Furtif sits in an abandoned rock quarry, and the canopy of trees above it helps to naturally regulate temperature and light. A subterranean geothermal energy-harnessing well keeps the barrel chai cool, a heat pump recycles thermal energy, and a closed-circuit water system collects rainwater. But the château's stealthiest element may be its system for capturing the carbon dioxide released by fermenting wine and transforming it into sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, which Smith-Haut-Lafitte will sell to toothpaste manufacturers. After a few initial adjustments, the system is now functioning and has captured its first few pounds of carbon dioxide, announced Smith-Haut-Lafitte communications executive Rémi Marty this week. Bordeaux produces 550 million liters of wine every year, said Marty, which means that the region releases 120 million pounds of CO2 during each year's fermentation. To conserve this amount of CO2, he said, "would save the equivalent of 150 people traveling by plane from Paris to New York and back per day during a year." Unfiltered urges prudent toothpaste collectors to secure their sodium bicarbonate purchases en primeur, despite widespread complaints that CO2 futures are growing unreasonably expensive.
• In May, the great nation of France led by example in its recent legislative encouragements toward its citizens to cut back on the booze: The presidential cellar at the Elysée Palace let go of cellar treasures like a 1985 Krug Champagne Clos du Mesnil, 1982 La Mission Haut-Brion, 1990 Château d’Yquem, 1990 Margaux, Burgundies from Romanée-Conti, Montrachet, Chablis, Corton, Meursault and Puligny, and Côte-Rôties and Châteauneufs. That sale put $690,000 in the "credit" ledger against France's $2.52 trillion national debt. But old habits die hard, and so it was revealed in next year's budget that the Hollande government would be clawing back $69,000 in vin, including a bit of Pétrus, Mouton and Latour for the long haul. But, according to Le Parisien, the president is following the lead of today's with-it collector with a smaller "contemporary cellar" approach and plenty of more obscure regions like the Languedoc, Alsace, Gascony and little-known Loire spot Jasnières.
• Could France's Sancerre drop its coveted AOC status? Recent developments in the downsizing of the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO) have spurred discussion among producers on alternative ways to best protect their Loire Valley appellation. Due to government budget cutbacks in France, the INAO is closing 10 of their 25 regional offices, including their Sancerre outpost; the nearest one would now be in Tours, 130 miles away. The institution’s decision to also raise their license fees is creating anger and frustration within the community, which feels the delocalization will weaken the quality of their services whilst costing Sancerre vintners more money than ever before. Gilles Guillerault, the vice president of the Union Viticole Sancerroise (UVS) expressed their disenfranchisement in a statement: “It is the producers who created the AOC. At the start, the INAO was a two-headed institution under which professionals and representatives of the administration managed these appellations together. Today, we do not recognize ourselves in the current system.” Sancerre, which joined the AOC status in 1936 for its white wines and 1959 for its reds, is not adapting to the change quietly. In a meeting held by the UVS on Sept. 30, Denis Vacheron, the president of the union, suggested holding the producers’ contributions to the INAO until they are assured that the quality of the services provided to them has not been lessened. Another option brought forward is to withdraw from the AOC system altogether and become a trademark.
Since the meeting, the UVS has written to three universities that specialize in trademark law—Bordeaux Montesquieu IV, Aix-Marseille III and Reims-Champagne-Ardennes—proposing a study to their researchers about the possibility of transitioning Sancerre from public law to private law. It is all just talk for now, and no decision will be made before the study is carried out.
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