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Bordeaux Roadkill: 18,000 Bottles of St.-Emilion Smashed

Plus, plumbers plead guilty to Seattle wine capers, more controversy over Chinese wine trademarks, and the Languedoc gets a new AOC

Posted: July 17, 2014

• Bordeaux's wine routes flow with wine, this week literally. On Tuesday morning, a truck carrying 18,000 bottles from the cellars of St.-Emilion Grand Cru Classé Château La Dominique veered into a roundabout near the village, and missed the curve. Seconds later, the truck overturned, spilling its load of the 2011 vintage of Relais de la Dominique, the estate’s second wine. No other vehicles were involved. Luckily, the truck driver experienced only deep mortification. But a spokesperson for La Dominique told Unfiltered that the wine is a complete write-off: All 18,000 bottles suffered either breakage, damage or such a severe “shock” as to be unsellable. "It was a total loss—a real catastrophe," Isabelle Auzely, communications manager for Vignobles Clement Fayat, told Unfiltered. The wine was en route to be labeled. But not everything has been a wash for La Dominique this summer. The new rooftop brasserie La Terrasse Rouge, opened in partnership with the Brasserie Bordelaise in April, is the trendy place to have lunch with its unparalleled view of Cheval-Blanc and Pomerol and a locally sourced menu. Not to mention the locally sourced wines, though there'll be a little less 2011 Relais de la Dominique to go around.

• Two Seattle-area plumbers have been apprehended and have pleaded guilty after an inept wine-store heist this past Thanksgiving. Over the course of 13 hours, the thieves got into the controlled storage lockers at Esquin Wine & Spirits and lifted 200 cases, mostly French and Italian stuff valued at $650,000. They then cut the store's gas lines in an attempt to burn it down, just as planned in "The Plan," a journal detailing in writing exactly how the crime would be committed, which police found just hanging out in the car of Samuel Harris, one of the perps. When attempting to disable the store's surveillance cameras, the plumbers missed one, and the store owner identified Harris as, wouldn't you know, a regular customer. Detectives found further documents in Harris' house with titles like "Is it Accidental Fire or Arson?" and "How to Commit the Perfect Crime," which maybe Harris hadn't gotten around to reading. Harris also pleaded guilty to the slightly-more-successful theft of $250,000 in wine in 2013 from a woman who had hired him to build her a wine cellar. In the Esquin case, the wine was recovered. As the store owner put it to KIRO7 Seattle, "The plan was extremely elaborate, well-planned, but fortunately, poorly executed." Facing up to nine years behind bars, Harris should have plenty of time to catch up on that reading.

• The laws in China regarding first-come, first-serve trademark filings are alive and well, and the same individual responsible for a Chinese trademark controversy over French producer Castel has gone after an even bigger fish in Penfolds, and this time not by calling it “Benfolds." Li Daozhi, whom the Australian Financial Press has dubbed a “notorious trademark squatter” has obtained the rights for the Chinese name associated with Penfolds: Ben Fu, which reportedly translates to “dashing toward wealth." It's a name that will likely sell quite well in the Chinese market. By applying for this Chinese-language trademark in the absence of Penfolds' parent company, Treasury Wine Estates, doing so (they only applied for the English-language version), Li has legally secured the rights to the name. What does this mean for Penfolds? It means that they could be subject to a hefty fine for selling their wine in a market that recognizes Li as the holder of that name, albeit in Chinese—and that Li can sell his own Chinese equivalent of Penfolds. In the aforementioned Castel case, the French brand was ordered by a Chinese court to pay Li fines in excess of $5 million after Castel turned down Li's offer to sell them the “rights” to the Chinese version of their own name (“Kasite”) for an estimated $1.3 million. All of this comes just months after another enterprising Chinese man applied for and was granted the rights to sell wine under the Downton Abbey name, despite having no ties to the television program nor the actual licensed wine developed by Wines That Rock. Unfiltered will now spend the rest of our day trying to figure out the Chinese translation for "Unfiltered."

• The French national designation body, INAO, has approved Terrasses du Larzac as a standalone appellation in the Languedoc. Formerly a part of the Coteaux du Languedoc, the new AOC has 60 wine producers and five cooperatives spreading across nearly 5,000 acres northwest of Montpellier. The wines must comprise a minimum of three varieties from Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Cinsault and at least 75 percent of the qualifying vineyards must be planted with the first four of these. Terrasses du Lazarc represents the first independent red wine appellation to come from the Coteaux du Languedoc, following in the footsteps of the white wine AOC Picpoul de Pinet created last year. Languedoc supporters see the new sub-AOCs as further evidence that the region is shedding its image as an appellation of bulk-wine producers. Coteaux du Languedoc’s coastal region of La Clape hopes to join the newest Languedoc AOCs next year.

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