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Christina Milian, the Grammy-nominated singer, actress, regular on NBC's The Voice and Dancing with the Stars contestant, knows how to "Dip It Low," "Pick It Up Slow," and build a wine brand capitalizing on the drinking trends of the moment. When Moscato mania was in full swing, with hip-hop artists like Kanye West, Lil' Kim and Drake rapping about the Italian bubbly, she created the Viva Diva line of fruit-flavored Moscatos. She's now turned her eye to some more serious trending wines, like Prosecco and Moscato d'Asti, as well as a Pinot Grigio and an off-dry Barbera. The new wines retail for between $16 and $19.
Milian has given her wines a supporting role in her various show-business projects. They've been featured on her E! reality show, Christina Milian: Turned Up, and in the music video for the song "Like Me," which costars Cognac aficionado Snoop Dogg. Milian plans to drop her fourth studio album later in 2016 and Unfiltered wagers there will be a lot of Viva Diva Prosecco popping at the release party. And that reality TV cameras will be filming every minute of it.
It's the Chapter 7 bankruptcy case that poses "an existential threat to wine collectors around the country," quipped presiding Judge William Lafferty. But the 9,000 customers of belly-up Premier Cru, most of whom will never uncork the wine they paid for, are in no mood to be amused. Last March, the trustee for the debtor, Michael Kasolas, moved to sell all 70,000 bottles impounded in the climate-controlled warehouse behind the shuttered shop in Berkeley, Calif. That bulk sale was to include even so-called "segregated bottles," which were packed up for shipping or customer pickup prior to Premier Cru's Jan. 8 bankruptcy filing.
The case seemed destined for endless litigation, especially after one creditor, Michael Podolsky, who was stiffed for $383,000 worth of wine he purchased from Premier Cru, filed a class-action lawsuit against the trustee on behalf of all customers in the same boat. But after an intense flurry of mediation, a surprise settlement was reached late last month. It allows creditors who have claims on the segregated wines to "redeem" their bottles by paying a 20 percent surcharge plus shipping and tax. Other former customers will share in the proceeds from the proposed sale of remaining bottles, estimated to fetch $5 million.
But former owners of 60,539 "oversubscribed" bottles now in the warehouse are less fortunate. That's because, according to the trustee, Premier Cru sold those bottles multiple times. Those customers can only expect a check for an estimated 4.7 percent of their original payment. Even worse off are the 2,319 customers who paid $45 million for wine that is not in the warehouse. They're last in line, and it's unclear what they might recover. The upside of the settlement, according to class-action attorney Merle Meyers, is that if the two sides had chosen to get down and dirty in long-term litigation, "we might have ended up fighting over vinegar instead of wine."
On May 18, Jérôme Chevalier, president of Burgundy's Mâcon wine producers syndicate (UPVM), received a white square envelope in the mail. His last name was spelled wrong, but there was no mistaking the intent. Inside he found a death threat, accompanied by a spent rifle cartridge. The letter read: “Stop to pesticides. If you don’t react immediately, one day or another winegrowers will die. Neighbors won’t allow their children to be poisoned …”
“The letter arrived at my house," Chevalier told Unfiltered. "I was surprised, shocked. I’d never received a threat like that. I went immediately to the police. This kind of threat is unacceptable.”
Investigators are searching for the culprit, who perhaps made a grave error: The address was handwritten. The death threat is the latest in a series of increasingly aggressive demonstrations by anti-pesticide activists. On opening day at the Cité du Vin in Bordeaux, protesters lay prostrate, mimicking death, during President François Hollande’s visit.
For Chevalier, the threat is the “symptom of the deterioration of Living Together (a well-worn political slogan in France) that affects us all.” The vintner and local leader expressed frustration at the lack of communication between the wine trade and the wider public.
“We don’t spray the vines for pleasure," said Chevalier. ‘We spray because we need to, so the vines can produce grapes. Even the organic growers spray." Last week, political leaders and local authorities joined Chevalier for a public meeting in a show of solidarity. While they condemned the death threat, they reassured the public that the growers are working to reduce the use of pesticides. Chevalier said they were concerned not only for their health, the health of their families and employees, but for the environmental sustainability of grapegrowing.
Two months after petitioning for GMO labeling, chef Tom Colicchio, former Top Chef judge and cofounder of advocacy group Food Policy Action (FPA), has recently returned to Capitol Hill. This time the goal was to urge lawmakers to consider new measures for food-waste reduction (the FPA reports that Americans throw away more than 60 million tons of food each year).
Twenty-two U.S. Senate and House representatives met with Colicchio and a group of advocates, authors and fellow chefs at a May 25 House Agriculture Committee hearing. Colicchio called the meeting the “first of its kind,” with a panel of food experts from all levels of the supply chain in attendance. “With lawmakers looking for Farm Bill issues that appeal to both sides of the aisle, food waste reduction stands out; there are many ways that it can be addressed,” Colicchio told Unfiltered. “We received support from all sides, and our voices are gaining bipartisan traction.”
Among the attendees was Victor Albisu, chef and owner of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence–winning Del Campo in D.C. "Forty percent of food in this country is wasted. Of all the waste we have in this country, this is the most egregious," he said.
Last year, United States Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency issued the country’s first ever national food-waste reduction goal, to reduce U.S. food waste by 50 percent by the year 2030.