Illegal additives in South Africa, a $2.5-million bonus, wine-dyed jeans and a fun use for Champagne corks
Posted: December 9, 2004
KWV, one of South Africa's largest wine producers and exporters, has dismissed two of its seven winemakers for "manipulating" two lots of the company's 2004 Sauvignon Blancs. The dismissals follow tests of the wines by South Africa's Wine & Spirits Board, which since March has been investigating rumors of illegal flavor additives in some of the Cape region's wines. The industry watchdog has taken samples from 500 wineries and said it has identified three other cases for possible investigation. An internal investigation by KWV determined that winemakers Gideon Theron and Ian Nieuwoudt had added either pyrazine (a compound found in bell peppers and asparagus that contributes to Sauvignon Blanc's herbaceous character) or actual bell pepper extract to 67,000 liters of wine. In a statement, KWV said the two had "acted on their own initiative--without authorization, permission or a mandate--and that KWV was not aware of the manipulation at any stage." The two lots, one destined for the Laborie Sauvignon Blanc and the other for the KWV Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, will be destroyed, KWV said.
The Robert Mondavi Corp. may have been struggling financially, but chairman Ted Hall, who was brought on by the Mondavi family in January, has profited quite substantially from the $1 billion sale of the famous Napa Valley wine company to Constellation Brands. He'll be getting $2.5 million in bonuses, according to a Mondavi's Securities and Exchange Commission filing last week. That's far more than the minimum annual $400,000 bonus the former McKinsey & Co. management consultant had originally negotiated with Mondavi (on top of his $50,000-a-month retainer fee) and far beyond the typical compensation for a nonexecutive chairman of a Fortune 500 company. Mondavi did not provide any explanation for the impressive sum in its SEC filing. Meanwhile, after firing about one-third of its employees this fall, Mondavi expects to lay off more sales and administrative staff soon.
Chance meetings on long-haul flights can lead to high-flying business ideas. That's what happened on a Milan-New York red-eye last May, when Vitaliano Maccario, who co-owns the Piedmont wine estate Pico Maccario, found himself sitting next to Gianluca Innocenzi of the Italian fashion house Cool Hunting People. The result? Two limited editions of Cool Hunting People jeans: one dyed with a red wine, and one dyed with a white. The red is the Barbera d'Asti Lavignone, Pico Maccario's top Barbera; the white is the Monferrato Estrosa, a blend of Chardonnay and other varieties. The jeans will be available in department stores in New York in February and in Los Angeles in March for around $300, with a bottle of Lavignone or Estrosa thrown in. That's not bad considering that you actually get four bottles: Innocenzi said the hand-dying process soaks up about three bottles of wine per pair.
Bonny Doon's tasting room in Paso Robles, Calif., burned to the ground last week in a fire that caused an estimated $750,000 in damages. A faulty paper shredder was thought to be the culprit, overheating a circuit in the wall and sparking the blaze. The Santa Cruz-based winery lost about 400 cases of wine, which had just been shipped to the tasting room, said Tom Colero, assistant tasting room manager. But everyone there, including the farm's cats and two goats, escaped without injury. The tasting room, located in a renovated barn on Highway 46, also served as the gift shop for Sycamore Farms Natural Herb Farm. To avoid losing sales during the busy holiday season, the farm has reopened the tasting room in a heated tent.
|No need to worry about wine stains: Cool Hunting People's newest jeans are already dyed with a red and a white.|| |
We've heard of drinkers using corks from opened bottles to make corkboards, trivets, ties, and even a boat. Now Design Within Reach, a U.S. retailer of high-end furnishings, is holding a contest to create a "Champagne Chair," using only the cork, wire, foil and glass from a bottle of bubbly. (The designs are supposed to be miniatures, not full-size furniture.) Last year, the company's first chair contest brought in more than 400 tiny entries, from groups in New Zealand and France to a high-school class in Montana. An exhibit of the top 61 chairs toured its studios around the country. This year, the first-place winner will be awarded $1,000 and a case of Iron Horse sparkling wine from California; five other winners will receive $500 each. Plus, the top designs will be featured in the firm's newsletter, on a catalog cover and in leading Barcelona design store Vinçon. Entries must be received by Dec. 17 (see www.dwr.com/contestcork2004.cfm for rules), so if you're a creative type, you may not want to wait until New Year's to crack open a few bottles of bubbly.
|A sampling of last year's top cork chairs.|| |