• A Splashy Celebration: A banker who was partying in the exclusive London nightclub Mo*Vida grabbed local headlines for ordering nearly $40,000 of Champagne and then spraying it around his VIP room. The Soho club, whose patrons have included Paris Hilton, Scarlett Johansson and Pierce Brosnan, reports that the banker, who was visiting from Monaco, and 20 friends wasted six magnums and 49 bottles of various vintages of Cristal, as well as two magnums and 13 bottles of Dom Pérignon. The lavish behavior ended up setting the guy back more than $75,000 after the club slapped him with a massive clean-up bill, plus service charge. "The whole place had to be reupholstered," said a club representative. "It has been known that a few bottles of bubbly have been sprayed in the [private] rooms before, but not to the extent that we had to charge a cleaning fee." Clearly, the financier was not a wine fancier. A quick glance at a copy of the bill showed that the rest of the tab went toward a few bottles of Belvedere Vodka, at $320 a pop, and a variety of mixers, which the partiers did actually drink.
• Foster's Wine Estates, the wine giant formerly known as Beringer Blass, has been busy consolidating its operations since forking over $2.5 billion for its chief competitor Southcorp in June. The latest gossip in Northern California is that the company is primed to sell the winery and restaurant at Chateau Souverain in Sonoma County's Alexander Valley, though it would keep the brand name. While Foster's declines to comment, if that turns out to be true, it would be consistent with how the Australian wine industry often operates, selling off regional facilities and placing the winemaking in one large plant. (The company has a massive new winery in the works in southern Napa Valley.) Rumored to be interested in the facility is vintner/filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, who is said to want his Niebaum-Coppola winery in Napa Valley to concentrate solely on estate wines, such as Rubicon. One scenario is that he'd make the non-estate wines, such as the Francis Coppola Diamond Series and Coppola Presents, over at Souverain. Other reports are that he wants to create a destination restaurant at the bucolic spot in the rolling hills along Highway 101. While the Chateau Souverain restaurant has long been an underperformer, the local food scene has been taking off, with the addition of Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen and the recently heralded Cyrus, both in nearby Healdsburg. But officials at Niebaum-Coppola aren't talking either. Stay tuned.
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• Beaujolais growers are spending a lot of money to give their wine an image makeover. The big push behind Beaujolais Nouveau--the drink-now red released every November--has been so successful that no one seems to realize the French appellation also makes wines that can be drunk any time of year. To change that, Inter Beaujolais, a union of producers, is partnering with the Italian olive oil federation on a three-year, $5 million marketing campaign in major U.S. cities, sponsoring "License to Chill" events such as Beaujolais bar nights and in-store tastings. But why are the French partnering with an Italian food? Because the European Union will pay half the tab for marketing campaigns for agricultural products from two different EU nations. As for the "License to Chill" name, it's a play on two themes: That Beaujolais is a wine to serve at relaxing parties, and that it's one of the few reds best served chilled. Considering that Smirnoff is now running a series of ads with the slogan "Chill Sip Chill," Unfiltered hopes Beaujolais hasn't spent $5 million just to get mixed up with a vodka.
• Waste not … Australian pig farmer Claire Pennicard has come up with an unusual use for the leftovers from the winemaking process--bedding for her 4,000 or so swine. Finding ways to get rid of pomace--pressed grape skins, stems and other material--has plagued some winemakers because it's generally too acidic to use in farming as fertilizer or mulch. But the pigs appear to love relaxing on the squishy stuff, according to reports from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and Pennicard believes she'll end up with high-grade compost. For now, Pennicard reports, the pigs have pretty much steered clear of eating the stuff. Looks like she won't be selling any Shiraz-flavored ham.
• Winemakers are a resilient bunch. They've kept going in the face of droughts, hail storms, fires, earthquakes and floods (we're sure there's been a plague of locusts somewhere). But hurricanes aren't typical weather in wine country. Unless you're in Florida. When Hurricane Ivan swept through Panama City Beach a little less than a year ago, it wiped out pretty much everything in its path, which happened to encompass SeaBreeze Winery. Owners Fred and Lynn Webb were expecting their Kyotee vineyard to be devastated, but when they assessed it a few days later, they found the vines intact, and one section still had fruit hanging. "The one thing the storm did was a culling process, and all the grapes left on the vine were just perfect," said Fred. "It took off anything that was overripe or a bit weak, and just stripped them down." The result is 80 cases of Hurricane Ivan wine, a $15 semi-dry red made from the Muscadine grapes native to the southern United States. As a souvenir, it sure beats an insurance claim form.
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