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Claudia Schiffer helps relaunch a Dom bottling, Champagne producers upset with a rather sharp Brit, a new way to make your own wine and a yellow card for rowdy tasting-room visitors

Posted: July 11, 2007

• We should just accept it at this point: Champagne producers will never cease in their efforts to one-up each other when it comes to adorning the bottles with wetsuits, designer bags and corsets, or associating their wines with models, celebrities and socialites. (Betting now open on who sponsors the Kim Jong-Il New Year's Champagne toast.) In the latest installment, model Claudia Schiffer is the face of Dom Perignon's Karl Lagerfeld-designed campaign to relaunch Dom Pérignon Enothèque 1993. The launch party, held in a swanky private mansion in Paris--and attended by Schiffer, Jude Law, Zhang Ziyi and Ralph Fiennes--featured highly stylized photographs of Schiffer portraying a variety of other famous figures, ranging from Marie Antoinette to Donna Summer. "These portraits show a woman who metamorphoses over time, from the 18th to the 21st centuries, while retaining her own personality," said Lagerfeld in a release. Nice idea, but we're not sold, and here's why. Dressing up a bottle of Champagne does nothing for us unless the wine inside the bottle is good. It's what's on the inside that counts. So note to Karl: You can dress up Claudia Schiffer however you like for an ad campaign, but she's still the girl who married freaky magician David Copperfield.

• Speaking of Champagne, the region's leaders recently--and very proudly--relaunched their American website, Champagne.us. The site offers information about the region and its producers, serving tips, recipes and more. Go to Champagne.co.uk, however, and you'll find something a bit different-not to mention something that has the region's governing body, the Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), in a tizzy. The UK website is owned by entrepreneur Steve Jackson, who counts part ownership of the Preston North End soccer team among his various business interests. His website is an online retailer of high-end bubblies, but the CIVB feels it should own the domain name Jackson has held since 1997. The courts, however, have sided with Jackson. "[The CIVB have] dealt with the entire action the way one might imagine a 6-year-old child might deal with it," said Paul Finnerty, Jackson's counsel at Manchester law firm Freeth Cartwright. "When they didn't get their way, they stomped their feet and shouted a bit louder." Finnerty added that Jackson would prefer to work in step with the CIVB and give them "editorial input into the way we're describing the product and the area," but no luck so far. "He's not taking it personally," Finnerty said of Jackson. "He's had a bit of a laugh about it." After a glass or two of victory bubbly, no doubt.

Doubles as a '70s-style end table.
• You know the story: Silicon Valley venture capitalist quits his day job to become a winemaker. That's what Greg Snell decided to do--with no prior winemaking experience and no vineyard. "I was doing work in the semiconductor industry and reading books on winemaking and had an epiphany to design a custom personal winery," he said. The epiphany is now reality in the form of the WinePod, a 4-foot-tall personal winery, which sells for $3,500 at winepod.net. Just insert grapes, plug it in, and poof, the WinePod ferments, presses and ages your wine based on commands received wirelessly from your home computer. Interactive software guides you through everything from punch-downs to rackings. The WinePod can accommodate a batch of 15 gallons of any grape variety, whether you use your own or buy frozen, destemmed grapes sourced from various vineyards in Napa and Sonoma ranging in price from $250 to $1,000. The entire process lasts up to a year and the end result is your very own homemade wine. "I've been working with it for almost a year," said satisfied WinePod user Tom Lorincz of Hollister, Calif. "I had done small home winemaking before, the old way in bins and in small tanks, which was kind of a messy, cumbersome process." The initial batch of 250 WinePods sold out, so if you want one of your own, you'll have to join a waiting list. The good news, though, is plans are to ramp up production to about 100 WinePods a month by 2008. Let the home winemaking begin.

• Cognoscenti from the Italian world of wine, fashion and publishing--with a smattering of press and wine merchants--descended on Tuscany's coastline near Grosseto on June 30 to celebrate the new winery of Rocca di Frassinello. Italian publishing magnate Paolo Paneria, who also owns a winery in Chianti Classico called Castellare di Castellina, teamed up with Domaines de Rothschild (Lafite) to buy the 500-acre estate together in 2001, and their first commercial vintage was 2004. The recent inaugural lunch took place in the vast concrete barrel cellar, designed by famous architect and old friend of Panerai, Renzo Piano, best known as one of the designers of the Pompidou Center in Paris and, more recently, the New York Times Building in Manhattan. From table number 34, Unfiltered spotted Diego della Valle, owner/president of Tuscany's top soccer team, Fiorentina. Perhaps he was scouting for an indoor training facility, since the barrel cellar is nearly stadium-sized. Should be an easy deal to clinch with Panerai, who rarely misses a Fiorentina game.

• The next time you encounter a loudly inebriated group of bachelorettes spilling out of a stretch limo and into a winery parking lot, just throw a yellow card at them. That's the solution that's been put in place by more than 50 cooperating wineries in the Finger Lakes wine region in response to increasingly rowdy groups treating tasting rooms like their favorite dive bar from the college days. The program, called Safe Group Wine Tours, empowers winery owners and employees to penalize "groups unwilling to restrain themselves from gross misbehavior" by giving them yellow or red cards, as is done by soccer referees to punish rule-breaking players. Liz Stamp, owner of Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen, N.Y., cited the "overserved" guest who hijacked the winery's golf cart, and the two large groups of recent college graduates who engaged in a shoving match, as an incentive to participate in the program. "I couldn't believe that this was the way young adults were acting," marveled Stamp, who perhaps isn't familiar with the antics of other "adults" like Bam Margera and Paris Hilton.

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