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Unfiltered

No Reservations teaches us something about wine (surprisingly), a green wine merchant forgets to recycle, a sommelier heads for the auction house and wine by the tank load in England

Posted: August 1, 2007

• Unfiltered watched a screening last week of the romantic culinary comedy No Reservations, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones as the work-obsessed Alain Passard-trained chef, Kate, and Aaron Eckhart as the free-spirited sous-chef, Nick, hired while Kate is out tending to her recently orphaned niece. Our attention was captured by a staff wine tasting during which restaurant owner Paula (played by Patricia Clarkson) introduces a Dolcetto. When Paula asks where it likely came from, one waiter quickly replies, of course, "Piedmont." But no, Paula says, this one is from Australia. What?! How did that unlikely choice end up in the film? The mystery was cleared up when Sirio Maccioni and Martha Stewart hosted a lunch at Le Cirque for the film's leads, Bob Balaban (who plays Kate's therapist) and director Scott Hicks, whose other films include Shine. (Also in attendance were a long list of other foodie celebrities, such as Jacques Pépin, restaurateur Drew Nieporent and Le Bernardin chef Eric Ripert.) Hicks put in a plug for the unnamed Dolcetto, which turned out to be a reference to his own wine; he and his wife, Kerry Heysen-Hicks, own Yacca Paddock Vineyards in the Adelaide Hills. Now the question is, will their Shiraz-Tannat blend put in an appearance in his upcoming film, The Boys Are Back in Town?

• A so-called eco-friendly fine-wine merchant in England recently agreed to dish out even more green--this time in the form of a hefty fine for not recycling its empty bottles and cardboard packaging. North London wine merchant Berkmann Wine Cellars, which has more than £45 million ($90 million) in turnover each year, touts its eco-friendliness so much that it even has more than 60 hybrid vehicles to use as company cars. But the company somehow neglected to sort its trash properly, according to UK environmental regulators. The Environment Agency in England requires businesses of a certain size to pay to have their relevant packaging removed and recycled, but from 1998 to 2005, Berkmann simply threw it all in one big trashcan, according to a ruling by the local magistrates court. Berlmann was fined nearly £50,000 ($102,698). The managing director of Berkmann, who would only give his name as Dinesh, confirmed the penalty and the merchant's subsequent payment, but didn't feel like talking more about the issue. While the amount may seem high now, the bright side for Berkmann is that by not paying for recycling services for seven years, the company saved more than £72,000 ($148,000) in costs. That's worth at least two more hybrids.

• The excitement and allure of wine auctions can be hard to resist, it seems. Sommelier Scott Tyree has left Chicago's Tru to join Hart Davis Hart Wine Co., the international wine retailer and auction house. Tyree will focus on fine wine purchasing, events and marketing. "He has a great relationship with distributors," said Michael Davis, vice chairman of Hart Davis Hart, "and it would be an added plus if his relationships with restaurateurs attract that sector to our auctions." Under Tyree's direction, Tru's 18,000-bottle wine collection has received numerous accolades, including Wine Spectator's Grand Award. For his part, Tyree said, "I hope to draw on the nine years of experience I have building the deep wine cellar at Tru to help broaden and deepen the retail selection at HDH. Having been privileged to taste rare wines over the years and to monitor their evolution should help me in selecting wines and in offering our customers first-hand knowledge on how those wines are showing." Get your paddle ready.

• British supermarket chain Sainsbury's is showing the world it truly is a green grocer with its latest plan to become more environmentally friendly: stocking its store-brand wines in plastic. The special bottles, made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate), are almost a tenth as light as a typical glass bottle, making the cost of transport much cheaper. In addition, the two pilot screw-capped, plastic-bottle wines, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and an Australian Shiraz rosé, both of which will cost under 10 bucks each, will be shipped in tankers and bottled in the UK to save even more on transport-associated carbon emissions. "This means nearly twice the amount of wine can be transported per container," said Barry Dick, a wine product technologist at Sainsbury's. "Moving wine bottles from glass to PET could significantly contribute to Sainsbury's new target of reducing CO2 emissions by 25 percent by 2012," he said. Barry added that the move is already catching on with other popular UK wine suppliers, with Wolf Blass launching its "Green Label" Chardonnay and Cabernet Shiraz in mid-August, which will cost around $15 and will be bottled in PET. In the meantime, Unfiltered will be waiting patiently on English shores, in case one of these wine tankers accidentally runs aground.

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