Best of Unfiltered 2022

From Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s legal battle over Château Miraval to a $13 million wine scam to Hollywood’s most haunting wine cellar, here are our Top 10 pop culture moments of 2022

Best of Unfiltered 2022
So long, 2022! (Clockwise from top left: Stefania D'Alessandro/WireImage, Courtesy of Apple TV+, Chris Jackson/Getty Images, Joegend/Getty)
Dec 29, 2022

With 2022 nearly in our rear-view mirror, we take yet another opportunity to thank wine for offering us such ample distractions from the real world. Sure, we all have our own Pretty Problems to tackle when we’re not binge-watching White Lotus or guessing which NBA star will make wine next, but at least most of us didn’t get caught up in any shenanigans trying to pair wine with live snakes (we’re looking at you, Elizabeth Banks). So without any further ado (or snakes), it’s time for our top 10 wine and culture items of 2022—click through on each headline to read the full stories—and don’t forget to sign up for our Unfiltered email newsletter so that you won’t miss a thing in 2023!

 NBA star James "The Beard" Harden promotes his new wine brand, J-Harden x J-Shed.
NBA star James "The Beard" Harden says J-Harden x J-Shed isn't just about taste—it's about swag. (Courtesy of Accolade Wines)

10. Sixers Star James Harden Puts the Beard on the Bottle

The NBA wine squad has picked up another megastar: James Harden. The Philadelphia 76ers shooting guard and 10-time NBA All-Star has announced a partnership with Jam Shed Wines to release a California Cabernet Sauvignon and red blend.

The famously bearded California native, 32, says team dinners and card games helped turn him into a wine lover (Harden’s Houston Rockets teammates included dedicated wine lovers Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul; former Rockets owner Leslie Alexander also formerly owned a vineyard and founded Long Island’s Société du Vin wine club). Harden says he’s been considering wine business opportunities for a few years, and he finally pulled the trigger with Jam Shed, part of Australia's Accolade Wines portfolio, to create the J-Harden x J-Shed brand.

Posted July 25

 Lawrence Wine Estates managing partner Carlton McCoy promotes his new CNN docuseries, Nomad.
Lawrence Wine Estates managing partner Carlton McCoy pursues under-appreciated cuisines and neighborhoods in Nomad. (Jessica Chu/CNN)

9. Heitz Cellar’s Carlton McCoy Stars in ‘Nomad’

CNN’s newest food-and-travel–themed docuseries star is Carlton McCoy, the Master Sommelier and former Little Nell wine director who is now managing partner at Napa-based Lawrence Wine Estates, representing Heitz Cellar, Burgess Cellars, Ink Grade, Stony Hill and Brendel. As if overseeing five high-end Napa properties weren’t enough, McCoy has been traveling the globe in his spare time, camera crew in tow, on a journey to discover new cuisines and cultures in exotic locales from Paris to Ghana to Seoul to Mississippi.

Nomad with Carlton McCoy, which premieres this Sunday, May 1, follows the wine pro on his quest for authentic food, drink and culture, and his travels frequently land him far from the beaten path. It’s an Anthony Bourdain–style adventure into undiscovered neighborhoods, “to celebrate diversity by celebrating what makes us unique and the same,” declares McCoy.

Posted April 29

 Noah (Echo Kellum, left) and Anthony (Aaron Jennings) enjoy a glass of red wine on Grand Crew.
Noah (Echo Kellum, left) and Anthony (Aaron Jennings) enjoy a glass of red wine on Grand Crew. (NBC)

8. NBC's ‘Grand Crew’ Puts Black Wine Lovers in Primetime

Following a great vintage for TV and wine, one of NBC's newest sitcoms, the wine-themed Grand Crew, makes its network debut Tuesday night. From two Brooklyn Nine-Nine alums, Phil Augusta Jackson and Dan Goor, the show follows a group of young Black professionals in Los Angeles who get together at their favorite wine bar to uncork their daily adventures.

"I thought it would be really fun to have wine play a part in the name of the show, considering that the home base for the group of friends is a wine bar," Jackson told Wine Spectator via email, referring to Grand Crew’s riff on France’s grand cru classifications for the country’s most prestigious wines. "On an individual level, each cast member brings their own flavor, perspective and performative 'notes' to the table, and together they blend to make something special."

Posted Jan. 3

 An artist's rendering of a German U-boat sinking a vessel in the North Atlantic.
In this artist's rendering, a German U-boat sends thousands of bottles of wine to the bottom of the Atlantic. (Mark Stevenson/Stocktrek Images)

7. Champagne Stash Discovered in World War I Shipwreck

As seafaring cargo, wine has been known to go down with the ship when disaster strikes. Such was the fate of a cache of bottles aboard the S.S. Libourne, a British steamer sunk by a German U-boat on Sept. 29, 1918, killing three members of the crew.

The Libourne remained lost off Britain’s southern coast until 2015, when it was discovered by 10994, a team consisting of naval historian and writer Ian Hudson, marine engineer Daniel Jayson and diver Luc Heymans, among others. But, as 10994 quickly learned, the wreck came with a surprising and potentially delicious (or not) twist: The ship was carrying a massive hoard of hooch, including bottles of Champagne (in both magnums and pint-sized bottles), white wine (possibly Sauternes), red wine (possibly Bordeaux), brandy and Benedictine liqueur. “The more we dug into it, the more we got quite excited about what we were seeing, which was a whole pile of wine,” Jayson told Wine Spectator. “We thought, ‘This is fascinating.’”

Posted June 15

Bonus shipwreck coverage: Stars and Stripes Forever: Did 340-Year-Old Wine Belong to George Washington's Family (July 1)

 Queen Elizabeth II smiles on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during Trooping the Colour alongside (L-R) Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Prince Louis of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Charlotte of Cambridge during Trooping The Colour on June 02, 2022 in London, England.
At the 2022 Trooping the Colour, Queen Elizabeth II was joined on the balcony of Buckingham Palace by (from left) Prince Charles, Prince of Wales; Prince Louis of Cambridge; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge; and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

6. God Save the Fizz: Wines of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee

There are those who could not be less interested in the comings and goings of the Queen of England and her large and not infrequently scandal-adjacent family; this article is not for them. And then there are those who were riveted this morning as the 2022 Trooping the Colour military parade kicked off the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II, a four-day celebration of the 70th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, now 96 and the first monarch in history to enjoy seven decades in power.

Elizabethmania has swept not just the Commonwealth but the world this week, with anglophiles everywhere obsessing over everything Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Even her old nemeses the Sex Pistols have returned to play their part, releasing a new “God Save the Queen” video. And Wine Spectator Royal Watch is chuffed to report that there’s a cracking line of both official and unofficial Jubilee bevvies with which to celebrate. (Fair warning: The website for the Royal Collection Trust, the exclusive seller of official Jubilee merchandise, suspended orders due to “unprecedented demand” earlier this week; they’re currently warning that orders may take at least four weeks to fulfill.)

Posted June 2

Bonus heads of state coverage: France's Macron Sips California Wine (with French Accents) at White House State Dinner (Dec. 1)

 Cleveland skyline with Carl B. Stokes Federal Court House Building.
The buck stopped at Cleveland's Stokes U.S. Courthouse for an alleged U.K.-based wine and whisky fraud. (P.J. Ziegler/500px)

5. FBI Busts Fraudulent $13 Million Wine and Whisky Investment Scheme

If you want to make a small fortune in the wine business, start with a large one, the old adage goes. And yet that hasn’t stopped a generation of optimistic investors from chasing the lure of trophy wines with astronomical appreciations. But there’s another easy-money scheme millennia older than investing in wine: good old-fashioned fraud.

And what a winecrime pairing they make. The latest affront comes from the U.K. by way of Cleveland, where one Casey Alexander, a British citizen, was arrested June 14 by the FBI and charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Along with unidentified co-conspirators (some of whom are cooperating with authorities), Alexander stands accused of orchestrating a scheme that swindled more than $13 million from more than 150 victims through promises of up to 50 percent returns on investments in collectible wines and whiskies.

Posted June 28

 A bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1978 red Burgundy from the season 3 finale of Servant on Apple TV.
There's real Burgundy in this prop bottle of 1978 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti ... (Courtesy of Apple TV)

4. Inside TV's Most Haunting Wine Cellar

Early in the pilot episode of filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan’s Apple TV+ thriller Servant, wine-keen viewers will notice chef Sean Turner (Toby Kebbell) pouring himself a glass of wine from what appears to be a bottle of Bordeaux’s Château Le Puy. A high-end glass of red wine proves to be his near-constant accessory in this eerie psychological thriller about a wealthy Philadelphia couple who hires mysterious nanny Leanne (Nell Tiger Free) to help care for a doll which Sean’s wife, Dorothy (Emmy and Tony nominee Lauren Ambrose), believes is her deceased infant son. Got that? It’s all very Shyamalanian.

But forget the scary cult attempting to reclaim the nanny, the baby doll that keeps coming to life and the plague of supernatural blessings and ills descending on the Turners. The real star of Servant is the family’s exquisitely appointed Society Hill townhouse, including its restaurant-quality kitchen (along with chef Sean’s extravagant composed dishes) and a creepy, cobwebbed basement wine cellar stocked with epic trophy wines.

Posted March 25

Bonus tip: The final season of Servant premieres Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, on Apple TV+.

 An armband of a French gendarme police officer.
In France, the dedicated gendarmes who investigate these wine crimes are members of an elite squad known as the Vin-vestigators. These are their stories. (Joegend/Getty)

3. Bordeaux Château Owner Nabbed in Counterfeit Wine Raid

Bordeaux awoke to a shock last week when a yet-to-be-identified winery owner was arrested, along with 20 co-conspirators, in a raid by French gendarmes.

Authorities first caught whiff of the alleged crime ring this past September, when they stumbled upon wine-counterfeiting equipment, including fake labels, during an unrelated drug investigation. A month later, fake Bordeaux wine surfaced in the Sarthe region. Gendarmes were able to link these clues to a complaint made months earlier by the owner of a château in the Médoc, who discovered his wine was being counterfeited.

By November, the gendarmes' special wine squad (aka the vin-vestigators?!) were on the case. According to the prosecutor’s office, they found evidence of "a large-scale fraud organized by the owner of a vineyard in the Médoc also having the status of a négociant."

Posted July 6

Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson (left) shares a glass of wine with Nickel & Nickel winemaker Joe Harden.
Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson (left) shares a glass of wine with Nickel & Nickel winemaker Joe Harden. (Courtesy of Diamond & Key)

2. NBA's Klay Thompson and MLB's Nolan Arenado Launch Diamond & Key Napa Cabernet

Three-time NBA champion Klay Thompson and nine-time Gold Glove winner Nolan Arenado are rookies again—this time in the wine business. They’ve just released their first vintage of Diamond & Key Napa Cabernet, made by Nickel & Nickel winemaker Joe Harden and in partnership with Thompson and Arenado's wealth manager, Joe McLean.

"I'm always very hesitant about celebrity brands, being a winemaker and someone that's super passionate about making wine," Harden told Wine Spectator. "But if you want to understand the process, let's do it the right way and go find interesting fruit, start small and put quality over everything." Harden even advised Thompson and Arenado that they could collaborate with a bigger winery if all they wanted to do was taste a barrel of wine and put their label on it.

Posted April 8

 Angelina Jolie sold her stake in Château Miraval in 2021 to Tenute del Mondo, a subsidiary of the Stoli Group.
Angelina Jolie sold her stake in Château Miraval in 2021 to Tenute del Mondo, a subsidiary of the Stoli Group. (Stefania D'Alessandro/WireImage)

1. Brad Pitt and Partners Sued for $250 Million in Damages in Château Miraval Dispute

Brad Pitt has the story all wrong, according to a new counterclaim by Nouvel, a company founded by his ex-wife, Angelina Jolie. It is she who is the victim in the legal wrestling match over Château Miraval, the 1,300-acre Provence wine estate the couple purchased together in 2012.

Quick recap: Early in 2022, Pitt filed a lawsuit against Jolie for selling her share of Miraval to the Stoli Group, owned by Russian businessman Yuri Shefler, without Pitt’s knowledge or consent. In June, Pitt upped the ante, adding new allegations to the suit, including that Jolie tried to intentionally sabotage Pitt’s business and accusing Shefler of gaining “notoriety through cut-throat business tactics and dubious professional associations.”

Posted Sept. 19

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