French Winemakers Cap Peaceful Protest by Smashing Bottles, Setting Fires

Also in Unfiltered, it's Showtime for David Chang with Billions cameo, Miraval makes olive oil and a Cocoa artist goes cuckoo for corks
French Winemakers Cap Peaceful Protest by Smashing Bottles, Setting Fires
Boy, that escalated quickly. (Christophe Barreau/Maxppp/ZUMA Press)
Mar 30, 2017

The French presidential election is heating up, but some winemakers feel their problems are not being addressed. And in the south of France, when winemakers want to be heard, they band together in peaceful demonstration as the most eloquent among them forcefully lay out their grievances—and then decamp to a local supermarket to set shopping carts on fire and smash wine bottles all over the floor.

L'affair started harmlessly enough when president of the Syndicat des Vignerons de l'Aude Frédéric Rouanet called on his fellow hommes in the Aude region of Languedoc to strike and demonstrate in Narbonne on March 25. Most concerning to the group is a depression in prices on the region's wine—which winemakers largely blame on cheap Spanish juice trucked across the border and, vintners claim, labeled as French. In the past year, rowdy vignerons and other sans-culottes have taken an action-oriented approach to this quandary, stopping wine tanker trucks near the border and dumping their contents in the street, once last April, and again in January (in case they missed some?). On the night before last week's Narbonne protest, CRAV, the most pyromaniac faction of French winemakers, got things off to an inauspicious start by setting fire to the offices of a local wine merchant, a favorite stunt of theirs.

Saturday's protest wasn't supposed to go down like that, though Rouanet warned that, if necessary, "the demonstrations will get stronger. If the candidates do not listen to us, our discourse will change after the harvest." He went on, according to a France Bleu report: "We came to throw a big bottle of wine into the electoral campaign." Then, most of the crowd dispersed peacefully, energized to throw that figurative bottle at politics as usual. But a few headed over to a nearby Carrefour market to very literally throw all the bottles against the wall and floor and set some fires in the parking lot.

It's Showtime for Momofuku Chef David Chang in Billions Cameo

Unfiltered has been binge-watching the second season of Showtime's Billions, a series revolving around a dirty hedge fund manager, Bobby "Axe" Axelrod (played by Damian Lewis). Making shady backroom deals around the clock certainly whets Axe's appetite, and though Axe has little taste for legitimate business practices, his taste for New York's finest expense-account dining is impeccable. Hence, episode 5, "Currency," sees Axe and a casino executive perched at a counter … manned by none other than chef/restaurateur David Chang of the Momofuku empire.

Chef grins as he puts down a giant bowl of chow atop the bar and gamely delivers a Chang-ian quip: "I'm gonna carpet bomb you guys with so much fucking food you'll be reeling." When Axe thanks him, he adds: "Don't thank me, just be there for us when Fuku goes public." (It's a reference to the casual-chic East Village joint he opened in 2015.) Axe manages to get what he wants out of his dinner guest—but was it thanks to the car he bribes him with, or the spicy fried chicken sandwiches?

Courtesy of Showtime

Later in the same episode, Paul Giamatti's character—the U.S. attorney going after Axe—spies on one of the hedge fund manager's associates at Michael White's white-tablecloth Midtown restaurant, Ai Fiori. This nosh doesn't go quite so smoothly: One of the guests complains, "$45 for a tuna sandwich!" and a woman at the table ends up on the receiving end of spilled red wine. Not exactly Axe's definition of "making it rain."

Cocoa Beach Man Is Cuckoo for Corks

Collecting is more than a mere pastime for many wine lovers, but 86-year-old Dave Kasmoch isn't after fine wines—just their corks. In the last 10 years, he has collected more than 100,000 wine corks in the service of his art: He's made nearly 1,000 framed trivets, trays and wall hangings from them to decorate his Cocoa Beach, Fla., cork palace.

Toni Steedman Zelickson
Dave Kasmoch's hobby can make a mess in the dining room, but his wife takes it in stride.

It can take Kasmoch 40 to 50 hours (and nearly 1,000 corks) to create some of his larger boards. Despite his skill and attention to detail—"You've got to sort them out, then you've got to also pick out the ones that have a design that's compatible to the next one" before shaving them down to nest together perfectly, Kasmoch told Unfiltered—he refuses to sell his artwork, preferring to gift it. "I get thank-you letters from every person I've sent one to." Local restaurant Café Margaux gives Kasmoch corks from bottles served out of its 4,000-strong inventory, and in return, the cork artist has made several large wall hangings that are displayed prominently in the dining rooms.

Jerry Arnold Photography
Café Margaux supplies Dave Kasmoch with corks and gets delightful décor in return.

Kasmoch, in turn, is fascinated by the art of the cork itself. "It's interesting how much effort these wine companies put into the design in the corks," he said. "It seems like they put more into the design of their corks than they do their labels."

Green Joins Rosé, Red and White with Jolie-Pitt Miraval Olive Oil

The last time Unfiltered checked in with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, the celebrity owners of Provence's Château Miraval, the Mediterranean coast was looking rather sunnier than the couple's marital prospects. But Miraval presses on, and the latest fruit to go under that press is olives. According to winemaker and partner Marc Perrin, the couple is most emphatically not divorcing the château, and Miraval Olive Oil joins a stable of rosé, white and red wines. The Miraval website describes scents of “artichoke barigoule” and “freshly cut grass,” a spicy finish and, erm, "mild astringency." The extra-virgin olive oil features a blend of seven olive varieties from the estate, and though it's only available in Europe for now, plans to introduce the product into the U.S. market are on the horizon, so that your salad dressing may soon remind you of the happier times when true love felt possible. 

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