John Oliver Picks Fight With Long Island Wine

Plus, a photographer shows what happens when beautiful people drink three glasses of wine, and Burgundy fraudsters are convicted
John Oliver Picks Fight With Long Island Wine
John Oliver brings the Hamptons Spring Break to the studio. (Eric Liebowitz/HBO)
Apr 14, 2016

Comedian John Oliver put Long Island wine in his snark crosshairs in a recent episode of his HBO show Last Week Tonight. The segment focused on the toilsome miseries of congressional fundraising, with guest Rep. Steve Israel, a retiring Democrat from Long Island. Israel has hosted some 1,600 fundraising events during his 16 years in office—including his annual Long Island wine trip, Long Island wine tastings and even Long Island wine pairings with cigars.

On that intelligence, Oliver pounces, suggesting "street violence" as a pairing to the congressman's beverage of choice, but as Unfiltered has learned the hard way, Long Islanders are a proud people when it comes to wine, and if you come for them, you best come correct. "You’re not gonna get me to say one negative thing about Long Island wine," replies Israel. "I’m very proud of it."

Israel elaborated further to Unfiltered this week: "There is no doubt that John Oliver is a gifted comedian, but this time he really missed the mark. As good as he is at making people laugh, I am as equally committed to defending all things Long Island. The Long Island wine industry is no joke—our vineyards produce award-winning wines, attract more than a million visitors each year, employ hardworking New Yorkers and stimulate our local economy." The congressman also named a few favorites for Unfiltered readers to check out: Kontokosta, Borghese, Bedell and Waters Crest.

At the end of the segment, the English funnyman whips out some of the North Fork’s finest—a Palmer Chardonnay in "the traditional bag"—to toast Israel’s upcoming retirement, and both men gamely swill it straight from the tap. "Not bad for wine in a bag," Israel insists. Perhaps mindful of his own home country's young-but-promising wine industry, Oliver concedes, "Sure, that’s fair."

(The toast comes at around the 20-minute mark.)


New Lenses on Wine Goggles

In creating the "3 Glasses Later" photography project, Brazilian photographer Marcos Alberti wanted to capture that dinner-party phenomenon that all wine lovers know all too well. "The first glass of wine is all about the food, the second glass is about love and the third glass is about mayhem," Alberti explained. The project began as an off-the-cuff photo shoot between friends and evolved into a legitimate yet lighthearted art piece.

Woooo!

Fun with Marcos Alberti Fun with Marcos Alberti Fun with Marcos Alberti Fun with Marcos Alberti

Over 50 subjects were photographed four times each: the first immediately upon arrival to Alberti's studio, the second after one glass of wine, the third after two glasses of wine and the final time after a third. In the first snapshot, many subjects look frazzled and tired, coming from long days at work or rush-hour traffic. But as the frames progress, smiles and laughter overtake their faces.

Behind the scenes, Alberti relaxed and chatted with his subjects while they sipped their wine at his in-studio bar. "People start to be more comfortable, start to laugh more and share personal stories," he told Unfiltered. Alberti, a Cabernet lover himself, wanted to portray the joy he finds in moderate drinking. "If you drink surrounded by your friends, in a good environment and with responsibility, it can be a good tool for celebration," he continued. The feedback to the collection has been overwhelmingly positive, and many fans have attempted to recreate the project, which brings a smile to Alberti's face, no wine necessary.


Former Labouré-Roi Owners Swindled Burgundy

Louis and Armand Cottin, former owners of Maison Labouré-Roi, were found guilty last month of a vast fraud scheme in Nuits-St.-Georges that affected more than 1 million bottles. Between 2005 and 2008, the two brothers, now in their eighties, and four employees illegally mixed table wine and lower-tier Burgundy into higher-cru wines—beyond the 15 percent allowed by AOC standards—and also used false labels. The pair received a fine of €37,500, but avoided a potential two years in prison with a guilty plea; the four employees who aided them received suspended fines of 2,000 to 6,000 euros. Dijon prosecutor Marie-Christine Tarrare defended what some saw as a light punishment, telling the assembled press, "The actions/facts were serious and committed over a long period, but it was a long time ago and the accused had a clean criminal record." The Cottins, who sold Labouré-Roi in 2013, had once been credited with making the house an international success, but as Wine Spectator quoted Shyda Gilmer, COO of New York retailer Sherry Lehmann, when the allegations came to light, "It’s so important. This destroys the core of Burgundy."


Going Big on Yquem

Swiss watchmaker Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of LVMH Watches & Jewelry brands including TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith, happens to like Sauternes. And he really, really likes Château d'Yquem. "My oldest are three bottles from 1811, and I have more or less each vintage from 1811 on," he told Unfiltered after a particularly momentous Yquem pour at the Hotel Three Kings in Basel: An Imperial (6-liter) bottle of Yquem 1901 for some American friends. How was it? "The color was like a deep copper hue, and the aromatics were still incredibly explosive! Chocolate, coffee, crème brulée, caramel, spice. And on top of that, the wine had still enough of acidity to give the impression it was still young."

Jean-Claude Biver is happy to share.
Crime Fraud White Wines United States New York Long Island Chardonnay Unfiltered

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