• Gossip as poisonous as pesticides, anonymous informants, rampant greed … the latest primetime TV drama? No, it’s just St.-Emilion. Bordeaux's Right Bank appellation has been rankled by controversy and lawsuits over its classification system for years. A new book, Vino Business, by French journalist Isabelle Saporta, has caused a firestorm for its criticism of the French wine trade, including Angélus co-owner Hubert de Boüard and his role in the 2012 St.-Emilion classification. Saporta alleges that de Boüard, who she refers to as the "seigneur de St.-Emilion," used his influence as a member of the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO) and various other committees to gain promotion for Angélus, vastly increasing the château's land value. In response, de Boüard has launched a lawsuit against Saporta and her publisher for defamation of character.
In an interview with Unfiltered, Saporta defended her book and upcoming documentary, the results of a two-year investigation and one year filming with de Boüard, Michel Rolland, Stéphane Derenoncourt and Jean-Luc Thunevin, among others. Regarding de Boüard, Saporta said, “I gave him the chance to speak. I understand that my conclusions don’t please him … I have the impression that people in the wine world are used to controlling communications that concern them.” The documentary will air before autumn, and publishers are vying for foreign rights to the book. While Saporta told Unfiltered she'd received wide support from château owners, she also faces public criticism. “I’ve never faced this kind of virulence,” she said. De Boüard was unavailable for comment.
If it’s causing this much uproar, thinks Lucile Carle, whose family owns St.-Emilion Château Croque-Michotte, “it’s because she put her finger on the sore spot.” Carle said she’d read the book, and has "no doubt what [Saporta] wrote is the truth.” (Croque-Michotte was denied promotion to Grand Cru Classé in the 2012 classification, and is one of three châteaus that have filed criminal lawsuits against de Boüard and fellow INAO member Philippe Casteja, CEO of his family's négociant firm Borie Manoux and Château Trotte Vieille.) Jean-Luc Thunevin told Unfiltered that Saporta had done a good job reporting on pesticides and the INAO, but that "she’s very unfair" with de Boüard. Fair or not, Bordeaux's rumor mill may have more fodder on the way: The defamation suit could force Saporta to reveal some of her anonymous sources in the course of her defense.
• Next time you take Grandpa out for dinner and a glass of wine, hang on to those car keys. In tests comparing the effects of alcohol on different age groups, Dr. Sara Jo Nixon and a team of researchers at the University of Florida found that the driving skills of test subjects over the age of 55 were more susceptible to the effects of alcohol on certain measures of driving performance versus younger people. Each study participant was monitored while using a computer simulation as they "drove" down a virtual two-lane road with various speed limits, stoplights and traffic conditions. After one drink—well less than the legal limit of 0.08 blood-alcohol content, the national dividing line between sober and “impaired”—the participants were Breathalyzed and put behind the virtual wheel again. The results? Researchers found that with just the one drink, older imbibers' ability to control their speed as well as stay in their lane was impaired, while the younger group, with the same intoxication level, showed no signs of impairment. “We found even at these lower doses that the older adults were more sensitive to impairment … negative changes, particular aspects of their driving,” said Dr. Nixon. “They were jerkier and had a more difficult time staying in the lane.” The results of this study and future ones could impact how we determine acceptable levels of alcohol consumption by adding a previously unconsidered variable: age. (Then again, maybe it just proves what we all already knew, that whippersnappers are better than old fogies at video games.)
• In less than three years a California charity cuvée has raised $500,000 for heart-health organizations. Daryl Groom, former winemaker at Penfolds and Geyser Peak, released Colby Red in 2011, pledging all future proceeds from the wine to charities battling heart disease, including the American Heart Association, the UC San Diego cardiology research department and more. Groom's now-16-year-old son Colby was born with an atrial septal defect that required a mechanical heart valve from the St. Jude Medical Foundation. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Colby and his father to promote the wine and its benefactors, including an appearance on NBC’s Today Show, sales of the $13 wine have outpaced expectations, with production now up to 35,000 cases a year, and parent company Truett-Hurst has pledged to make matching donations for each charity dollar Colby Red generates. If anything, the success has only made the Grooms want to work even harder. “The wine-and-food industry and my family could be donating $1 million a year to heart charities in the future,” Daryl said in a press release.