Soccer Great Ronaldo Now 'Commander' of Ribera Wine Castle; Cam Newton Trots Out Lucky Wine Cleats

Plus, Italians work overtime to fight winecrime with fake "Prosecco-Franciacorta," 5 million liters of compromised wine; battle over "Nazi" grape name in Austria; and Champagne Ruinart rocks Art Basel Miami Beach with "Disappearing Man"
Soccer Great Ronaldo Now 'Commander' of Ribera Wine Castle; Cam Newton Trots Out Lucky Wine Cleats
Michael Steele/EMPICS/Getty Images / Grant Halverson/Getty Images Ronaldo (left) and Cam Newton have both been kicking back with wine lately.
Dec 20, 2018

Legendary striker Ronaldo may be better known for hoisting World Cups than wineglasses, but the Brazilian soccer all-time great is about to get immersed in the vino playbook. On Saturday, "O Fenômeno," who retired from the pitch in 2011, was honored with the title of "alcaide"—an old-timey Spanish term for governor or commander of a castle—of the Provincial Wine Museum of Valladolid in the historic Peñafiel Castle.

"A great honor," the man more formally known as Ronaldo Nazário tweeted, along with a picture of himself receiving the certificate of castle-keeping from the president of the provincial council of Valladolid.

Instagram / @ronaldo
Ronaldo storms the keep once more! The new wine-captain (left) receives his honor from Valladolid council president Jesús Julio Carnero.

Why, you might ask, was a Rio de Janeiro–born man who most famously led Brazil to the FIFA World Cup championship in 2002, given the keys to the main wine castle of Ribera del Duero? (The other two alcaides named this year were prominent local winemakers Pedro Ruiz and Almudena Alberca.) Well, in a part of the world that loves the beautiful game almost as much as the fruit of the vine, Ronaldo recently acquired majority ownership of the local team Real Valladolid, and at the ceremony said he already feels like "much more than a guest of the city—an adopted son." As he put it, "the province and the club are bound to walk together." Meaning your favorite Tinto Fino's favorite team is in his hands.


Cam Newton Loses Game but Keeps Wine, Finishes his Vinous Vintage Finishes with 'Vineyards of N.C. #1 Reserve' Cleats

This week also brought to a likely conclusion a winesports saga that began way back in January, when New Orleans Saints defensive end Cam Jordan troll-gifted a bottle of wine—specifically, Jordan Vineyard Alexander Valley Cabernet—to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. "You beat the Carolina Panthers three times in a year, I’m gonna have to send this guy a wine bottle," Jordan taunted at the time. "I appreciate him for being that good ol’ quarterback."

As Churchill famously said of a favorite wine (Champagne), in victory you deserve it, and in defeat you need it. And this year it appeared the tall QB shared the wide PM's vinous win/loss outlook: After a November walloping from the Steelers, Newton mused that he'd watched the movie Somm, dreamed of suiting up as a somm himself and had been unwinding with Sauvignon Blanc and cigars.

Twitter / @Panthers
Cam Newton, home wine-shoemaker

But before Monday night's rematch with the Saints, Newton revealed he'd been keeping the Cabernet cellared. “I am going to return to sender if everything gets taken care of,” he told reporters. Newton even laced up with some custom cleats: One shoe sported a wine-label design reading "Get Back Vineyards of N.C. #1 Reserve." Alas, the Panthers came up short again, and Newton is likely to be corked for the remainder of the season with a bum shoulder. Here's hoping he can make like fellow athlete-enophile Dwyane Wade and wine his way back to health.


Battle Over 'Nazi' Grape Name in Austria; Opponents Suggest Whimsical Hangover-Themed Alternative

Zweigelt, one of Austria's most widely-planted grape varieties, produces some lovely red wines, but its name—after Friedrich "Fritz" Zweigelt, the man who created it—is leaving a bad taste in some mouths. That's because, you see, in addition to being a plant scientist, Zweigelt (the man, not the grape) reportedly had close ties to the Nazi party.

Dr. Fritz bred Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent to create an offspring grape of superior genetic makeup (which, when you put it that way …). His variety was originally called Rotburger until its name was changed in 1975 to honor its creator, who died in 1964. But now, thanks to a group of artists called the Institute Without Direct Characteristics (IODE) calling out the grape for its shady moniker, another name change might be forthcoming.

The group held a press conference last week about its "Abgezweigelt" campaign to change Zweigelt's name. "The Austrian wine industry has kept silent like no other branch of industry" about the legacy of Nazism, accuses a translated manifesto of the IODE's website.

So what do they suggest instead? "Blauer Montag," or "Blue Monday," a reference to the feelings one experiences after a particularly wine-soaked weekend. The artists are holding a wine-tasting party (/possible protest?) to promote the new hangover-inspired, de-Nazi-fied name today.

According to IODE, two vintners, Friedl Umschaid from the northern Weinviertel region and Maximillian Brustbauer from the Wachau region, have agreed to market their wines under the Blauer Montag name. Further, Österreich Wein Marketing, Austria's official wine-marketing organization, has reportedly agreed to consider a name change, pending more research into Zweigelt's history with the Nazi party.


Champagne Ruinart Rocks Art Basel Miami Beach with 'Disappearing Man'

While most artists put their hearts and souls into what they do, not as many can say they've physically inserted their bodies in their work. But Liu Bolin can—and he did, at a live-painting demonstration this month at Champagne Ruinart's Art Basel Miami Beach installation.

VIPs sipped Ruinart rosé Champagne and nibbled on canapés from chef Michelle Bernstein as they watched the Chinese performer-creator's meticulous process of becoming invisible at the Miami Botanical Garden. Once appropriately covered in painstakingly-applied paint to match a large-scale display shelf of colorful bubbly bottles, Bolin stepped in front of the installation and—gasp—disappeared as he blended in with the background.

World Red Eye
Now you see him …

As Ruinart's 2018 artist in residence, Bolin—known in art circles as "the Invisible Man" for his self-camouflaging creations—has been working with the Champagne house all year on creative projects and art shows.

"When you see a bottle of Ruinart, it's hard to imagine the many complex processes that are required to produce it," Bolin said in a press release. "Its history and its values, which are almost 300 years old, imbue the daily production process."

Samantha Nandez/BFA.com
… now you don't!

But Bolin did not disappear from the art fest entirely: Baselers had more opportunities to see Bolin's artwork at the fair, and for the not-so-starving artists (and art-lovers), a Bolin-inspired Champagne dinner popped up at Cantonese hot-spot and Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winner Hakkasan.


Fake 'Prosecco-Franciacorta,' a 37,000-Liter Rosécrime, 5 Million Liters of Compromised Wine: Italians Work Overtime to Fight Winecrime

The spirit of Christmas taking is in full swing, and Italy's winecriminals really went overboard this year! Carabinieri and fraud investigation agencies around the country have been unwrapping cases large and small all month. Here's the latest in winecrime happenings over in the Stocking of Europe.

The fraud squad at the Ministry of Agricultural Food, Forestry and Tourism Policies, discovered some "curiously labeled" wine coming out of a workshop in Bulgaria: Thousands of bottles marked "Prosecco-Franciacorta." The ministry's press office reported that Italians are working with authorities across Europe to block the distribution of the fakes, which it called "a clumsy attempt to usurp the protected denominations." Authorities have identified the offending winery in Bulgaria and begun seizing the "irregular" bottles to be exiled to the Island of Misfit Wines.

Down south in Calabria, the carabinieri in the city of Lamezia Terme uncovered another fraudulent labeling practice affecting 37,160 liters of rosé and white wine. One winery labeled its product with the Scavigna DOC for the 2017 vintage, but investigators discovered, instead, a lump of coal—or at least that "the whole production came from absolutely different vines that are not compatible with the production of wines [labeled] 'Scavigna,'" per a report in the journal Agricultura. Bah, humbug!

This month also brought tidings from the Ministry of Health that it has compiled its naughty list for the 2018 wine harvest. Inspectors carried out a thorough investigation of the country's winegrowing areas through September and October, observing vintners when sleeping, knowing when they're awake—and finding 5 million liters of wine affected by noncompliant practices. Offenses ranged from shoddy record keeping and traceability measures to poor wine storage conditions to sanitary deficiencies in wineries. According to Agi, there were 871 inspections netting 178 infractions against 176 wine workers, with total fines dispersed to the tune of $271,000. Teacher says, every time a bell rings, a wine supplier does illegal things!

But the title of King of Sinful Sots must go to the thief or thieves who swiped a dozen bottles of wine, a salami and a box of caciotta cheese from the Christmas market in the northern Italian town of Mirandola. You really are a heel!


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