Unfiltered

Fun with screw caps, musical yeast and bidding on the world's biggest bottle and most expensive fungus
Nov 24, 2004

  • Market research shows that most American wine drinkers are resistant to screw caps, even though they're great for preserving fine wines. But that's only inspired Hogue Cellars, which is topping 70 percent of its wines with screw caps after doing research on their effectiveness versus corks and other closures.
    Hogue Cellars wants you to try screw caps
     
    In January, Hogue is launching a "We've Done Our Homework" campaign, complete with a man in a white lab coat (director of winemaking David Forsyth), asking consumers if they are "Ready for Your Take Home Test?" Other taglines on the in-store displays include "Screwcaps Rule (corks drool)." Hopefully a little humor will make the education go down smoother.

  • The world's biggest bottle of wine--holding 130 liters of 2001 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet--will be making its home in New Jersey for the near future. Known as the Maximus, the bottle was snapped up at an Aulden Cellars-Sotheby's auction this weekend for a big price: $55,812. (All of that goes to benefit Share Our Strength, an anti-hunger charity.) Bidding opened at $26,000 and quickly turned into a heated contest between an anonymous bidder in the
    Drink or hold? What do you do when you've bought the world's largest wine bottle?
     
    order book, and the ultimate winner, Wine Ventures, a Tenafly-based retailer. The 4-foot, 5-inch Maximus, which was created by Beringer and Morton's steak house chain, weighs 335 pounds and contains the equivalent of 173 standard 750ml bottles, or 1,200 glasses of wine. So what do you do with such a gigantic acquisition? Until New Year's, it will be on display at Wine Ventures, said president Craig McManus. After that, "We might ultimately uncork it at a special charity event. But in keeping with its Latin name, we might treat Maximus as a modern-day Roman amphora and preserve it for a future generation of wine lovers. It's clearly got the shelf life."

  • Paying $55,000 for a 335-pound bottle sounds like quite a bargain when you consider that a 30-ounce piece of fungus sold for $52,000 on the same day. (That's $10 an ounce versus $1,733 per ounce.) An enormous Tuscan white truffle sparked a bidding war at an auction for children's charities held near Florence, Italy, and simulcast in London and New York. The winners were one of London's top Italian restaurants, Zafferano, and a few of its celebrity clients, who wished to remain anonymous. (Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Gwyneth Paltrow and Russian magnate Roman Abramovich, who owns the Chelsea football club, were among those reported to be attending the London event.) The Zafferano group had to fight off a consortium of Tuscans, headed by fashion mogul Antonio Moretti, owner of top wine estate Tenuta Sette Ponti, who only backed down after making their final bid of $48,000. "We're going to have a big truffle party in the restaurant to celebrate," said Zafferano manager Enzo Cassini. While the $52,000 bid beats out last year's record of $35,000 for a Tuscan white truffle, that one weighed only 15 ounces, making it, per ounce, an even more expensive purchase.

  • Dancing, dancing with the yeast...can music really improve the winemaking process?
     
    Music can lift the senses, stir the emotions and, possibly, make yeast more productive. At least Sherry producer José Estévez is getting a rise out of the possibility. Spanish microbiologist Aurora Sanchez Sousa has been assigning musical notes to specific gene sequences, creating a musical blueprint for life that she hopes can positively affect the organisms on which the music is based. Sousa has composed several songs for the "flor" yeasts that float on top of Estévez's Sherry casks and shield the aging fino from oxidation. Estévez and Sanchez Sousa are curious if gene-inspired music will help the yeasts do their job more quickly and efficiently. Last summer, Sanchez Sousa created a customized yeast CD--"Vin Vino Vida" ("Grape Wine Life")--for Estévez, which he broadcasts in the winery for about 10 hours each day through speakers hung from the ceiling. The yeast-specific tunes range from jaunty elevator jazz to the kind of New-Age Zen music played in candle shops. The CD also includes a song based on Estévez's own genes, a sort of synthesizer-heavy flamenco melody. Although Sousa Sanchez says the experiment could take years, Estévez claims he's already noticed more uniformity in the layers of yeast. Perhaps they had formed a conga line.

  • Which big-name Burgundian has started making Shiraz in South Africa? Mark Siddle, co-owner of Domaine Bertagna in Vougeot, has been a regular visitor to the Cape. Now he's teamed up with Emil den Dulk, owner of De Toren, which produces the acclaimed Fusion V wine from Stellenbosch. Siddle has paid around $1.3 million for a 42-acre property in the Helderberg area, near Stellenbosch, where he's creating a wine estate from scratch. Expect to see a 2003 Cape Shiraz next year under the new DDS label, though it might be hard to find. The initial release will be tiny, about 350 cases. Just like Burgundy.
  • Unfiltered

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