Unfiltered

Vinexpo heats up (literally), Gallo and United Farm Workers try to make nice and Danny Meyer throws a block party
Jun 22, 2005

• Once again, the biannual Vinexpo in Bordeaux got underway in hot weather, with temperatures reaching into the 90s. The air-conditioning in the exhibition hall couldn't quite keep up, and as the show wore on, visitors shed jackets and ties, opting to go as casual as possible. At least one woman was taken away in an ambulance looking as if she might be suffering from heat exhaustion. Many vintners complained that the conditions weren't good for tasting and that their wines weren't showing their best. Some speculated that the hall had been shutting off the air-conditioning or electricity for the refrigerators overnight because the wines were warm when they arrived in the morning. At least one booth resorted to taking the wines back to their hotel rooms at night to keep them cool.

• French movie star Gérard Depardieu caused quite a stir when he showed up at Vinexpo for a brief tasting of his Château de Tigné wines from the French region of Anjou, along with wines from Domaine Szeremley. The actor got to know the Hungarian estate while on location filming Napoléon. While Depardieu read a statement about the shared philosophy of the two estates and extolled terroir as culture, not as a marketing term, the booth was mobbed by photographers and curious onlookers. The photo op obviously benefited Szeremley; they introduced everyone around to the domaine's traditional Hungarian varietals. Among other notable appearances at the show was Prince Felipe of Spain who spent about an hour visiting the Spanish pavilion, to the great appreciation of the producers there.

• In celebration of the 150th anniversary of Bordeaux's 1855 Classification, Château d'Yquem and the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés hosted a glamorous dinner for international journalists, château owners and influential wine buyers. The evening started with a selection of Sauternes and a performance by what appeared to be the entire string section of an orchestra. Dinner was accompanied by wines from all the classified growths in the Médoc and mature vintages of all the first growths, concluding with a parade of waiters presenting 1967 Yquem to the accompaniment of fireworks staged with the château as the backdrop. Some 25 cellarmasters oversaw the serving of 1983 Margaux, 1982 Mouton, 1979 Lafite from magnum, 1978 Latour and 1975 Haut-Brion from magnum to a crowd of 500 that included almost all of Bordeaux's big names. Hosting tables were Corinne Mentzelopolous, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, Baron Eric de Rothschild and the Duchess de Mouchy, Joan Dillon, along with, of course, Yquem owner Bernard Arnault, the chairman of French luxury goods company LVMH. Notably absent was Latour, which, though it sent wine, did not host a table. The owner of Latour is billionaire businessman François Pinault, who happens to be a rival of Arnault's.

• After nearly 30 years of friction between Gallo and the United Farm Workers, the dispute is heating up this summer along with the weather. The UFW uncorked an Internet campaign last week urging consumers to boycott Gallo products because it says the Sonoma winery's seasonal workers aren't getting the same benefits that full-time employees do. Before the boycott could gather steam, though, the UFW was hit with a complaint from the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board for refusing to bargain in good faith. The UFW cried foul, but the Board said that it was responding to charges Gallo raised as far back as 2003, and that the timing of the complaint was coincidental. Despite the ensuing rising tensions and flying accusations, Gallo and the UFW managed to sit down for discussions this week. UFW spokesperson Marc Grossman said that Gallo was asked to provide current information on who its workers are so the UFW can talk to them and then generate a new proposal. Gallo agreed, and the next negotiation session is set for July 21.

The double-magnum bottle will make its way from Santiago to New York.
• In Chile's enological version of Easy Rider-meets-The Motorcycle Diaries, wine lover Cristián Muñoz is taking a 3-liter bottle of wine on a 21,000-mile journey on his 1150cc BMW bike from Santiago to New York. The aim of the tour is to introduce the rest of this hemisphere to the Carmenère grape as well as the other wines of Chile, said Andes Wines general manager Maximiliano Morales, who has been planning the tour for more than 18 months. Tastings of Chilean wine have been scheduled for many of the stops on the tour in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico and the United States. Muñoz, who worked in exports and sales for several wine companies around the world before resettling in Chile in 2001, hopes to have wine-industry figures sign the double-magnum along his way. He is scheduled to reach San Diego on Aug. 25 and finish in New York on Chile's Independence Day, Sept. 18. "It's a crazy idea," Morales admitted, "but it's getting nice structure--it's kind of a surprise really."

• Think barbecue is the exclusive domain of beer? Think again. At the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party on June 11 and 12 in New York, restaurateur Danny Meyer of Blue Smoke offered suggestions for pairing wines with pulled pork, Kansas City ribs, hot links, beans and coleslaw. The wines--Pol Roger Brut Réserve NV, Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2003, El Coto de Rioja Rosado 2004, Paul Jaboulet Aîné Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert 2001, Galtarossa Amarone della Valpolicella 2000 and Hugel Tokay Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive 1990--were as varied as styles of barbecue. Guests were encouraged to make their own matches among the wines and barbecue staples; not surprisingly, most preferred the red wines with the meats. Meyer, in an attempt to explain the effect of tannins and their interaction with meat fats, asked the audience how many of them had sucked on tea bags as children. When only three people raised their hands, Meyer shook his head. "You're all weird!" he cried. Speaking of weird, New Yorkers seemed partial to St. Louis' Smoki O's restaurant, which sold out of its specialty: pork-snout sandwiches. They went nicely with a glass of Pol Roger.

Unfiltered

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