Unfiltered

What does Johnny Depp drink? What's served to Nobel laureates? And why is a soccer coach campaigning for corks?
Jan 18, 2006

• Actor Johnny Depp is already known for bearing a tattoo that says "Wino Forever." Now the star, who was nominated for a Golden Globe award for his role as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, will be appearing in the Weinstein brothers' wine-soaked film The Libertine, about the second Earl of Rochester. (Released briefly late last year in time for awards season, the risqué movie has yet to see a wide release.) Wine goblets appear at least three times just in the trailer, but what does Depp really drink in his spare time? Madame Figaro has revealed that Depp, who lives with French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis, favors French wines, too. His top choices are Bordeaux, including Calon-Ségur, which he says he likes for being affordable enough to drink every day. But he also likes Pétrus and Cheval-Blanc, along with the Burgundies of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. With sequels to Pirates of the Caribbean in the works, clearly cost is not an issue.

• A bit of winemaking history will fall to the ax this Friday. A French cooperage firm will cut down a 340-year-old tree, one of the last remaining oaks in the Tronçais forest from the time when King Louis XIV's finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, established a national forestry management system in 1669. The Morat oak, which stands 39 meters high and is 1.3 meters in diameter, has survived through six kings, two emperors and five republics. But sadly, the tree, which had been preserved to father more trees for use in ship masts and wine barrels, was showing signs of weakening. So France's National Forestry Organization sold it at auction last fall to be sure the wood could still be put to good use. It was purchased for 37,790 euros by Pierre Robert & Co. and Tonnellerie Sylvain, which are honoring the majestic Morat with a felling ceremony. At least the oak, which will be transformed into 60 top-grade Bordeaux barrels, will live on a few more years in the flavors and aromas of the wines that it holds.

• Cork producers must be getting really anxious about the growing popularity of screw caps. They've recruited José Mourinho, head coach for the Chelsea soccer team, which is leading England's Premiership. According to The Independent, the outspoken native of Portugal will lend his face to a new advertising blitz, beginning in March, to persuade wine drinkers to pass over alternative wine closures in favor of cork. Apparently, the National Portugese Cork Association, which is financing the campaign, felt it needed some star power to help win back buyers. At least Mourinho is good at drawing attention from the press. He recently caused a stir and prompted threats of legal action when, in a magazine interview, he said a competing coach was "a voyeur" for having an unhealthy obsession with his team.

• What do you serve when you need a wine fit for a king, a queen and more than 1,400 of the world's top intellectuals, politicians and literati? Although Unfiltered was sadly overlooked for a place on the guest list, we did finally find out which wines were served at the 2005 Nobel Banquet, honoring the newest Nobel Prize winners. At the Dec. 10 dinner in Stockholm, attended by His and Her Majesty of Sweden, the centerpiece of the meal was the Penfolds Shiraz Barossa Valley RWT 2001 (94 points), paired with a main course of ptarmigan breast with mushrooms and caramelized apples. Although two Aussies won awards—Barry Marshall for physiology and Robin Warren for medicine—the deputy executive director of the Nobel Foundation, Åke Altéus, says the choice to go Down Under was coincidental. "People aren't chosen for a prize based on their nationality, and neither are the wines," says Altéus, who picks the wines. Nonetheless, Marshall praised the decision during his speech. Altéus says the Penfolds offered a nice change from the "Francocentric" wines normally served at the banquet. But he didn't stray too far from tradition, pairing a 1995 Pommery Grand Cru Champagne with a starter of crayfish panna cotta and fennel-baked Arctic char, and wrapping up the meal with a 2002 Le Dauphin de Guiraud Sauternes to complement a lemon and yogurt mousse with Arctic bramble marmalade.

• Tensions will probably reach a boiling point this weekend at Bronco Wine Co., as officials there, especially CEO Fred Franzia, await word from the U.S. Supreme Court on their long-running legal battle against California state authorities and the Napa Valley Vintners. The justices are the last hope for the Ceres, Calif.-based company in its case, Bronco v. Jolly, in which several courts have already ruled that brands with "Napa" in the name must contain Napa grapes. A court conference is scheduled for this Friday, at which time the justices will decide whether they will accept Bronco's request for appeal and hear the case. A court official said that the decision should be made public early next week. Bronco's prospects are grim, to put it mildly, because the high court declines about 99 percent of appeal requests. But if Bronco does get another chance, will executives celebrate by opening a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck? Or will they spring for a $4 Napa Creek Merlot?

• March of the Organic Growers. Bonterra Vineyards, known for producing wine from organically grown grapes, is branching out into environmental activism. The Mendocino County winery, which uses renewable energy sources such as solar power and biodiesel fuel, has become a featured partner on StopGlobalWarming.org, which is enrolling people for a virtual march on Washington, D.C. The Web site was founded by Sen. John McCain, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Laurie David to bring people together to discuss climate change. Bonterra is in good virtual company, as the site's other partners range from the Sierra Club to the IndyCar Series to the Philadelphia Eagles, while featured marchers include Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Walter Cronkite and Leonardo DiCaprio. Taking inspiration from a more famous march, Bonterra winemaker Bob Blue says, "…if our friends will join us, perhaps we'll have the million grape march to keep this important conversation moving forward."

This glassy vineyard recycles old wine bottles.
• Bonterra isn't the only grapegrower taking environmental action. New Zealand company TerraNova, which helps find alternative uses for recyclable materials, has decided to try spreading broken glass from empty wine bottles underneath some Pinot Noir vines in Canterbury. The idea behind the two-year experiment is that the light reflected by the shards will enhance ripening in cooler areas, as well as heat up the ground to provide better frost protection. For vineyard workers worried that they may have to watch where they kneel, TerraNova CEO Richard Lloyd assures that the glass "has been processed down to the consistency of coarse sugar. It has no sharp edges. In fact, my daughters' sandbox is filled with the same glass." Nor is he worried about sugar residues from the original packaging contents leaching into the soil; if anything, the additional carbohydrates may improve growth. The idea stems from the fact that New Zealand's only recycling plant is in Auckland, on the North Island, so something had to be done with all the empty bottles piling up on the South Island. Unfiltered guesses that Kiwis must think putting candles in empty bottles looks tacky.

• Drinking wine is about to become monkey business at a zoo in Lipetsk, located 430 miles south of Moscow. According to RIA Novosti, zoo director Alexander Osipov is worried about the effect of the country's recent cold spell, so he plans to give the monkeys wine—in 100-ml doses, three times a day--to stave off a case of the sniffles. Ospiov hopes that will help keep up simian health, as temperatures are predicted to drop as low as -31 degrees F this month. It may sound like a strange concept, but wine is an old Russian remedy for fighting the common cold and Moscow pharmacies have already started selling wine to sick humans. The idea may have a basis in science, as a study found that wine may be a helpful addition to one's diet during cold-and-flu season. The other animals at the zoo will not be as lucky with their beverage consumption this winter, as the zoo plans to move them into warmer premises if the weather becomes threatening. Unfiltered wonders, will the monkeys learn to swirl and sniff before sipping?

Unfiltered

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