It's Harvesttime for Wine in … Tahiti?!

Polynesia's only vineyard is celebrating its 50th harvest—in 20 years. Here's how. Plus, an unlikely Australian critter gives a vineyard a "seal" of approval, a Prosecco protest goes viral (sorta), and … why are Tesla owners pouring red wine all over their car seats?
It's Harvesttime for Wine in … Tahiti?!
Blue crush, Tahiti-style (Courtesy of Vin de Tahiti)
Jan 17, 2019

In the Northern Hemisphere right about now, winemakers are trimming, pruning and frost-proofing their vines, and hibernating their selves; south of the equator, veraison and the pesky birds and bugs that come with it are here, or will be soon.

But in one most unusual vineyard, the Carignan and Muscat grapes have reached peak ripeness, the pickers have pulled on their gloves and grabbed their shears, and the cellar hands have fired up their skiffs to transport the grape bins down the shore to the winery. It's mid-January, and harvest is just finishing up for Vin de Tahiti on the Rangiroa atoll in Tahiti, 3,100 miles from the nearest continent. This was a special vendange for the vineyard—the 50th harvest since it first began bearing fruit in 1999.

From the Mosel to Mendoza, virtually all winegrowing regions have winter dormancy, spring growth and fall harvest, but in the town of Avatoru, where the Cave de Tahiti is processing a successful harvest bounty, it's 83° F right now, and it will be 83° this time come July. Where there's endless summer, you can have two, sometimes even three, grape harvests per year (a phenomenon that can also occur in hotbeds of unusual viticulture like Brazil and India). "It’s so incredible to have a vineyard in such a place," longtime winemaker Sébastien Thépénier told Unfiltered via email.

Photos courtesy of Vin de Tahiti

Vin de Tahiti Vin de Tahiti Vin de Tahiti Vin de Tahiti Vin de Tahiti Vin de Tahiti

But for Vin de Tahiti (also called Domaine Dominique Auroy), it's not always clear skies and sunny days. Auroy, a French businessman, began experimenting with European cuttings in sites around French Polynesia in 1992; his team eventually planted own-rooted vines on Rangiroa and learned how to navigate the unique coral soil—the defining characteristic of the terroir, according to Thépénier. Today, the vineyard encompasses about 15 acres yielding 3,000 cases annually.

Every year, the start and length of harvest, which takes place every five to five-and-a-half months, is dependent on the unpredictable precipitation conditions that hit the island. Through vigorous pruning, Thépénier tricks the vines into brief dormancy and new growth after harvest, but the picking dates are always in flux, and there's no off-season. Still, the "biggest challenge" today is one familiar to vintners this side of paradise as well: conversion to organic, and now biodynamic, practices.

Looking toward round No. 51, Thépénier has introduced a fancy pneumatic press—and, he told Unfiltered, a new drink: the first cane-sugar rum made in Tahiti, which will be available only to in-person visitors. And upon learning that, Unfiltered checked our local weather ("freezing rain"), sighed, and searched "NYC to Tahiti flights tomorrow."

Australian Animal Antics: Tasmanian Winery Gets 'Seal' of Approval

Down Under, vintners know that surprise visits from wild animals—such as thirsty koalas and movie-spoofing Chris Hemsworths—are part of the outback's charm. But when one such visitor is a 550-pound sea dweller, it's understandable to be a little shocked, as workers at La Villa Wines in Spreyton, Tasmania, were when they were greeted by the sight of a seal lounging outside the winery on the morning of Jan. 2.

Courtesy of La Villa Wines
Flipper day

"When staff were arriving at 7:00 for work that morning, they encountered Mr. Seal on the driveway," said Gail Burns, who owns the winery with her husband, Marcus. The wayward critter is thought to have made its way from the ocean, swimming about 3 miles up the Mersey River and ambling another half-mile on land to its destination.

Courtesy of La Villa Wines

"It's pretty tough going to get where he was," Burns told Unfiltered. "We called Parks and Wildlife, and they came to assess the situation. They recommended to let him be, and that after a rest amongst the Pinot Grigio block he would find his way back to the river."

A nap in a vineyard followed by a nice swim? Sounds like Unfiltered's ideal Sunday afternoon.

Why Are Tesla Owners Pouring Red Wine All Over Their Car Seats?

Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk is credited for a lot of questionable ideas, but his most recent claim is something even Unfiltered could not have predicted. The Tesla CEO recently tweeted that the car seats in the Tesla Model 3—even those outfitted with the hot "Ultra White" interior upgrade—are extremely stain resistant, so much so that "you can spill red wine on the seats and just wipe it off." Now Tesla fanboys are putting that assertion to the test on their own brand-new cars, and recording it for all the Internet to see.

The first video came just one day after Musk's tweet. A Twitter user with the handle @TeslaAmit519 posted a video of himself drizzling a splash of Blackstone Merlot on his Tesla's pure-white passenger seat, hastily wiping away the wine with a paper towel, and revealing no stain in the aftermath; Tesla superfan Vincent Yu upped the ante by pouring not one, but two splashes of Trader Joe's Two-Buck Chuck Cabernet all over the seat of his luxury vehicle. But after a quick toweling, again, there was no sign of the spillage.

Having fun on Twitter.

Of course, these videos are being met with the requisite, "Why would you have an open bottle of wine in your car in the first place?!" But as Yu tweet-splained to the haters, "It's a test of the stain-resistant level. It's a test [based] on Elon's statement," and Tesla stans made the videos to demonstrate its accuracy … and to demonstrate their unwavering trust in Elon Musk, of course.

Prosecco Protest Goes Viral, Prosecco Conquest Remains Unimpeded

Prosecco is everywhere, from bottomless boozy brunches to fine-dining pairing menus to Shake Shack milkshakes. But one Friulian eatery, which stands firmly in the latter camp of "love it or hate it," is mounting a lonely protest to speak truth to Prosecco power.

Osteria di Ramandolo, run by husband-and-wife owners Ilenia Vidoni and Pietro Greco, stopped serving Prosecco about a year ago, and now, the restaurant is agitating to get other businesses to dump the fizz as well. Over the holidays, the restaurant spread its message, along with a meme-friendly say-no-to-Prosecco logo, on social media, bringing publicity to its movement, dubbed "Locale Deprosecchizzato."

"As you know, about a year ago … we completely excluded Prosecco from our cellar to focus on promoting quality sparkling wines produced in our region," slams a translated post on the business' Facebook page, which continues, "those who do our job should not only sell what is fashionable, but also have the task of communicating their territory and its excellence."

Among the likes, comments and shares the Facebook post has racked up, reactions are misto. While some applauded the eatery for shedding light on other quality Italian bubblies, others were offended by the stance. So far, at least one other restaurant has hopped on board, but elsewhere the globale Prosecchitzzato proceeds apace.

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