• It looks like the British government is feeling a bit skint. In a statement released earlier this month, Junior Foreign Office minister Henry Bellingham announced that the British government would be selling off parcels of its wine cellar to make some extra money. Several older vintages will go up for sale and the government will use the proceeds to buy newer bottles. If you’re wondering why England has a tax dollar-funded wine cellar, well, so were a slew of other British citizens when it came to light that the country had spent over $160,000 on wine in 2008 (and had been doing so for quite some time), as the financial world began to collapse. The outrage sparked an 11-month review of the functions of the national wine cellar, which has resided at Buckingham Palace neighbor Lancaster House, for the past hundred years. That review has recently come to a conclusion and Junior Minister Bellingham has decided the cellar stays but with a new set of rules to increase transparency of a notoriously secretive subject. “The cellar has been part of the government functions for nearly a century (…) and will continue to offer hospitality to important guests from around the world.” Kiss these gems goodbye, Prime Minister David Cameron: Château Latour 1955 (Wine Spectator Auction Index average $968), Krug 1964 (in magnum, naturally, $3,840) and 1931 Quinta do Noval Douro Port ($2,541). All of the good stuff hasn't disappeared just yet though. Queen Elizabeth received President Barack Obama and the First Lady in London this week, and their dinner of sole and spring lamb was paired with William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos 2004, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Echézeaux 1990, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin 2002 and Royal Oporto Vintage Port 1963. Perhaps a sign of what future dinners at Buckingham Palace have in store, however, the evening began with a sparkling rosé made in … Sussex.
• Back in January 2010, Unfiltered predicted that pop superstar Lady Gaga (who recently supplanted Oprah Winfrey atop Forbes' list of the world's most powerful women) would be spotted at the Grammy Awards dressed as a Champagne bottle, complete with a cork hat and cage veil. Well, we were one year off, and it didn't happen at the Grammys, but Lady Gaga was indeed spotted in a wine-themed costume, complete with cork hat, on this past weekend's season finale of Saturday Night Live. Gaga joined host Justin Timberlake (dressed as a beer bottle) and cast member Kristen Wiig (dressed as a tea bag) for a musical sketch in which Timberlake and Gaga parodied recent pop hits with new words imploring passersby to "bring it on down to Liquorville," the local wine and spirits retailer. The skit ended with Lady Gaga clanging together her two super-sized wineglass "gloves." For those keeping track, that's the second of our predictions to prove modestly accurate after Scarlett Johansson became Moët's European brand ambassador in 2009. While we aren't letting our powers of prognostication go to our head, we can make one more prediction guaranteed to come true: Unfiltered's 2012 predictions will not include a specific date and time for the Rapture.
• Call it Paris Tasting v2.0, if you will: This week, wines from California were the star at the e-G8 wine tasting at the Louvre's Tuileries Garden, the first time American wines have been served there at an official French state event (and fittingly on the 35th anniversary to the day of the so-called Judgment of Paris). The e-G8 Technology Summit, a precursor to the main event (which began today in Deauville, France), was hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and focused on global technology and the Internet; guests included Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The wine tasting was hosted by technology giants Publicis, Intel, Yahoo! and Accel Partners, with wine selections made by Soutirage wine merchants. Thirteen California wines were poured, including Chardonnays from Peter Michael (Sir Peter was expected to be on hand), HdV and Knights Bridge. The red wines included 2008 Screaming Eagle, 2005 Colgin IX Estate, 2005 Harlan Estate, 2004 Sine Qua Non Syrah Ode to E, 2001 Bond Vecina and 1997 Chappellet Signature. Unfiltered presumes all the techies in attendance were diligently researching the wines on their BlackBerries, Androids and iPhone 4s using Wine Spectator Mobile and the VintageChart+ App.
Rumors of a spontaneous karaoke party breaking out are greatly exaggerated. Or were they …?
• Chefs and mixologists from 18 top restaurants gathered in support of the Japan Society’s Japan Earthquake Relief Fund on May 18. The Chefs Cook for Japan event, organized by chef Masaharu Morimoto, welcomed more than 400 guests to New York’s Harvard Club and raised an estimated $100,000. Morimoto was responsible for recruiting the impressive lineup of chefs, including Daniel Boulud, Marcus Samuelsson, Ken Oringer, Anita Lo, Jonathan Waxman and Jose Garces. Having been in Japan the day after the tsunami, Morimoto said, “I wanted to do something to help, and I wanted to do something in New York.” The event was organized in less than two months. Despite the short notice, the chefs were eager to participate. Paul Bartolotta, who had traveled from Las Vegas, noted, “When Morimoto calls, you listen.” Likewise, Oringer said of the event, “We have so many friends and supporters in Japan, it’s really the least we can do.” As for the food, Morimoto carved an entire tuna tableside and served tuna carpaccio, toro sushi and shikai maki (elaborately designed square-shaped sushi rolls). Sushi Zen's Toshio Suzuki presented a sashimi arrangement layered atop an ice sculpture. Even chefs from non-Japanese restaurants took the event’s Cook for Japan theme to heart: Daniel’s chef Eddy Leroux prepared a hamachi tartare roll dressed with strips of pickled daikon and sansho pepper, while pâtissier Francois Payard assembled a collection of Japan-inspired macaroons created specifically for the occasion, flavored with yuzu, red bean, raspberry wasabi and shiso. Later in the evening, several of the chefs took to the stage to promote auction items. Conceived on the spot, the impromptu top-selling lot brought in $10,000 for an evening of karaoke, sushi and sausages with chefs Boulud and Morimoto at DBGB Kitchen and Bar.
Amadou Sow's Cosmic Pearls, the Taittinger Collection's 2002 edition.
• Unfiltered is a sucker for any pairing of art and wine, so we were excited to learn of the newest edition of Champagne Taittinger's Artist Collection, which debuted at the opening for industrial designer Stephen Burks' first curatorial effort at New York's Museum of Art + Design (MAD) earlier this month. Taittinger's Artist Collection premiered in 1983 with the Victor Vasarely-designed 1978 Brut Millésimé label. Subsequent labels (created only for top vintages) have been designed by Roy Lichtenstein (1985) and Robert Rauschenberg (2000). The newest addition to the collection, from the 2002 vintage and priced at $350, comes from Senegalese artist Amadou Sow. Titled Cosmic Pearls, Sow's bottle was selected by Burks for inclusion in the MAD exhibition Are You a Hybrid? which examines how the developing world influences contemporary design; the show runs through Oct. 2.