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Holiday Bloodwine for the Klingon on Your List

Plus, a bubbly brouhaha in British Parliament, Burgundy charges overturned, the Shark Tank buys into another wine project, and more

Posted: December 11, 2014

• Wine lovers know that a glass or two a day will help you live long, if not prosper. Last year, in the spirit of that famous Vulcan phrase, wine-loving Star Trek fans were introduced to a series of red blend bottlings made at Sonoma's Viansa and designed just for Trekkies, with stylized Star Trek: The Original Series labels by artist Juan Ortiz. Now, for the sci-fi obsessed who find regular old red wine a bit too tame, CBS Consumer Products has released Klingon Bloodwine, a 2012 Paso Robles version of the famed Klingon spirit (CBS' version is made from grapes, not blood). The blend of Malbec, Syrah and Petit Verdot is priced at $20 a bottle, features the Klingon "sword of honor" on the label, and is available through wine marketer Vinport; the $25 Ortiz-labeled wines are still available through Vinport as well. Both seem like solid bargains compared to the two empty prop bottles of Captain Jean-Luc Picard's Chateau Picard (vintage 2267) that appeared in the 2002 film Star Trek: Nemesis and sold for $6,600 at a Christie's auction in 2006. Talk about highly illogical.

A Champagne kerfuffle has arisen in Britain's Parliament. During budget negotiations meant to impose some belt-tightening measures, the House of Lords refused to merge their catering services with their lowly counterparts in the House of Commons because "the Lords feared that the quality of Champagne would not be as good if they chose a joint service," said Sir Malcolm Jack to a parliamentary committee in the Commons (Jack served as clerk of the Commons, in charge of such affairs, from 2006 to 2011). The chairman of the committee, understandably, asked, "Did you make that up? Is that true?" Jack confirmed that it was, according to the U.K.'s Daily Mirror. Then, because the members were having a laugh, another asked if the Lords' concerns about Champagne quality were, in fact, valid. "I don't think they were," responded Jack. "We were very careful in our selection." For good measure, another MP went ahead and just said how he really felt: "The Lords are a bunch of unelected, out-of-touch toffs and money grabbers. It is time they were put out of their misery. Let them drink corporation pop." The Lords bought 17,000 bottles of Champagne since 2010 at a cost of $417,000. The Mirror reported last year that taxpayers were spending $94,000 a week so peers could dine at subsidized prices: "trompette mushroom risotto with truffles, Champagne and double cream" for 13 bucks, as one example. A Lords spokesman rebutted that "the House of Lords would not reject a merger of catering services with the House of Commons simply on the supply of Champagne." Perhaps there were concerns about the quality of the claret as well.

The saga that has been Burgundian biodynamic vintner Emmanuel Giboulot versus the French government seems to have finally come to an end. Giboulot was initially facing fines in excess of 300,000 euros and up to six months in jail for refusing to spray pesticides in his vineyards. In April, his sentence was reduced to a 500-euro fine. But for Giboulot, it was all about the principle, so despite the huge reduction in the fine (and no jail time), he appealed the decision. Last week, with support from all over the globe (one petition supporting him claims more than a half-million signatures), Giboulot faced the French Ministry of Agriculture, and the fine and sentence were overturned in an appellate court in Dijon. Giboulot’s victory, however, came on a technicality: The judge found that the initial order to spray was never approved (or even presented for approval) by the minister of agriculture, and was thus unenforceable.

Lately the water in ABC’s Shark Tank has been red with wine: Mark Cuban recently put some serious money into a box-wine producer, and this past week saw fellow shark Kevin O’Leary (who has an eponymous brand of wines from the Niagara Peninsula) set a record-high offer for the show with his investment in a wine-packaging concept. The company, called Zipz, makes single-serving plastic wineglasses that in 2013 started appearing at Major League Baseball stadiums including San Francisco's AT&T park, Seattle's Safeco Field and Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field. The pitchman for Zipz, none other than Andrew McMurray of Zachy’s, told the panel of investors that he envisions Zipz becoming for wine what the aluminum can is to beer, and also deftly demonstrated the structural integrity of the Zipz vessels by standing on one and balancing on one foot. After the usual bluster from the sharks, O’Leary offered the asked-for price of $2.5 million for 10 percent of Zipz, contingent on getting the product into Costco (a retailer he’s been trying to get his own wines into) and an option to buy another 10 percent of Zipz at the same price in the event the company is sold.

Unfiltered has long believed the value of vinegrowing to be intangible, and now it seems that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) agrees. To its register of the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, UNESCO has now added the practice of alberello pantesco—a method of head-training bush vines practiced on the Italian island Pantelleria, which is off the coast of Sicily. Alberello pantesco practitioners prune their extremely low-hanging vines so that they produce six radial branches, and frequently reshape the hole in the ground in which the vine rests as a response to small changes in the microclimate. In case you need a refresher on your wines of Pantelleria, the important grape here is Zibbibo, known elsewhere as Muscat of Alexandria, and the two DOC-permitted wines are Muscato di Pantelleria and Passito di Pantelleria, both sweet wines. The only other "intangibly cultural" wine-related practice on UNESCO's list is the Georgian method of winemaking in qvevri, egg-shaped clay fermentors. (French gastronomy and the Mediterranean diet have also made the cut.)

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