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Lovejoy, the Alcohol-Fueled Comet

Plus, Champagne Jayne keeps her name, counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan's cars go to auction, and more
Comet Lovejoy streaks across the night sky, delivering copious quantities of alcohol and sugar everywhere it goes.
Photo by: Alan Dyer/Stocktreck Images/Getty Images
Comet Lovejoy streaks across the night sky, delivering copious quantities of alcohol and sugar everywhere it goes.

Posted: October 29, 2015

Scientists have discovered that the Lovejoy comet—now Unfiltered’s favorite comet—is releasing massive amounts of both alcohol and sugar. Specifically ethyl alcohol, the kind we imbibe, and a simple sugar known as glycolaldehyde, both of which have been identified in the gas being released by the comet. The French team of scientists, headed by Nicolas Biver of the Paris Observatory, put into terms that we could understand: “We found that comet Lovejoy was releasing as much alcohol as in at least 500 bottles of wine every second during its peak activity,” he said in a NASA news release.

To put that into perspective, the United States wine industry as a whole made over 846 million gallons of wine in 2013. At roughly five bottles to the gallon, that would mean that the U.S. averages about 134 bottles a second, or a third of what Lovejoy is cranking out.

This is the first comet to be observed emitting alcohol and sugar, which is a strong indicator of where, perhaps, some of the more complex components of the building blocks of life may have come from. In all, 21 separate organic molecules were identified by Biver’s team within the gas released by the comet, as outlined in their research paper published this month in Science Advances. The discovery supports the theory that life on Earth may have arisen from deposits left by a passing comet that “seeded” our rock with these basic materials necessary for life. And Unfiltered readers know how essential wine is to life.

Champagne Jayne, by No Other Name

In an odd case of “what have you done for me lately,” it seems the trials of Champagne Jayne vs Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), the governing body that handles all things legal relating to the protection of Brand Champagne, are coming to an end. The well-known Australian wine educator Jayne Powell, who goes by the moniker “Champagne Jayne,” has been a champion of Champagne and sparkling wines for some time, even being awarded the coveted title of “Dame Chevalier” by the Champagne industry, via Pierre Emmanuel Tattinger no less. So how did it come about, that this London-born resident of Sydney, so loved and lauded by the Champenois, finds herself being sued in an Australian court by the very same body that, until 2012, loved her so?

In July 2012 she sought to trademark the name “Champagne Jayne." We know how protective the CIVC can be about using the word—just ask Apple about its "champagne"-colored iPhone, or Pres. Barack Obama about his Inauguration menu. The CIVC lodged a formal protest to the Champagne Jayne trademark, followed by the filing of additional complaints in 2013. There was a period of mediation during late 2014 and early 2015, which yielded no amicable results, thus the case went to a federal court in Melbourne. At issue was the very use of the word “Champagne” in Powell’s business model, including her domain name, Twitter handle, etc., and that some of her tweets and social media posts were of non-Champagne sparkling wines yet did not contain sufficient language to let her followers know the wine in question was not a sparkling wine from within the boundaries of Champagne.

So this past week, Justice Jonathan Beach issued his ruling, one that can be described as a partial win for Powell, in that she can continue to use the moniker “Champagne Jayne,” including the keeping of her domain name and Twitter handle. Justice Beach did, however, find that “Ms. Powell’s use of social media in the promotion and provision of her services and related activities under the name 'Champagne Jayne' has been likely to mislead or deceive consumers in terms of her promotion of, and reference to, sparkling wines.” Which essentially means that the CIVC will be awarded some sort of damages and that Champagne Jayne will have to be a little tighter with her words on social media.

Real Cars Paid for by Fake Wine Hit Auction Block

Want to buy a black Lamborghini Murcielago roadster, vintage 2008, previously owned by one of the world's most infamous wine criminals? Then today, Oct. 29, is the day to head for Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., where that 640-horsepower eye-grabber, driven just 938 miles, as well as a 2011 Mercedes Benz G-Class SUV (866 miles) and a 2008 Range Rover (36,739 miles), are to be put on the block by Apple Auctioneering. All three vehicles were forfeited to the U.S. Marshals Service by convicted wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan, currently serving a 10-year prison term.

Net proceeds from the sales will be made available to the court to pay a relative pittance in restitution to Kurniawan's victims, who paid more than $20 million for fake wines. Test driving is not allowed, but, auction director Joshua Scully told Unfiltered, "We'll hand you the keys and you can check the fluids and kick the tires." All vehicles to be sold carry a secret reserve price which, if not met, is disclosed to the attendees, who will have a chance to meet it or beat it. The Lamborghini Murcielo, which appears to be in perfect condition, has a market value in the range of $220,000, according to Scott Whitworth of Dallas Lamborghini. Will that price scare away potential bidders? "Are you kidding?" says Scully. "When we get a cherry like this, my phone blows up."

Detroit Charity Wine Auction Raises $1.3 Million

The Detroit International Wine Auction raised $1,310,200 to this month to support the city’s College for Creative Studies and Community Arts Partnership, local initiatives that fund undergraduate student scholarships and free art programs to over 4,000 youths each year. At $200,000, the top live auction lot with a wine component offered an evening with General Motors president Daniel Ammann and his wife, Pernilla, at the Fischer Mansion, where the top bidder and nine friends will each receive a bottle of Möet & Chandon Dom Pérignon Champagne 1996 as a parting gift. Other top lots included a C06 Corvette for $500,000 (it’s called Motor City for a reason) and a $150,000 lunch starring Numanthia-Termes Numanthia 2008.

The Motor City may seem like an unlikely place for a growing wine revival, but “Detroit is enjoying a surge of new restaurants by young, imaginative chefs and entrepreneurs,” College for Creative Studies president Richard Rogers told Unfiltered, “and the wine directors at these restaurants match a deep knowledge of wine with an adventurous spirit.”

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