One ex-Yellow Tail guy's next stop could be behind bars. No, not the Yellow Tail Guy. Marcello Casella, a former director of Australia's Casella Family Brands, has pleaded guilty to concealing nearly 3,000 marijuana plants as part of a major drug scheme.
Casella resigned from his position in the family biz—which is the parent company of famed critter wine Yellow Tail and Barossa Valley's Peter Lehmann—in 2014, when he was arrested after police uncovered millions of dollars' worth of cannabis on a farm in New South Wales.
According to local newspaper Brisbane Times, Casella allegedly provided financial backing for the project, which was reportedly headed up by his longtime friend and "entrepreneur" Luigi Fato. At the start of the trial in May, Casella pleaded not guilty to concealing his knowledge of the illicit enterprise, but changed his plea to guilty last week. He faces up to two years in jail.
This is just the latest chapter in Yellow Tail's tale of winecrime woe. Rumors of marijuana plantations have long plagued the Casella family, and managing director John Casella admitted to paying more than $500,000 to a blackmailer before eventually going public with the extortion attempts in 2009.
Former professional French footballer Christophe Robert was sentenced to a year in prison and a fine of 50,000 euros last week for selling fake wines. According to French newspaper Sud Ouest, Robert's trading company allegedly sold 598 bottles of counterfeit Bordeaux classified growths, including Châteaus Gruaud-Larose, Pichon Longueville Lalande and Beychevelle from June 2017 to March 2018. Robert allegedly purchased the fakes, then resold them to traders; some of the wines are believed to have made their way as far as the United States. Robert admitted that he had doubts about the authenticity of the wines, but ultimately cited his inexperience in the wine world for going through with the illegal deals.
Robert is no stranger to scandal. In 1993, he was one of the Valenciennes Football Club players who accepted bribes to fix a match against Olympique de Marseille. He was busted for that crime too.
Wine tech is back in the Unfiltered spotlight, this time not with bottle-popping robots, but with something that sounds ready-made for Space Force: a fleet of drones equipped with thermal-imaging technology built to thwart the spread of Pierce’s disease, a fatal vine infection that restricts the movement of water through the plants.
A recent study published in the journal Nature Plants reports that Xylella fastidiosa, the bacteria that causes Pierce’s disease, can be detected using spectroscopy and thermography.
With Italian olive orchards as their test subjects, researchers examined trees using high-tech drone-mounted cameras. Comparing each tree’s thermal and reflected radiation patterns, they were able to distinguish between healthy and infected trees, even before the trees showed any visible symptoms of infection. “The work we carried out is applicable under natural conditions, in particular in precision agriculture and precision viticulture,” Dr. Pablo Zarco-Tejada of the European Commission Joint Research Centre told Unfiltered via email.
Previously, infected vines couldn't be identified until physical symptoms like leaf scorch appeared. By the time an infected vine was identified, vineyard pests like glassy-winged sharpshooters may have already spread the bacteria. This new advancement may allow vintners to scan a vineyard in a matter of hours and remove infected plants before the entire vineyard is lost.
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