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Adorable Booze-Loving Koala Thinks It's (Australian) People

We got the story behind the video of "Drinky Bill," breakout marsupial Chardonnay critic. Plus, an NPR wine club for listeners who could use a drink, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James toast to wine and gold, and cork artist Edgar Degas
Photo by: The Lane Vineyard
"You're seriously not getting the notes of eucalyptus? This thing is a eucalyptus bomb!"

Posted: October 5, 2017

Down Under, mates swirl their wine counterclockwise, drinkers pronounce the silent Z in "Syrah," and instead of finding TCA and brett lurking about the cellars, one winemaker has been dealing with an invasion of … an adorable koala. Nick Dugmore discovered a surprise visitor from the bush lounging around the winery one morning last week. So he and his team at the Lane Vineyard in Adelaide Hills did as anyone would for a prospective new wine club member: Offer his marsupial guest a sample.

Dugmore recounted his encounter with the koala, dubbed "Drinky Bill" in homage to Oz' beloved cartoon koala Blinky Bill. “I turned up to work and got a shock when I spotted Drinky just sitting peacefully on the railing. He was very relaxed and a bit dozy, typical of a koala. I thought it would be amusing to offer our new furry friend a smell of the wine,” Dugmore told Unfiltered via email. So he drew a barrel sample of Chardonnay. “It would be a very unique aroma for a koala, and he was suitably intrigued, seeming to double back for a second sniff. He was there for about six hours and then climbed down and stumbled away like he was leaving the local pub.”

The Lane Vineyard
"I'm a big proponent of this 'Slow Food' movement. I mean, not just because I'm a koala."

Unlike some Aussie wine folks who've been known to get huffy when their product is associated with oft-stereotyped characters like, say, a yellow-suited good-time bloke and his wine-swilling, record-scratching kangaroo sidekick, the Chardonnay specialists at the Lane would be happy to see their outback pal again. “We’ve put a case aside for Drinky to get his koalified opinion. We’re hoping he’ll be back to sign off on the Chardonnays before they go to bottle!”

NPR Debuts Wine Club for Its Listeners Who Might Need a Drink, Which Is All of Them

In a simpler time, constant threats from right-wing legislators to cut funding to the National Public Radio was as high as a top-10 thing to worry about for its left-leaning listeners. Still, NPR is exploring creative ways to keep the mics on, and maybe give fans a little liquid comfort along the way. This month, NPR launched a new wine club with partners Wines that Rock and Direct Wines, finally providing a bottled answer to its listeners' most urgent question: What can I tote in this bag?

"The news has been constant and grim," NPR director of consumer products and e-commerce Barbara Sopato told Unfiltered. "This year in particular I was looking for some fun things." So, she's been working with NPR's vinous partners to put together selections of "small-batch wines" for NPR's fan base. The introductory offer ($80) will include three bottles of NPR-branded wines inspired by some of the radio's most popular programming, plus 12 additional bottles.

Flagship program All Things Considered got its wine tribute in an "All Grapes Considered" bottling—though so far only one grape has actually been considered: Malbec, made by Zuccardi from Mendoza, Argentina. "Weekend Edition," a California Cab, celebrates its eponymous radio show. And "NPR Uncorked" is a Lodi Merlot.

The trio of blue-state/Latin American selections may soon be joined by a broader coalition of wines: Sopato shared some wine names that have been floated around for future NPR-branded bottles. Among them are Cask Me Another (for Ask Me Another … get it?), Invinobilia (for Invisibilia … eh? eh?) and Guy Shiraz (for host Guy Raz … because, well you get the idea). Unfiltered would humbly throw a few more suggestions into the mix: Fresh Airén, Don't Wait Don't Wait … Don't Cellar Me, Planet Monterey, It's Bin a Minute, Hidden Brett, Bar Talk and Viticulture Happy Hour.

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James Toast to Wine and Gold

Last week, three-time NBA Championship winner Dwyane Wade officially joined his BBFF (best basketball friend forever) and fellow enophile LeBron James as a player for the Cleveland Cavaliers, following a three-year stint as rivals. After donning the Cavs' signature wine-and-gold for their first practice of the season, the former Miami Heat teammates celebrated their reunion with a couple glasses of red over dinner—a far cry from their Champagne-soaked South Beach revelries during Miami's "Big Three" era.

While we can't tell whether King James and D-Wade were imbibing selections from the latter's own Wade Cellars, Unfiltered did find footage of some other Cavs players tasting their new teammate's wine. "It has wonderful notes of almonds," Channing Frye observed, while Richard Jefferson and Tristan Thompson were a little tougher on the 2014 red blend. Then, in a toast led by Kevin Love, the group saluted all their new teammates, with a special shout-out to Wade.

Meanwhile, Gabrielle Union, Wade's wife and the face of Chardonnay label Vanilla Puddin, is releasing her new book, We’re Going to Need More Wine, later this month. Though the book is about the Hollywood star's life in general, it seems "more wine" is a theme that appears pretty frequently in the Wade-Union union, given their vigorous recent involvement in wine projects.

Latest Obscure Artist Making Stuff Out of Corks: Some Edgar Degas Guy

First a retiree in Florida, then a dude making a portrait in Maryland, and now the latest to jump on the bandwagon of 2017's hottest artistic genre, corkwork, is this guy in France, Edgar Degas. Of course, you may know Degas from his impressionist oil pastels of ballerinas and life in 19th-century Paris, but the artist created small sculptures too, which he used as sketches he'd base his painted figures on. Since Degas did not intend the sculptures to be finished, standalone works, the artist cobbled them together from inexpensive, easy-to-find materials like clay, plaster and beeswax.

Now, as part of a centennial celebration of Degas’ death, scientists at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, U.K., took X-rays of a handful of the sculptures to see what junk he used to make the frames—and found the remains of wine corks underneath the beeswax exteriors, along with other rubbish Degas found lying around his studio. According to the BBC, this clever use of cork as a pliable padding for the figurines further demonstrates his unconventional approach to art (and sustainability!)—and perhaps his appreciation for the good things in life. A longtime patron of the raucous performance halls of Montmartre, Degas reportedly once said, “Muses work all day long and then at night get together and dance.” Perhaps we can surmise who brought the wine.

"Degas: A Passion for Perfection" is on display at the Fitzwilliam through Jan. 14, 2018.

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