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$300 Million Warship Christened with $8 Wine

Advanced military R&D has discovered a surprising top wine for smashing on a ship's hull. Also in Unfiltered, Mariah Carey visits a Grand Award–winning wine cellar
They might have given the U.S.S. Billings a little too much wine.
Photo by: Lockheed Martin Photo
They might have given the U.S.S. Billings a little too much wine.

Posted: July 6, 2017

Is there a more American wine tradition than smashing a bottle of bubbly, preferably across the bow of a 3,900-ton, 389-foot-long floating hulk of steel and ammo that will strike fear in the hearts of all enemies of freedom? On July 1, the United States Navy welcomed its newest combat ship to American waters at a shipyard in Wisconsin. In keeping with centuries of tradition, the ship was christened with a bottle of wine. But as befits a vessel of the newest and arguably hippest class of ship in the Navy, the U.S.S. Billings was served not with fusty old Cali Cab, but a much more #grammable pop.

“For the United States of America, I christen thee 'Billings.' May God bless this ship, and all who sail in her,” intoned Sharla Tester, the ship's sponsor and wife of Montana Sen. Jon Tester. And with that, Tester welcomed the Billings to the fleet with a thwack across the hull—from a bottle of Barefoot Bubbly Moscato. Off the docks into the water the boat slid, with a colossal splash and a military band striking up the rousing chords of Moscato aficionado Drake's "Hotline Bling" "Anchors Aweigh."

Lockheed Martin Photo
Is christening the new sabering?

Because it’s considered bad luck to require multiple attempts before shatter is achieved, Tester actually practiced her swing, both against her tractor and with a wooden replica bottle. And John Torrisi of Lockheed Martin Corporation, the company that built the ship, told Unfiltered via email that Barefoot was hardly a last-minute supermarket pick-up. "We settled on using the Barefoot sparkling wine after doing a study using various Champagne brands and bottle types. In the end, we chose the one that broke most consistently when scored. For whatever reason, the Barefoot bottle breaks in all climates from 10° below to 100° F and always produces a consistent splash for photography/videography."

As it turns out, bottles for christening have always been on-trend: The Navy typically uses wine, but Madeira, brandy and whiskey have all been smashed, plus grape juice and even plain old water during Prohibition ("Great, more water"—a boat). Unfiltered expects to see the near-future U.S.S. Lower East Side get its patriotic launch with a 40-ounce bottle of frosé.

Grammy Award Singer Found in Grand Award Cellar

Singer-songwriter Mariah Carey and beau/backup dancer Bryan Tanaka were clearly excited to celebrate the reveal of Wine Spectator's 2017 Restaurant Award winners this week! OK, maybe it's coincidence, but after a day spent swimming with sharks (and … pigs) in the Bahamas, the pair decided to take a cellar dive. Where better for a date-night wine-crawl than the 225,000-bottle labyrinth—and former pirate dungeon—under Graycliff, a Grand Award winner since 1988? The French/Bahamian restaurant boasts an A-list ensemble cast of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Italy, California, Port, Spain, the Rhône and more. That’s a lot of star power in one room: 30 Grand Award years (Graycliff), 18 Billboard No. 1 singles (Carey) and 11 retweets of a post about hanging out with Mariah Carey in the Graycliff cellar (Tanaka).

Large-Living Liquor Baron Lies Low After Fraud Charges

Living at large in London may no longer be an option for the on-the-lam liquor billionaire Vijay Mallya, former chairman of United Spirits Ltd., the largest spirits company in India and a subsidiary of Diageo. Mallya, whose UB Group owns Kingfisher beer and most of California's Mendocino Brewing Company, along with Formula One and soccer teams, left India last March for Britain in "forced exile," as he called it. According to the Financial Times, Indian officials have charged Mallya with fraud, money laundering and illegal fund diversion, for misusing a state-funded loan, intended for his defunct luxury carrier Kingfisher Airlines, on personal expenditures. He's also on the hook for about $1.3 billion in debt and accumulated interest owed to the Indian government and a group of banks. India has now twice requested Mallya be extradited to face charges, and he was arrested by Scotland Yard in April, but released on bail.

Despite his previous reputation for big spending, Mallya recently told the FT he now lives a quiet, simple life (made all the easier by the confiscation of his passport!), drinking French wine with friends and even humble California Merlot when he's home alone. On July 6, a London magistrate set Mallya's extradition hearing for December.

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