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Unfiltered: Hello Kitty Invading a Cellar Near You

Plus, wine and politics don't "blend" in Europe, wine comes to Delaware grocery stores, and the premiere of a new food documentary

Posted: June 11, 2009

• The so-called "critter wines" phenomenon is officially pushing the envelope. Hello Kitty, the iconic little cutie heretofore confined to children's bedrooms and young women's coin purses and backpacks is now gracing four different Italian wine labels made by Tenimenti Castelrotto in the Lombardy region. The highlight of the lineup is a spumante rosé complete with Hello Kitty charm "bottle necklace" and a dangerously familiar pink shield label à la Dom Pérignon Brut Rosé. And of course, just to make sure Riedel couldn't beat them to the punch, Camomilla, the Milan-based luxury goods exporter partnering with Tenimenti Castelrotto and Sanrio, which has owned the Hello Kitty brand since its creation in 1974, have created a line of stemware designed specifically for enjoying these wines. (It wouldn't be right to drink Kitty Angel Pinot Nero out of anything other than a pink rhinestone-studded crystal goblet, right?) Surprisingly, the United States TTB has already approved the Hello Kitty wine labels for sale. Unfiltered can only assume they brought the guy who approved Joe Camel out of retirement for this one. Direct-shipping opponents are going to have a field day …

French winemakers took to the hilltops of Provence Tuesday, waving giant pink flags in celebration. Well, maybe not, but they were definitely celebrating. The European Commission announced it is dropping a proposal to allow blending red and white wine to make rosé. All European rosé, save some sparkling wines, will continue to be made by crushing red grapes, letting the juice soak with the skins for a limited period, and then draining the juice to a separate tank to ferment. The proposal to allow blended rosé was first introduced in 2007, part of a long list of winemaking regulation reforms the E.U.'s agriculture commission believed would help European winemakers compete with the New World. No one blinked at the rosé provision at the time. But when word got out before this summer's final approval, producers were outraged, worried that the reputations of their traditional rosés would be ruined by cheap blends. The French, Italian and Spanish governments heard them and lobbied the E.U. "It's important that we listen to our producers when they are concerned about changes to the regulations," said E.U. agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel in a statement. "It's become clear over recent weeks that a majority in our wine sector believe that [allowing] blending could undermine the image of traditional rosé." So say it loud, winemakers, you're pink, unblended and proud.

• Delaware grocery stores could soon be stocking wine. The state legislature is considering a bill to legalize wine sales in grocery stores, in return for a $100,000 initial fee and a $5,000 biannual renewal. Beer sales, previously prohibited in Delaware grocery stores, would also be legalized by the bill. New York Gov. David Paterson proposed a similar measure to help balance New York's budget, but it mysteriously disappeared during negotiations with State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Maybe Delaware's legislature will have an easier time. And in nearby New Jersey, the state's restaurant association and other lobbying groups are protesting Gov. Jon Corzine's budget-balancing proposal to increase taxes on wine there by 25 percent. Corzine has proposed a slew of budget cuts and tax increases to deal with the state's projected deficit, but the restaurant industry worries higher wine prices will hurt its already struggling members.

• Unfiltered attended an advance screening of Food Inc., a new documentary focusing on food and agriculture, at New York's Angelika Film Center this week. We spotted restaurateur Drew Nieporent, gossip columnist Cindy Adams and shock-jock sidekick Robin Quivers at the semi-celeb-studded premiere. The film, directed by Robert Kenner, deftly lays out the many ways industrial agriculture can be bad for us. Rather than the vaguely scolding tone of some food cops, this film tells a number of stories that illustrate just how far we are from our agrarian ideal. Greed and a mania for technology-as-progress are damaging our health and the environment, endangering workers in meat-packing plants, squeezing farmers into fealty to multinationals, and even allowing big business to end-run around the law on such questions as whether the USDA can force a processor to recall tainted meat. If it sounds unpleasant, well, some of it is. Food writers Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser (also a coproducer), get screen time, and help make this complex subject more approachable, as do the stories of everyday people affected by the subject. Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farms gets to tell his story too—his company was among the first large-scale organic food producers. At the other end of the spectrum is a traditional small farm run by Joel Salatin in Virginia. Running counter to the "faster-fatter-bigger-cheaper" ethic he sees in modern agriculture, he calls for nutritional food so that "people actually felt better and had more energy and weren't sick as much. Now see, that's a noble goal." Unfiltered couldn't agree more.

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