Rudy, the documentary

I love a good documentary. I just saw “Blackfish,” about the treatment of killer whales at Sea World and thought it was effective in taking an issue that I hadn’t really thought about, making me interested in it, and giving me some basis for forming an opinion about the issue (free the whales!). “The Cove” was similar in presenting the capture and brutal killing of dolphins in Japan; that documentary was gorgeously shot had a dramatic tension as the camera crew inserted themselves into the narrative. In that vein, Morgan Spurlock’s stunt of eating McDonald’s for 30 days in “Super Size Me” was a good way of getting at the broader issue of the health and fast food. More recently, my kids and I enjoyed the “The Short Game,” a Netflix original about competitive golfing among seven and eight year olds. Again, we don’t even golf but it had good arc and did raise the issue of how much is too much competition for such young kids as well as what it takes to succeed at an early age.

catch me if you can This is all a long-winded background to the fact that Decanter reports that a documentary entitled “Sour Grapes” is in the works about the Rudy Kurniawan wine counterfeiting story. They say that the film is being made by a British team with the full cooperation of Laurent Ponsot and will be completed by the end of this year.

While I look forward to seeing the documentary, I’m not sure a documentary is the best treatment for the material. The Rudy saga is terrific and it definitely has the ability to draw the interest of the casual viewer not really into wine. But to me it is a character-driven story that speaks to the larger themes of hubris, duplicity, gullibility and more. In other words, the stuff of Shakespeare more than policy issues, such as dolphin hunting, orca abuse, or nutrition gone off the rails. So I hope that this documentary treatment doesn’t crowd out what I see as the huge possibility of a fictionalized movie version, in the vein of “Catch Me If You Can,” which was based on a true story of check forgery and grossed almost $200 million. However, I’m not exactly sure who is working on such a treatment of the story so I guess we as wine enthusiasts will take what we can get in terms of further exposure to the story and the wine world.

Because having a blockbuster movie about wine might just be the best way for the Rudy saga to end, assuming it gets more people into wine generally and not just into ’45 DRC RC. Look where that got some people!

Next wine class at NYU

nyu class We’re closing in on the start of my next wine class at NYU! Now in its eighth year. It’s open to all adult learners and, don’t worry, there aren’t any grades and the only homework is tasting wine.

In classes running for six consecutive Wednesdays, we explore the fundamentals of tasting, lap up history and geography, and delve into hot-button issues of the day. Join us–it will be fun! Starts next week.

Register now

GoVino, opprobrium, Cambridge, Yale – sipped & spit

govino1 Going, going, gone: GoVino, the “#1 best seller” in wine glasses on Amazon, has been sold. Pat Stotesbery, owner of Ladera Vineyards in Napa, has bought the developer and designer of polymer (aka “plastic”) extremely practical glasses for an undisclosed sum. He told North Bay Business Journal that the possibilities for the glasses are “endless” and he will take them to the “next level.”

SPIT: bile. Robert Parker’s most recent comments get a public airing. Drink every time you hear “extremists” or “elitists”!

SIPPING UNABATED: John Boehner says he wouldn’t give up wine (and smokes) in order to become presidents. The wine color? Red, natch.

SIPPED, not chugged. Cambridge spends $5 million a year on wine. Should we infer that they do barrel stands there instead of the more plebeian keg stands? [Telegraph]

CROWNED: NYU Stern and Yale Law will represent the US at the Bordeaux Cup in June. [winespectator]

Dr. Vino’s verdict: one glass to rule them all

zalto universal I think I mentioned previously my regular space over at foodandwine.com called “Dr. Vino’s Verdict.” In the series of short posts, I render judgement on pressing issues of the wine world. I can’t promise the wisdom of Solomon with my verdicts, but I do aim for more than Judge Judy.

Anyhoo, in my post over there this week, I strongly urge you to cut through the marketing clutter that suggests a different glass for each grape variety. Instead, reach for one glass–the Zalto Universal–to elevate your wine drinking experience.

Don’t you think varietal stemware is just a tad overkill?

In related news, not from The Onion, Riedel announced a $20 glass for Coca-Cola this week. But will it work for Diet Coke?

Related: “The urge to splurge
Durability test – youtube

Drone delivers champagne to thirsty apres-skiers

Sorry to drone on about this…but in this video some dehydrated people performing rigorous après ski in the Alps were rescued–by a drone carrying a Champagne bottle.

Without the drone, it’s hard to know where they could have ever gotten a bottle of champagne to slake their thirst. What’s that Jimmy? They’re at a bar/ski lodge not in a snow drift? Well, I guess this is is FYOB — fly your own bottle.

Drones over the vineyards

drone vineyard

Bernard Magrez, owner of 40 chateaus/wineries around the world, has floated a first for Bordeaux: unmanned drone surveillance.

Vitisphere reports that he has purchased a €50,000 octocopter with a camera to surveil his own vines at the rate of 25 acres an hour. That compares with a rate of about ten for a team of eight humans. Maybe the drone will spy on workers to see if zey are ze nap in ze vineyards??

The drone has a range of eight miles and can go 8,000 feet high. No word if it can also deliver Amazon orders. But it will probably contribute to promotional videos for the estates.

The top wine at Sotheby’s in 2013

lafite vertical Domaine de la Romanée Conti topped the charts at Sotheby’s last year. The auction house (and wine retailer) sold $57.9 million of wine in 2013 and DRC accounted for $7.2 million of that. Almost three quarters of the DRC was sold in Hong Kong. Lafite was second at $5.2 million and Pétrus and Haut Brion tied for third with $4.6 million of each falling under the hammer.

Asked at a press conference at Sotheby’s in New York City yesterday if DRC would continue as the top wine for 2014, Jamie Ritchie pointed to the tiny production of the wine, lots of demand and the that fact that people do actually drink it, uncorking it everyday somewhere (I want to meet these people). Ritchie is the President and CEO of Sotheby’s Wine Americas and Asia.

The house doubled sales between 2009 and 2010 as sales jumped from $41.8 million to $88 million. They have declined since that high-water mark as mainland China’s thirst for wine has slowed. Even with that slowdown, several observers at the event concurred that when traveling in China’s wine circles today, there are opportunities to drink abundant amounts of fine wine every evening. Asian buyers purchased 62% of wine at their auctions around the globe.

Even if the data are, in part, driven by what they procured (e.g. their large Opus One sale), it’s good to see Sotheby’s opening up their sales data. I wish other auction houses would do the same. Charts and other stats follow after the jump. Read more…

No, NYC doesn’t have too many wine shops

nyc wine store

Crain’s New York ran a piece over the weekend pointing to a 14% rise in wine shops in NYC since 2010. Will the proliferation of shops “bottle up profit” they wondered?

The short answer is: no.

There’s a huge thirst for wine in America right now and especially in New York City. The city has some terrific shops and, throwing in the knowledge and offerings at the city’s restaurants and wine bars, it is today the best wine destination on the planet (here’s looking at you, Paris). Sure, the existing 1,368 wine shops can serve the city’s residents and tourists. But a growing market that’s relatively protected (grocery stores can’t sell wine) will probably mean more stores in the coming years.

Today, there are discounters and full-service shops. There are ones focusing in small estate wines and others with lots of well-known brands. There are shops with particular slants such as selling wines made by women, wines from California or Chile, wines from a single importer, shops that sell wine by occasion or food pairing rather than region, or shops that have tastings every day of the week.

Not all of them will succeed. But the more the merrier. While some of the unsuccessful approaches may be reoriented in another four years, I’d venture to say that, barring economic collapse or a shift to allow chains or wine in grocery stores, the number of wine shops will be higher still, by a similar measure as over the last four years.

One thing that could improve the finances of these small shops (chains are not allowed in NY), is if they could also sell craft beer. That happens in Connecticut and levels of social unrest are not higher as a result. In places like Illinois or New Jersey, wine shops can even sell gourmet comestibles, such as cheese. Imagine!

Map of my favorite NYC wine shops


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