Yellow Tail founder faces charges in drug ring


One of the founders of Yellow Tail wine has been charged with involvement in a drug ring. For the details, we cut to this from the crime editor of the Sydney Morning Herald:

Marcello Casella, the youngest brother in Australia’s largest family-owned winery, Casella Wines, is alleged to be part of the criminal syndicate that produced, distributed and sold commercial quantities of cannabis and methylamphetamine throughout southern NSW…

Police first raided a property linked to Mr Casella just outside Griffith, a town long synonymous with marijuana cultivation, in February. He was charged with offences relating to the improper storage of two pallets filled with shotgun cartridges and 60kg of gunpowder on the Yenda property.

The piece details that Marcello Casella, 54, also owns one of Australia’s two ammunition factories. He distanced himself from Yellow Tail after the charges and next goes before a judge in January.

Yellow Tail rode the American market to rapid commercial success, eclipsing the 10 million-case mark.

What a twist in the story. I’m sure Hollywood is assigning writers to fictionalize this right now.

Hat tip

RT this: Winery tweet jeopardizes license


Here’s today’s bit of wine law crazee: back in June, the Sacramento Visitor and Convention Center tweeted a link to a local supermarket’s annual consumer tasting, which has over 300 local wineries (and many breweries) pouring their wares. One participating winery’s account on Twitter retweeted that tweet. And now, they are getting rapped on the knuckles by the Cal ABC, the state’s liquor regulatory authority.

A chill has since frozen the fingers tapping out winery tweets across the Golden State. If a winery’s license could be jeopardized by a generic retweet to a huge tasting, wineries may fear what right to freedom of speech they have. Read more…

Barolo in the spotlight: Barolo Boys and Barolo & Barbaresco

Some of the protagonists of “Barolo Boys” (L to R): Elio Altare, Domenico Clerico, Chiara Boschis, Marco de Grazia.

In 1983, a chainsaw echoed across the hills of the Barolo region. No humans were harmed in this Barolo massacre: Elio Altare took a chainsaw into the cellar of his family’s winery and cut up the large botti, or large wooden casks, often leaky and fetid, that his father used. He brought in barriques, the small wooden barrels more frequently seen at that time in Burgundy or Bordeaux. His father subsequently disinherited him.

This dramatic rupture with the past is captured in the pages of Barolo and Barbaresco, the essential and timely new book by Kerin O’Keefe. The chainsaw-wielding is also depicted on-screen in the new Italian documentary about the region, Barolo Boys.

The movie, screened for the first time in New York City on Monday, portrays the events of Altare and others as they ushered in a “revolution” to Barolo’s winemaking. A “war” broke out between the “modernists” and the “traditionalists.” This young Turks threw out the old casks, brought in barriques, but also started green harvesting in the vineyard, the process of dropping bunches of grapes to concentrate flavor in the remaining ones. The resulting wines were darker and denser but also flashier, fruitier with more obvious polish and immediate appeal than pure charm of nebbiolo, which is notorious for needing decades in the cellar to coax out.

If wanting to make wines more hygienically was a big push–Altare’s daughter talks in the film about how farm animals and a leaky oil-furnace shared the cellars with the wines–these wines also needed the pull of a commercial outlet. And the film makes clear this was the United States, where critics and consumers lavished praise on the new style and opened their pocketbooks for the wines imported by Marco de Grazia, among others.

While the stylistic clash was heated for a while, it has largely been relegated to the compost pile of history: many of the “modernists” now use larger formats than just barriques, incorporating both new and used barrels, while some of the “traditionalists” do things such as green harvesting, even if they remain steadfast in their use of botti or other larger format vessels for aging. In a discussion after the screening, the protagonists present agreed that the conflict was good for getting increasing interest in the area’s wines.

Elio Altare cast the rift in a different way in comments after the screening, “There are two types of wine: good and bad.” There was an outburst of applause in the room. He continued, “It’s personal taste. I must find the people in the world who drink wine with my taste. I don’t make wine for everybody: I make wine for my taste!” This slightly defiant tone paled in comparison to Joe Bastianich, the film’s narrator, whose last words are “the fight goes on.” The director said he took some liberties with that line and was intended to reprise the “journey” that he invited viewers on in the film’s opening segment.

barolo_barbarescoKerin O’Keefe provides much more texture in Barolo and Barbaresco. She provides more history, pointing to Angelo Gaja’s pioneering use of barrels in the Barbaresco region, adjacent to Barolo. She offers a more nuanced discussion of the contentious debates between modernists (now, a “ridiculously outdated” term she argues) and traditionalists that incorporates more points of view and more characters than the film. She also notes that not only did media outlets such as Wine Spectator praise the modern style, but they laid waste to some traditionalists, including giving the 1989 Barolo from Bartolo Mascarello a “lowly and insulting 76 points” and the 1989 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Collina Rionda “a miserly and misplaced 78 points.” She also brings up the “taboo” subject of whether, for a time, the modernist wines achieved their dark color through illicit blending of cabernet though her discussion provides no conclusive evidence.

After the opening discussion in the book, O’Keefe provides detailed producer profiles, which are extremely useful not only for the discussion of the house styles and personalities involved, some tasting notes, maps, and also the contact information of the producers. In a trip to Barolo earlier this year, I had an almost impossible time finding some addresses (hint: try searching let alone email addresses so this will be particularly useful to travelers.

Barolo has gotten a lot more popular in recent years. And, with rising prices in many other fine wine regions, consumers and collectors around the world may increasingly develop a love affair with nebbiolo. So use these tools to get a lay of the land and the debates. See the movie. Read the book. Pull some corks. And start plotting an itinerary for a visit to the region.

Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine, by Kerin O’Keefe

The Barolo Boys site

Stream it for $7.99

There will also be a free public screening at NYU on Thursday at 6PM. Discussion with Elio Altare and others to follow.

The box wine Mark Cuban spent $1 million on

box_wine_mark_cubanBox wine made an appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank last Friday. And like blood in the water, this startup had the sharks in a feeding frenzy with all five sharks bidding (or trying to bid).

Before wine enthusiasts get too excited, it’s worth noting that the beverage is more wine-arita than winery. Let’s break it down. Called Beatbox wines, it comes in a box styled as a beatbox. Nice! Two 5-liter boxes sell on their site for $64.99, which comes out to the equivalent of about $5 a bottle. So they’ve got the value pricing covered. And now, the content: this “wine-based” beverage with 11.1% alcohol comes in several flavors including Blue Razzberry Lemonade and Cranberry Limeade. Oh, and these serving instrux: “Try BeatBox on its own, with a mixer, in a cocktail, or as frozen BeatBoxicles!”

Billionaire Mark Cuban put it best on the show: “You’re not selling wine. You’re selling fun.”

Kevin O’Leary tasted it and proclaimed, “This tastes like S**t!” And then he bid on a slice of the company.

But it was Cuban who came out ahead, giving the Austin-based entrepreneurs five times the amount of money they were seeking for a third of the company’s equity–at a 50% higher valuation than they were seeking.

Given the myriad laws governing wine retail and distributing, here’s hoping that BeatBox doesn’t give Mark Cuban a $1 million hangover.

See the whole episode on Hulu Plus or read a blow-by-blow over on BI.

Stoudemire dunks himself in a red wine bath

amare_wine_bathAmar’e Stoudemire, the Knicks’ oft-injured forward who makes $18 million this season, is into wine. Like really INTO wine: he posted a picture of himself on Instagram taking a red wine bath as part of his recovery.

The 31-year-old says he has been doing the “mostly wine” baths for about six months. He extolled the virtues of them to ESPN.

“The red wine bath is very important to me because it allows me to create more circulation in my red blood cells. Plus, it’s very hot, so it’s like a hot tub. But it’s also the red wine … just kind of soothes the body.”

He played in three games for the Knicks over a four-day period, followed by a three-hour practice with the team. Then he dunked–in the red wine bath. “After doing that recovery day, my legs felt rejuvenated. I felt great, so I’m going to continue to do that for sure.”

Will this be the next red wine trend? (Can’t wait for the first celebrity wine “so good you can bathe in it!”) While many of the red wine & health crowd have focused on actually consuming the natural resveratrol, apparently, this wine is for the outside only: when ESPN asked him if the wine was any good, he replied “I hope so. I don’t know. I haven’t tasted it.”

Reader mail: what are half bottles good for?

half_bottle_wineQuestion: What are half bottles good for?

Answer: In the south of France, half bottles are called “bed-wetter bottles” and are frequently chosen by people who don’t want to get up too many times at night. People who choose half bottles also must sit at the kiddie table if there is one.

Okay, I made that up. But you don’t have to just be an optimist thinking that a half a bottle is better than none. Here are five reasons you shouldn’t ignore half bottles:

1. They age faster than big bottles. Normally, this is bad. But if you want to “check in” on how a wine is evolving, pulling a 375ml from your cache is one way to do it.

2. They help people who like different wines but are dining together. She wants red and he wants white? Pop two half bottles at dinner are you are all set.

3. Great “weeknight” size. Sometimes 375ml is all you need for two people anyway.

4. They offer a lower-priced way to access more expensive wines. Don’t get me wrong: they’re not less expensive per ounce. But if you were thinking about getting a $100 bottle and found a 375ml for $60, it’s still less money to try the same juice.

5. You can save them. The empty 375s are great vessels for storing…wait for it… a half a regular bottle. By reducing the amount of oxygen in the bottle, the wine stays fresher longer. Just be sure to pour the reminder of the regular bottle into the half bottle over a sink in case there’s any spillage. And leave enough room for a cork to go back in. NOTE: still wines only!

What’s your take on half bottles–useful or useless?

Pappy, yeasts, aromas, castles – sipped and spit

How Pappy Van Winkle Became King of the Whiskeys – [Grubstreet]

“…odor receptors are not solely confined to the nose, but found throughout body.” Wine by immersion? [nytimes]

Brewers discover yeasts that augment that fruity aromas. []

Conclusion: castles are cheap 😉 “Six castles that cost less than NYC apartments” [architectboy]

Wine shops as jewelry stores?

The good folks over at NPR’s Planet Money had a short piece on pricing at jewelry stores recently (Episode 572, mysteriously not on their website). Frustrated with why jewelry stores hide the price tags of items in the case, the reporter wondered whey they would do that. It turns out that then shop owners can pull out a piece that a consumer expresses interest in and then tell the backstory.

So it made my wine mind wonder…why don’t boutique wine shops do that? Read more…


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