BY RICK RIOZZA
Crazy stuff or not—who can really keep up with all the news of the world this past year? We wine enthusiasts can barely sift through the specific info about our favorite beverage.
The California Beverage Retailers Association Beverage Bulletin has just been published, so I thought I’d summarize some of the vino highlights of the past year for you. So grab a nice glass of wine and take a bit of time for a casual update.
Wine Quote of the Year? It’s by a comic playwright, can you guess who? (Answer below)
This year’s Master Sommelier Exam has been rocked by scandal when it was revealed that one of the officials slipped the information on the tasting portion of the test to the student applicants. The tasting portion of the test involves identifying the variety, vintage, and origin of 6 wines in a 25 minute period. 23 students had passed and been given the right to put MS after their names. Now, all 23 have been stripped of the title.
So many of these wine professionals take months and months of prep and study. Nineteen of the test takers have written why should they be punished. The Court of Master Somms said they can take it next year.
Most Expensive Bottle of Wine: An auction at Sotheby’s, New York set a new record for the price of a single bottle of wine. The auction had featured the sale of part of the cellar of Robert Drouhin. Two bottles of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti 1945 were among the lots. The first sold for $496,000. The second set the record for a single bottle at $558,000.
World Championship Tip: The Boston Red Sox partied at the Nightingale in West Hollywood after beating the L.A. Dodgers and winning the World Series. It was a great party! The team drank the usual call drinks: Jack Daniel’s, Jameson, Belvedere, and Don Julio. Then they went to work and emptied the wine cellar of Champagne. The team downed 60 bottles of Moet, 48 bottles of Dom Perignon, 43 bottles of Ace of Spades, 5 bottles of Veuve Clicquot, 12 bottles of Perrier Jouet, and only 1 bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal. The bar tab came to $300,000. Then they tipped $195,000. A great party, but, not enough. The team repeated the feat at the Icon in Boston when they got home.
The Champagne Harvest of 2018 was the largest on record. Even with all those grapes, prices are expected to rise at least 5%. This is the 10th consecutive year of price increases in Champagne. This year’s harvest was one of the earliest on record due to global warming. The grapes achieved a ripeness that was difficult to approach only a few years ago. This year’s challenge was to have enough acidity for balance in the wines.
$280 Million of Champagne: When does Champagne get too expensive? Attorney, Brent Wisner, found out. He won a $289 million award against Monsanto and its parent company, Bayer, in August. He represented clients in a lawsuit over the cancerous side effects of using Roundup weed killer.
In his closing arguments Wisner had said “Monsanto executives were waiting for the phone to ring and behind them is a bunch of Champagne on ice. If the damages number isn’t significant enough, champagne corks will pop.” Monsanto’s lawyer, said the champagne remark “was thumbing his nose” and objected that it was not factual. “It is punishing Monsanto for having board members who may indeed love Champagne.” The judge tended to agree and may reduce the judgment to $9 million!
Royal Wedding Champagne: Pol Roger Brut Reserve NV was poured at the royal wedding of Princess Eugenie held at Windsor Castle. The wine was also poured for the weddings of Prince William and Kate Middleton and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Pol Roger is renowned as the favorite of Winston Churchill, who started each day with a bottle for breakfast.
New Global Warming Grapes: China and France are cooperating on a range of agricultural studies to adapt to global warming. One of the projects to develop new grape varieties for a future warmer planet. They are sharing their expertise to select vines that are resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses–mildew, phyloxera, drought, and extreme temperature. “It is about identifying the best parents, obtaining hybrids through crossing, and making seeds germinate.”
Vineyards Going North: VitiNord 2018 was held this year in Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmo, Sweden to celebrate winegrowing that global warming allows in northern countries. To date there are 5 wineries in Sweden and 3 in Denmark. Many more are on the way.
Stolen Wine Crop: Thieves in Deidesham in Germany’s Rheinfalz picked a vineyard clean during the night. The theft appeared to have been done by other winemakers because the grapes had been harvested with a picking machine. Only another vineyard would have such equipment. About 1 1/2 tons of grapes were stolen.
Disneyland will sell alcohol to the public for the first time since its opening in 1955. Olga’s Cantina will serve drinks to fans who want to join Han Solo in a few minutes of relaxation in a galaxy far, far, away. Patrons will be able to order drinks from a fixed menu set by Disney’s creative staff. Patrons will be limited to one drink to be finished inside the bar and then like other attractions, keep moving to the next ride.
Hello Kitty with be opening its first cat themed cafe and bar in Irvine, CA, where you can order some Hello Kitty Wines!
The Quote of the Year for 486 BC, “Bring me a beaker of wine so that I may say something clever.” was uttered by the Greek playwright, Aristophanes, known as the “Father of Comedy”.
Here’s to the past year—cheers!