20100227

With DeNiro, is the medium the message?







Was Robert DeNiro sending a message, albeit a mixed one, in “Everybody’s Fine”?

The film — the story of a man trying to build connections to his grown children whose only connection with him had been through his late wife — includes a scene (shown above) in which DeNiro’s character is shopping at a local supermarket for wine.

The problem with that? His character lives in Elmira, NY, where, as we all know, it would not be legal to sell wine in markets because the state currently prohibits it.

Perhaps the actor, who also has/had interests in several New York City restaurants (Nobu, Tribeca Grille, Locanda Verdi), was making a point about what he thought the availability of wine should be.

Then again, when he asks a supermarket employee if he was knowledgeable about wine, the actor E.J. Carroll replies, "I stock the shelves." He goes on to explain "We have English wine from France ... and Italian wines from all over Europe."

That could be read as a message about the lack of knowledge we might have to confront if wine sales were expanded beyond their current venues -- wine and spirits shops only.

Was art imitating life, or what the moviemakers think life should be?

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20100226

French wine producers guilty of mislabeling

• From the Reuters news service:

CARCASSONNE, FRANCE -- A dozen wine producers and traders were found guilty of having supplied an American trader with mislabeled "Pinot Noir" wines, and six were handed a suspended prison sentence.

In a rare case pitting local producers from the southwest of France against the big U.S. trader E&J Gallo, the president of the criminal court ... said ... "there has been fraud."

In 2008, French customs found that during three years some 13.5 million liters, or about 3.6 million gallons, of mislabeled wine had been sold to Gallo. The producers and traders were accused of deliberately mislabeling the wine with a more expensive variety of grape.

[Go here for the full story.]

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20100221

More Illinois wineries, less Illinois wine

Go figure. The number of wineries in Illinois has risen to 91 from 68 in 2005, but overall production is down.

According to the Illinois Grape Growers & Vintners Association, annual production fell from 500,000 gallons to 367,000 in the same period, according to the latest statistics available.

"Initially, there was a lot of overproduction, so there was kind of a correction to meet the demand,” said Megan Presnall, association marketing director.

The study also noted a lower-yield crop in 2007 contributing to the decline.

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20100219

Subway plans beer and wine in Colorado airport

GRAND JUNCTION, CO -- Burger King, which recently opened in Miami the chain's first burger-and-beer bar, has nothing on Subway.

The sandwich shop chain will be offering both beer and wine at a new Subway sandwich shop under construction at the Grand Junction Regional Airport.

The Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority this week approved the franchise store's plans to serve alcohol when it opens on the airport terminal's second floor in May or April.

Kevin Kane, spokesman for Subway in its Milford, CT, headquarters, said alcohol is not served at stores that have street access, but there are exceptions when it's part of the lease agreement with the landlord. The airport will hold the liquor license.

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French wine and spirits exports dip

• From the Associated Press

PARIS -- French exports of Champagne and Cognac suffered a record drop last year as people drank less and switched to cheaper brands in the United States and Britain, its biggest foreign markets.

Exports of wine and spirits fell 17% to $10.5 billion last year, according to figures released Thursday by the Federation of French Wine and Spirits Exporters.

It marked the largest ever one-year drop and first annual decline since 2004, said Renaud Gaillard, a spokesman for the industry group. France is the world's biggest wine and spirits exporter.

[Go here for the full story.]
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20100216

Wine/beer-in-markets: OK in WA, No in OK

While politicians and market forces are slugging out the matter of selling wine in New York supermarkets, a measure that would have allowed grocery stores in Oklahoma to sell wine and high-alcohol beer has failed.

The Senate Business and Labor Committee killed Senate Joint Resolution 62a measure on Monday. If it had passed, it would have gone to a public vote.

Meanwhile, in Washington state the House passed a measure Saturday night, 72-22, to allow grocery stores to offer wine- and beer-tasting events. The bill now goes to the Senate, which passed a similar measure earlier in the day. A pilot project for such tastings expired last September.

The bill passed Saturday allows grocery stores to continue to offer the tastings. Under the measure, wineries and breweries can conduct pouring, bottle signing, and other similar activities in conjunction with a tasting.

In Oklahoma, the measure was introduced by Sen. Andrew Rice of Oklahoma City, the Senate Democratic minority leader-designate. He cited the potential for economic development.

He said Oklahoma's liquor laws are antiquated and predicted his bill would have been passed in a public vote. Because the measure was killed in committee, it cannot be inserted into another measure.

Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa, said the measure had a number of problems, among them a potential increase in young people's access to alcohol. Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, said the measure was discriminatory because it was limited to Oklahoma and Tulsa counties. But, he said, he would have voted against it even if that had beem remedied.

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Israelis find Byzantine-era wine press

• From The Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Israeli archaeologists said Monday they've discovered an unusually shaped 1,400-year-old wine press that was exceptionally large and advanced for its time.

The octagonal press measures 21 feet by 54 feet and was discovered in southern Israel, about 25 miles south of both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

"What we have here seems to be an industrial and crafts area of a settlement from the 6th to 7th Century, which was situated in the middle of an agricultural region," said excavation director Uzi Ad of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

[Go here for the full story and photos.]

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20100208

Long Island joins global declaration

It has been nearly five years since the first regions signed "The Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin," described as a set of principles aimed at educating consumers about the importance of location to winemaking. The number has now jumped to 15 with the addition of Long Island and Rioja, Spain.

The declaration was first signed in Napa Valley, CA, on July 26, 2005, by representatives to the wine regions of Napa, Walla Walla, Washington State and Oregon along with Champagne, Porto and Jerez.

On March 21, 2007, six more renowned wine regions joined in the global effort. The new signatory regions included Sonoma County and Paso Robles in California as well as Western Australia and Victoria from Australia, and the European regions of Tokaj and Chianti Classico.

The specific text of the declaration reads as follows:

JOINT DECLARATION TO PROTECT WINE PLACE & ORIGIN

Whereas, it is generally acknowledged that there are a handful of truly extraordinary places on earth from which great wine is consistently produced.

Whereas, the names of these places are printed on labels side-by-side with the names of the producers to identify the origin of the wine.

Whereas, wine, more than any other beverage, is valued based on its association to its place of origin – and with good reason.

Whereas, even before modern technology allowed us to tie specific definitions to the soils, terrain, and climates of noted wine regions, winemakers were drawn to these special places.

Whereas, the names of these places are familiar, and synonymous with quality.

Whereas, we respectfully submit that the place where wine is grown plays a very important role in a consumer’s selection process.

Whereas, we are furthermore united in our belief that the geographic place names of wine regions are the sole birthright of the grapes that are grown there, and when these names appear on wines that do not contain fruit from that region, they lose their integrity and their relevance, becoming merely words.

Therefore, be it resolved that we, as some of the world’s leading wine regions, join together in supporting efforts to maintain and protect the integrity of these place names, which are fundamental tools for consumer identification of great winegrowing regions and the wines they produce.


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20100206

Schumer push gets Obama admin to back down

The New York State wine industry, and perhaps the wine industry in general, no doubt will be sending a collective thank-you note to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (right), D-NY, and a few other members of the state's congressional delegation that backed him.

The Obama administration will be withdrawing a proposal that would have increased costs for New York and other U.S. firms that export and import wine, according to Western New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport.

The proposal would have limited the ability of firms to use their exports of U.S. wines as an offset to import duties they are charged for foreign wine, a practice known as substitution drawback and in force for literally several centuries.

Schumer (above right) has led a persistent campaign to get the proposal rescinded to allow business to continute as usual.

While the practice helps small wineries grow their businesses, it is particularly helpful to large, multi-label winermakers and distributors.

For example, Constellation Brands of Victor, NY, the world's largest wine distributor, uses the substitution drawback to export its New York-produced Arbor Mist wine to Canada and its California labels of Mondavi, Ravenswood and Clos du Bois to Canada, Australia and New Zealand, according to spokesman Eric Thomas.

Go here for an earlier, detailed story on the topic.

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20100203

Natural wine conference set for NYC

The 6th annual Natural Wine Event is set for Saturday, March 6, at the Astor Center in New York City.

In addition to tastings of more than 20 such wines, a series of short seminars will be held throughout the afternoon.

The scheduled speakers are natural winemakers Tony Coturri of Sonoma, CA, and Alain Rochard of Minervois, France, and Andy Fisher, president of Astor Wines & Spirits and Astor Center.

Wineries to be featured include:

• Chemins de Bassac from Languedoc-Roussillon
• Colombaia from Tuscany, Italy
• Olivier Cousin from the Loire (Anjou/Saumur)
• Domaine des Deux Anes from Languedoc-Roussillon (Corbi√®res)
• Le Loup Blanc from Languedoc-Roussillon (Minervois)
• Ch. Tire P√© from Bordeaux
• Coturri from Sonoma, CA

The Astor Center, dedicated to food and wine education and events, is located at 399 Lafayette Street at East 4th Street in Manhattan. Phone: (212) 674-7501. Tickets are $15 each, and can be purchased online.

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20100202

DC prepping for International Wine & Food Fest

Finishing touches are being put on Washington, DC's 11th annual International Wine & Food Festival, set for February 11-14.

The four-day event will feature more than 600 wines, along with a variety of events at various venues.

The major event is the Grand Tasting & Street-Fare Food Pavilion at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on Saturday and Sunday, February 13-14, from 2 to 6 p.m.

The festival will conclude with a screening of the film "Bottle Shock," a movie about how Napa Valley’s Montelena Winery challenged France’s position as the world’s top wine producer in 1976, putting California wines on the map.

Tickets for all portions of the event are available online.

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