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Sunday, 1 June 2014

Ignoble Rot: the Scandalous Underbelly of Wine!

Wine isn't always about style and sophistication. We take a look at some of the scandalous behavior that has rocked the wine world.

Rudy Kurniawan's recent trial and this week's Italian wine counterfeit case has reminded us that wine isn’t all soil compositions and wild yeast ferments: it’s sex, murder and intrigue as well. O.K., maybe that’s overstating it a little, but there has been a range of scandalous goings-on in the world of wine over the years. Here are some of the juiciest.

Who let the dogs out?

It may please some of you to know that Robert Parker, the wine critic that we in the industry all love to hate, was once set upon by dogs. Well, a dog.

After giving Château Cheval Blanc a poor review, Parker returned to taste the wine again at the invitation of Jacques Hébrard, the then-manager of the famous estate. Hébrard released the “hounds” (a lone schnauzer) and Parker allegedly sustained injuries to his leg.
The most scandalous part of the story is that when Parker asked for a bandage to mop up the blood seeping from his bitten leg, Hébrard handed him the offending copy of the Wine Advocate. The most delightful part, however, is that Parker realized that he was wrong and that the wine was actually pretty good.

I’m addicted to you, don’t you know that you’re toxic

In the mid-1980s, Austrian wine became the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.
German quality-control authorities discovered that some cheap Austrian wines had been enhanced with diethylene glycol – a key ingredient in antifreeze – in order to give them sweetness and body. Unfortunately, diethylene glycol is toxic: making it an unusual choice of sweetener. Why not just throw some Coke in there and make it a white kalimotxo?
The scandal did little for the image of the Austrian wine industry, which suffered a near-catastrophic collapse as a result. But in the true spirit of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, a new quality-control program helped to reinvigorate Austrian wine in the 1990s.

I want to ride my Bicyclette

Just a few short years ago, American wine giant Gallo made a wee whoopsy with some French Pinot Noir that turned out to be anything but.

The notorious “Red Bicyclette” wine was sold in bulk to the company, who then began to distribute it across America. Red flags began to appear when it emerged that there was more of this wine than could possibly be made from all the Pinot Noir vines in the Languedoc region (where the wine was purportedly from). Further investigation revealed that the wine was largely Merlot, with some Syrah as well.

This scandal becomes much more ironic when you consider that the wine was released to capitalize on the Sideways effect: the boom in Pinot Noir consumption (and drop in Merlot sales) that immediately followed the release of Alexander Payne’s 2004 film.

She’s just a girl who says that I am the one

In the mid-1980s, around the same time that Austrians were enjoying antifreeze with their schnitzel, some old wines were discovered in a basement in central Paris. Inscribed with the initials "Th. J.", they were thought to have once belonged to U.S. president and founding father Thomas Jefferson (a conclusion I most certainly would have jumped to as well).

The bottles broke sales records at auctions but in 2005, when collector Bill Koch tried to put them in a museum, it became clear that there was no actual evidence that they had ever belonged to Thomas Jefferson, and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation of Monticello, Virginia, disputed their provenance. A fraud lawsuit has been waged since 2006 between Koch and the initial buyer, Hardy Rodenstock, and a book about the controversy, “The Billionaire’s Vinegar”, was pulled off shelves in the U.K. after the threat of a libel lawsuit.

Rumor has it that Brad Pitt is set to star in the film version, presumably as the bottle of 1787 Château Lafite, which remains the most expensive bottle of wine that has ever been sold.

Source: http://www.wine-searcher.com/