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Doing His Level Best

From Garçon Wines, an online wine club in the U.K., comes a new wine bottle that not only fits through a standard U.K. mailbox slot, it won’t shatter when it lands.  Made from 100% recycled PET plastic, the 750ml bottle weighs 2 ounces (63 grams), ⁠is environmentally friendly, and FLAT! Garçon CEO Santiago Navarro created the bottle (or, as we call it, the flottle) in a bid to engage more young consumers. Flottles are more space efficient than round bottles because they can be stacked, fitting more wine in shipping containers and on retail shelves. A hit in the Netherlands and Sweden as well as the U.K., the flat bottles may soon arrive in the U.S. Since last April, Garçon has been in talks with West Coast wine producers to use the new packaging.

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“SHOCKING” DISREGARD

Johnny McFadden, the landlord of the Star Inn in St Just, Cornwall, England, has installed an electric fence at the bar to help people adhere to social distancing: “Before the fence, people were doing as they pleased.” McFadden claims the fence is usually switched off but could be turned on as and when it was needed.

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How’s Your French?

Here are some tips on pronouncing some (often mispronounced) Champagne brand names.

Moët et Chandon—Mo-ETTE ay Shan-DON. The “t” in Moët is indeed pronounced.

Pol Roger—Paul Roe-ZHAY. Winston Churchill reportedly drank a glass of this every morning.

Nicolas Feuillatte—NEE-co-la FOY-yat. Easy to say and easy to drink.

Taittinger—TET-taun-zhay. Although the British fondly pronounce it TAT-in-jer.

Mumm—MOOM. Not your mum; more like the sound a cow makes.

Pierre Gimonnet—Pee-AIR ZHEE-mon-ay. Known for their lacy fresh blanc de blancs. 

Perrier-Jouët—Pear-ee-AY zhoo-ETTE. Like Moët, the “t” is pronounced.

Billecart Salmon—BEE-ya-car Sal-MON. No “t” sound. Their rosé is especially well-known.

Marc Hébrart—Mark Hey-BRA. One of our favorite Grower Champagne wines for their consistently delicious wines.

Ruinart—Rue-NAR. Often mistakenly pronounced RUE-in-art.

Heidsieck—ED-seek. This French brand, whose name is German in origin, is not pronounced the German way.

Collet—COH-lay. No “t” sound we’re afraid.

Veuve Clicquot – Vuhv klee-KOH. Not pronounced “voov,” the word means “widow” in French.

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Fake It ‘Till You Make It

As restaurants slowly reopen, owners are attempting to balance safety guidelines with hospitality, in a half-empty dining room. There are plans for masked servers, disposable menus, and transparent partitions made from shower curtains. But several enterprises have found an ingenious way to fill every seat while still meeting social-distancing requirements. The Inn at Little Washington, the D.C. area’s only restaurant with three Michelin stars, is placing 1940s-costumed mannequins at tables throughout the dining room. Chef Patrick O’Connell, a James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award Winner said, “We’re all craving to gather and see other people. They don’t all necessarily need to be real people.” And in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, neighborhood bistros and boutiques have teamed up to showcase and promote the talents of local brands and fashion designers, by dressing mannequins to sit at the outdoor tables that would otherwise remain empty (think: tank tops at the ten-top). Disturbing or inspired?

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Laughably Litigious

We were heartened to hear that JaM Cellars invented butter. The first (and only) time we had one of their chardonnays, we said to ourselves, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!”  But it WAS butter. And we have JaM Cellars to thank. What brilliance! What insight! The wine world should genuflect.  If it were not for JaM Cellars, we’d be sensorially deprived–driven to wander, butterless, in a linguistic wine desert. Butter, alas, was only the beginning. JaM has also given us jam. And god knows we need jam in our lives, especially right now. So, dear wine friends, a toast (with butter and jam) to JaM Cellars.

Napa-based JaM Cellars, maker of the wine brand Butter Chardonnay, has sued 6 wine producers for trademark infringement based on their use of the word “butter” to describe chardonnay. Just recently, they also sued Franzia for its use of “jammy.”

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“Waiter, There’s a Person in My Soup!”

Billing itself as a “spa theme park,” the Yunessun Resort in Japan’s Hakone prefecture—an hour and a half bullet train ride from Tokyo—offers bathers the option of soaking in a pool filled with red wine.  Several times each day, the bath is replenished by a stream of red wine from a giant wine bottle suspended over the pool. Traditional bathhouses and hot springs (known as “onsen” in Japanese), are a centuries-old tradition in Japan, but the offerings at Yunessun are decidedly, gastronomically, modern. Additional bath choices include a Sake Spa, Coffee Spa, Green Tea Spa and a pepper-water filled Ramen Noodle Spa. More than just colored water, these baths are filled with the actual beverage or soup.

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Nose Job

The Portuguese company Amorim—the leading supplier of cork stoppers in the world—has just come up with what we hesitate to call an innovation: scratch and sniff closures (yeah, no kidding). Part of the company’s new “Top Series,” the scratch/sniffer is supposed to expand consumers’ sensory experiences.  The top of the closure is coated with a special varnish impregnated with micro capsules of a fragrance that is released when the surface is scratched.  A transparent film laid over the top prevents the surface from being scratched accidentally.  Ah, can we just smell the wine, please?

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OPUS NASA

The rocket scientists at NASA will have a new home come 2020. Opus One has confirmed that it will be acquired by the space agency next year. Details of the sale and the sale price were not disclosed by Opus’ owners, Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A. and Constellation Brands. NASA technology has already been in use in numerous Napa Valley vineyards for nearly two decades. The agency plans to use the iconic winery as a new facility devoted to research on climate change and the impact of climate change on agriculture. According to a NASA spokesperson, the winery’s evocative space ship-like exterior was a major draw in the decision. And yes, we are just kidding. Opus One is staying Opus One and going to continue making its beautifully classic cabernets. (But the part about NASA technology being used in Napa Valley vineyards is true!)

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Chernobyl Vodka—No Kidding

In the please-tell-me-it’s-not-true department comes this: a new “artisan vodka” is being made in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’s “Exclusion Zone,” according to The Smithsonian. The Chernobyl Nuclear Plant in the Ukraine exploded in 1986, spewing radioactivity for 1,000 miles in every direction. Scientists estimate that the site will remain unsafe for the next 24,000 years. The vodka—named ATOMIK—is made from radioactive grains and underground mineral water from an area where it is now forbidden to farm. The scientists who made the vodka hypothesized that a distilled spirit would be safe to drink, even when made from a radioactive crop. That’s because during distillation, heavy elements (like strontium-90) are left behind in the waste, leaving the distillate itself pure. When tested, Atomik showed no radioactive elements. The devastated area around Chernobyl has, of course, become a vast social and economic wasteland. The vodka is considered the first step on the road to economic recovery.

Would you drink a spirit from this, ahem, terroir?

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Let’s See: Should It Be “Napa” or “Runaway Cow?”

The excitement about Long Dai―Château Lafite Rothschild’s new winery in Shandong province on the eastern seaboard of China―continues unabated. It’s been 11 years since the complex winery/vineyard project began, but only this fall will the first vintage (2017) finally come on the market. The wine, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and marselan, will cost $34,110.

Decanter magazine’s Bordeaux specialist Jane Anson visited, and this tidbit from her report caught my eye: “It’s surely no coincidence that, just standing on the terrace of Long Dai, you see four or five newly completed wineries, with others on the way. All are lavish projects with names that include Napa Village, Santa Fe, and Runaway Cow.”

Hmmm. Coming up with a winery name is admittedly difficult, and must be especially hard in China where the name needs to have local appeal. But Napa Village? (I guess the Chinese don’t legally honor place names). Santa Fe? (curious) and Runaway Cow (A protest against biodynamics perhaps!) Can’t wait to taste all of them.

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A Lucky Accident

This is really an “Oh No” only for a certain server at the British steakhouse Hawksmoor Manchester. It was definitely a “Yes, Please!” for the two lucky customers in question. According to the BBC, two diners ordered a £260 (or about $330) bottle of 2001 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Bordeaux. Lucky for them, their server made a mistake. The bottle of 2001 Château Le Pin Pomerol they were actually poured cost £4,500, or over $5,700. So pleased were the diners with their “selection,” they ordered another bottle—only to find that a second bottle was, sadly, unavailable. When the management found out about the accident, they took to Twitter, encouraging the hapless staffer to keep his/her “chin up” in spite of the mistake. On the bright side, reservations at the steakhouse skyrocketed—and the staff member in question was in high demand.

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A Champagne-Seeking Robot

This story is actually more of an “Oh Yes” than an “Oh No.” On February 23, 1900, as a result of a violent storm, the cellars of Pol Roger Champagne collapsed, burying the equivalent of 2 million bottles of Champagne beneath the rubble. It wasn’t clear if any of the bottles survived until last year when the Champagne house managed to excavate 26 bottles, some dating from the 1898 vintage. The wine was apparently so delicious that the company vowed to search for more. Alas, until now, all rescue attempts have been deemed too dangerous. Enter the most modern of solutions: a Champagne-seeking robot, which Pol Roger intends to deploy as soon as possible. As an homage to the Star Wars robot R2-D2, we think Pol Roger’s robot should be named RD—after all, the 19th century bottles may finally get to be “recently disgorged.”