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Grape Stories

From upper-crust hip-hop dissin' to underwater fermentation

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Wine does strange things to people. When too much passes my lips, you'll find me confessing inner secrets to complete strangers or gorging on sappy Michael Bublé ballads. But some people have freakier ideas regarding my favorite beverage. Here's a report on some of the weirdest wine-related stories I've heard in a while.

Cristal Nightmares, Salon Dreams

We've all heard Cristal crooned about by rap and hip-hop artists, but it now has become taboo. In a recent interview printed in The Economist, Frederic Rouzard, the director of Louis Roederer's Cristal champagne house, dissed the rap world, and mogul Jay-Z started a boycott against the brand. In the interview, Rouzard was asked whether his label's association with hip-hop and its "bling" lifestyle is detrimental to their image. Rouzard responded by saying, "We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Dom Perignon or Krug would love to have their business." The not-so-subtle slight rather offended Jay-Z, who has since removed the sparkler from all his clubs. After news broke in late June, speculation began on which champagne will take root in hip-hop's heart. Perhaps Dom, Krug, Salon or Feuillatte? Check iTunes and listen to the lyrics.

Headspin Moment

Just when I thought wine was working its way up as the libation of choice, a new Gallup poll says that beer is once again America's favorite adult beverage. This is on the heels of a similar poll last year, which reported that 39 percent of respondents preferred wine, compared to 36 percent for beer. The new poll states that 41 percent of the respondents said beer is their preferred beverage, with wine at 33 percent. Flip-flop, flip-flop, what are we to think?

Lifestyles of the Rich and Bored

There is actually a winery in Chile that ages its wine at the bottom of the ocean. Viña Casanueva winery claims that the conditions at 30 feet deep make for ideal wine storage. In addition to an airtight cork seal, they've also developed a protective covering for the label so the saltwater won't cause damage. Their creative marketing team has developed an ocean diving tour of the collection (for a hefty price, I'm sure). As a nod to the legitimacy of the program, the French in Brittany have been experimenting with underwater wine storage since 2003. Initial tests of wines that have been submerged for a year yielded good results, tasting "younger and at the same time more complex," said Yannick Heude, a sommelier in Brittany.

Who Narc'ed On Me?

Georges Duboeuf, venerated French Beaujolais producer, was convicted of fraud and attempted fraud after one of his wineries blended illegal grapes into its 2004 juice. By strict French law, wineries must only use grapes sourced from vineyards that are listed on the label. The court claimed that Duboeuf was illegally improving its lower tier wines by mixing in wines from their more expensive vineyards. It believes this creates an unfair competitive advantage. (Keep in mind that wineries all over the world do this -- it's called "doing business.") The winery denied any wrongdoing, stating it was an "oversight." The court obviously wasn't convinced, since it fined Georges Dubeouf more than $38,000, and also slapped a $3,800 bill and a three-month suspended sentence on the production director, Sylvain Dory. Geesh ... only in France do they punish for enhancing.

Recommended Wines

Bollini 2004 Pinot Grigio Trentino (Italy) Soft and fruity, like biting into a pear-pineapple hybrid. Drenched in fragrant vanilla and unusually silky for this typically crisp variety. Sw = 3. $10. ***1/2

Clos du Val 2004 Pinot Noir Carneros (California) Not a wimpy pinot. Stereotypically earthy yet provides fruit flavors, like dark, roasted cherries and intense blackberries laced with vanilla. Delicious. Sw = 2. $24. ****

Sweetness (Sw) rating is out of 10, 10 being pure sugar. Star (*) rating is out of 5, 5 being wine nirvana.

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