Friday, 21 September 2012

Playboy Wine Club

Playboy has launched the Playboy Wine Club in the US through a licensing agreement with internet wine merchant Barclay’s Wine. The online-only club will offer US-based wine lovers exclusive selections from around the world, sourced from boutique vineyards. Staying true to its brand, Playboy's club will focus on “cutting edge” wines with a “sense of adventure”, including wines from lesser-known regions like Georgia and Walla Walla in Washington.
“The Playboy lifestyle is about bringing the best the world has to offer to consumers. We carefully select a handful of wines that represent the essence of the Playboy brand – jovial, indulgent and carefully crafted – while catering to the consumer’s desires to celebrate life and live it with a little style,” Scott Flanders, CEO of Playboy Enterprises said.
In addition to individual bottles ranging from US$13 to US$150, the club offers the chance to buy cases curated by Playboy through a quarterly delivery programme called the Playboy Wine Encounter. The US$129 cases are pre-set so members can read the wines’ tasting notes before buying them. The Gentlemen Prefer Blondes deal includes "six sensual whites" from around the world, while the Playboy Blind Date features a surprise selection of wines.
“Playboy is one of the most dynamic and recognisable brands in the world, and we’re thrilled to be able to serve their passionate and diverse fan base. The Playboy concept is approachable luxury and that's where we’re heading with it. We’ll be offering a wide range of wines representing great value and impeccable quality,” said Robert Imeson, CEO of Barclay’s Wine.
The club will also offer the chance for its members to participate in wine experiences, wine tours and tastings across the US. Playboy has offered Playboy-branded wines in the past, including wines with labels featuring vintage Playboy covers, though this is its first wine club.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Jay-Z and Beyonce toast Obama with Ace of Spades

In a move befitting for hip-hop royalty, dynamic duo Jay-Z and Beyonce hosted a $40,000-a-ticket fundraiser for Barack Obama last night featuring a 350-bottle Armand de Brignac Champagne tower, as reported on Designed by Jeffrey Beers, the bespoke tower, composed of 350 bottles of Armand de Brignac Brut Gold NV, took centre stage at the glitzy event at Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club in New York.

“Floor-to-ceiling gold bottles fill the entire space. It’s beautiful, breathtaking. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in,” a spokesperson for the club told The New York Post. According to The New York Times, Obama kicked off the intimate dinner for 100 guests by thanking Beyonce and Jay-Z for their friendship. He went on to say that he felt a sense of kinship with Jay-Z because, “we both have daughters and our wives are more popular than we are.”

Beyonce’s speech was short and sweet: “I can’t tell you how proud we are to host tonight’s event with President Obama. We believe in his vision,” she said as she introduced the US president. The White House, which meticulously controls Obama’s image, is not expected to release any photos from the dinner. Before the event, Obama made an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Jay-Z’s relationship with Armand de Brignac, produced by Champagne Cattier, stretches back to the Champagne’s launch in 2006, when bottles of it appeared in his music video for the single Show Me What You Got.

The fizz, a favourite of rappers such as Kanye West and Drake, is facing a false-advertising lawsuit from Krug and Dom Pérignon owners LVMH over claims that it is “rated the number one Champagne in the world,” which LVMH believes is “intentionally misleading consumers.”

Monday, 17 September 2012

Kurniawan lawyers seek to omit FBI evidence

Alleged wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan’s defense lawyers have asked US federal district judge Richard Berman to omit evidence obtained in an FBI search of Kurniawan's LA home due to issues over the legality of the search. As reported on, Kurniawan is working to have evidence of an elaborate laboratory for counterfeit wines in his home excluded from his trial.

His lawyers are to contest the legality of an FBI search of his LA home after his arrest in a Los Angeles suburb in March. Kurniawan appeared at a brief hearing in a Manhattan federal courtroom last week wearing khaki prison clothing and midnight blue tennis shoes, the Wine Spectator reports.

At the hearing, Berman set a schedule for filings by the two sides, which will culminate on 14 November in the defense's expected motion to suppress the results of the FBI's search. During the search, agents found a home laboratory filled with thousands of fake labels dating back to 1899, including all the Bordeaux first growths and fine Burgundies such as Domaine Ponsot.

The operation was fitted out with hundreds of used corks, foil capsules and hardened wax which, when heated, could seal the mouths of bottles. There were also hundreds of rubber stamps for vintage dates, ranging from Château Latour 1899 to Screaming Eagle 1992, and stencils to imprint the names of famous wine estates on wooden cases.

According to a source close to the defense, FBI agents had an arrest warrant but not a search warrant when they entered Kurniawan’s home on 8 March. "It's one thing if you search a person, or a car, but a person's home is sacrosanct. If our motion is granted, and evidence is suppressed, it's a different case,” the source told the Wine Spectator.

"Our motion is being made to ensure that the Constitution is being honored in the letter and spirit in this case. Other than that, we will let our court papers do the talking,” Kurniawan's lead attorney Michael Proctor said of suppressing the search. Kurniawan is being held without bail at a Brooklyn federal detention facility.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Wine “handbags” target fashion savvy consumers

Bag-in-Box wine is the least sexy wine packaging solution on the planet, but the much-derided sector is set for a makeover as reports that a trend is developing for boxed wine fashioned into the shape of chic handbags in a bid to boost BIB's unglamourous image.

Keen to appeal to fashion savvy consumers, Swedish company Vernissage has released a trio of on-the-go boxed wines shaped to look like designer handbags. Created by Stockholm-based graphic designer Sofia Blomberg, the so-called Bag-in-Bag wine is made at the Nordic Sea Winery in Sweden run by Takis Soldatos.

The Vernissage range features a Chardonnay/Viognier blend, a Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon blend, and a Syrah rosé from grapes grown in the Vin de Pays d’Oc. The wines are packaged in a handbag corresponding to their colour – white, black and pink, finished with a black cord handle and a pop-out spout at one end.

Developed by Blomberg to make the wine inside easy to carry, the handbags are on sale in Europe, and will go on sale in the US next month. Italian producer Cantina di Soave has also launched a line of boxed wine from the Veneto region fashioned to look like pastel-coloured handbags with a carrying strap and a side tap.

The three-strong range, produced entirely from recyclable materials, includes Volére Pinot Grigio, Volére Merlot/Pinot Noir, and Volére Rosé. The chic trio, each holding 1.5-litres of wine, has been taken on in the US by MW Imports, a division of Mionetto USA, with an rrp of US$12.99 per purse.

The enthusiastic reception the bags have received is encouraging, illustrating that consumers are willing to embrace eco-friendly wine packaging alternatives to the conventional 75cl glass bottle. What do you make them – clever or crass? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Thirst developing for Australian fine wine

Penfolds Grange, once Australia’s only serious investment wine, now leads an ever-growing list of Australian fine wines regularly traded for both profit and pleasure. “Limited supply, reputation and sheer quality have thrust many of Australia’s best wines onto the world stage,” Andrew Caillard MW of Australia’s leading auction house Langton’s told the drinks business.

Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Australian wine critic for Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, believes Torbreck RunRig, made by David Powell (pictured), is now on a par with Penfolds Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace in terms of “blue chip” global investment potential.

Caillard meanwhile, singles out Ben Glaetzer Amon Ra Shiraz and Kalleske Shiraz as two up-and-coming fine wines to watch, with Kalleske Johann Georg Shiraz, Two Hands Ares Shiraz and Mitolo GAM Shiraz also performing well at auction.

“Rockford Basket Press Shiraz and Clarendon Hills Astralis are attracting a strong volume of bidding, while Wendouree Shiraz, a notoriously difficult wine to purchase on release, is going gangbusters and Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier is enjoying a prolonged honeymoon with buyers,” Caillard said.

“Even the whites, including Grosset Polish Hill Riesling, Giaconda Estate Chardonnay and Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, are selling well, along with historic wines such as 1962 Penfolds Bin 60A Cabernet-Shiraz. The depletion of rare Australian wine is astonishing – these old wines are being snapped up as reference points for tastings,” he added.

In the UK, Grange and Hill of Grace continue to lead the investment charge, with Two Hands Ares Shiraz and Mitolo GAM Shiraz both proving popular to a lesser degree. For Amelia Jukes, co-owner of boutique Australian fine wine importer Hallowed Ground, has seen unprecedented interest in Mornington Peninsula producer Paringa Estate’s single vineyard range.

Grand Cru-level The Paringa Single Vineyard Pinot Noir is selling particularly well at £325 (in bond) for a half-case through fine wine broker Bordeaux Index. “I decided to start shipping the wines to the UK and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get rid of them, but we’ve sold out of all three,” Jukes revealed.