Winery owner beats lobbying fees

It’s all about the big names in this weekend’s wine news roundup, from the courtroom to the football pitch.

© Julia Nikhinson/AP | Thomas Barrack leaves court after being acquitted of lobbying on behalf of a foreign power.

The big news this week was the US government’s raid on the nation’s largest wine and spirits distributor – Southern Glazer’s – in California.

But it didn’t stop there. The wine world is still buzzing with the announcement of American investments in Margaux (sale of Château Lascombes to the owners of Heitz Cellar, Lawrence Wine Estates, based in Napa), Argentina has been hit by major episodes of freezing earlier this week, and we learned that Madrid restaurant Coque had become the latest target in a shameless wine heist (the thieves got away with 132 bottles of wine worth €200,000/$194,000 ) via a nearby pharmacy that shared an interior patio with the restaurant).

But here are some of the stories you may have missed this week:

Winery owner cleared of lobbying violations

A Santa Barbara County vineyard owner and billionaire financier who was charged with violating foreign lobbying laws last year has been acquitted.

Thomas Barrack, owner of Happy Canyon Vineyard, has been charged with seven counts: two alleging he acted as an unregistered UAE agent and five alleging he lied to the FBI about it . He was cleared of all charges in a New York court this week.

The Washington Post reported that Barrack said in court that “against all odds” the jury had sorted through a complex case to clear him and his co-defendant, Matthew Grimes, on all counts.

“God bless America,” Barrack said. “The system works.”

Barrack and at least two dozen supporters left the downtown Brooklyn courthouse to start a celebration nearby. “I’m going for a drink,” he said with a broad smile after a reporter asked where he was going.

Barrack had an interesting career running Colony Capital, dealing with the likes of Michael Jackson and Harvey Weinstein, helping them both when they were in difficult financial situations.

But it was his friend Donald Trump who caught the attention of the federal authorities. It’s a long relationship; Author Michael Wolff wrote in “Fire and Fury” that Barrack, Trump and convicted child molester Jeffrey Epstein were “a group of nightlife musketeers” in the 1980s and 1990s. paid Barrack, then with another real estate group, $410 million for the Plaza Hotel, which Trump later lost in bankruptcy.

In 2010, Barrack bought $70 million in debt from Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner on a Manhattan office building with the ominous address of 666 Fifth Avenue (the address has since been changed to 660), allowing Kushner to avoid personal bankruptcy.

A Médoc winemaker castigated for racism

A Médoc winemaker and right-wing member of the French National Assembly, Grégoire de Fournas, is facing calls for his resignation after making racist remarks during a recent session of the French parliament.

De Fournas, who is a member of the National Rally (formerly known as the National Front), made the remark following comments by left-wing MP Carlos Martens Bilongo on the attempted disembarkation of 234 refugees from the humanitarian boat Ocean Viking.

De Fournas reportedly said “he should go back to Africa”, although he claims to have said “they should go back to Africa” ​​(the singular and plural forms of the phrase sound nearly identical in French). The sentence triggered a stir in the National Assembly, the president, Yaël Braun-Pivet, forced to suspend the session.

The winemaker, who runs the family estate Château Vieux Cassan in the Médoc commune of Saint-Germain-d’Esteuil (just northwest of Saint-Estèphe) and who sits on the Pauillac town council, has since apologized for the which he called a “misunderstanding”. . MPs voted to suspend de Fournas and rescind half of his severance pay over the comments, according to the BBC.

National Rally leader Marine Le Pen believes the outcry was “manufactured” by her left-wing rivals. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said there was “no room for racism” and Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin called for de Fournas to resign.

Meanwhile, back in Bordeaux, de Fournas’ peers in the wine industry have distanced themselves from their counterpart.

“Whether singular or plural, we don’t say that kind of thing,” an outraged Médoc winemaker told French wine news publication “It is a stain on our reputation to know that a deputy from Médoc thinks he can make such outrageous statements. [the comments in singular or plural] are racist no matter how you look at them.”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t tarnish Bordeaux wines. Which have nothing to do with it,” another Bordeaux winemaker told the publication.

Rise in exports from Rioja

Rioja wine exports have made significant gains to the United States and Mexico, we learned this week. According to an analysis by the Spanish Wine Market Observatory (OEMV), wine exports from the northeast region increased by 19% in value (5.65 million euros/5.51 million dollars) and 3.4% in volume (6.6 million litres) in the first half of 2022.

Exports to Mexico, meanwhile, jumped with an increase of 42% in value (to just under 8 million euros/7.8 million dollars) and 25% in volume (1.3 million liters). The gains should give the region some of its best turnover numbers in recent history.

There was no word, however, on how the earnings had been affected by the global rise in inflation. Indeed, it was the OEMV which last week announced that the average price of wines had increased by 15.2% in the first six months of 2022 (see Worldwine wine values ​​soar. .. with inflation).

Guardiola selects red wine for his home games

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has dismissed suggestions to attend the FIFA World Cup in Qatar – which is due to start later this month – saying the ideal match for a televised football game is a glass of red wine.

“The best way to enjoy the [World Cup] matches is at home with red wine,” the famous coach said at a press conference earlier this week.

It’s unclear which formation Guardiola has chosen for football’s next extravaganza (the first game will be Qatar vs Ecuador on November 21), but the former Barcelona manager (2008-2012) is known for his bias towards his home country. In 2021 he would have dropped a six-figure sum on top wines from Rioja, Priorat and Ribera del Duero, so it seems likely that his home fixtures will be an all-Iberian affair.

Mexico dedicates its national wine day

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is about to enact a law that will dedicate October 7 as Mexican Wine Day, we learned this week. According to the national newspaper El Universal, a draft has been sent by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER) to the National Council for Regulatory Improvement (Conamer), stating that it “aims to recognize the work of people in the wine production sector”. of our country”.

“2022 marks the celebration of 500 years of wine history in America,” he continued. “It is important to highlight the fact that Mexico is considered the cradle of viticulture in Latin America.”

The presidential decree is to take effect the day after it is published in the Official Gazette of the Federation (DOF). No news yet on this, but you might want to mark it in your 2023 calendars.

The Wine Independent will host an alpine retreat

Lisa Perotti-Brown MW’s outfit The Wine Independent (TWI) has announced a mountain retreat for wine lovers – dubbed “Wine Summit” – for March 2023 in the Swiss Alpine resort town of Verbier.

The exclusive event will see a series of Bordeaux-centric masterclasses held in the evening at the luxury Chalet No.14 hotel. During the day, participants are free to hit the slopes or take advantage of the “private chalet spa, hot tub and pool”.

“Far from the noise and bustle of the great traditional tastings, [TWI Wine Summits] offer the opportunity to relax and sample excellent wines accompanied by delicious world-class cuisine in the company of winemakers, owners and other connoisseurs in spectacular settings,” said a press release. In these intimate gatherings, the knowledge and appreciation of wine will soar to new heights, taking attendees to the pinnacle of what great wine has to offer.”

“Our desire is to deliver truly memorable food, wine and travel experiences to our subscribers,” Perrotti-Brown said. in the wine space for this type of customer engagement.”

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