Sartorial Essentials for the Ultra Rich Wine Lover

    A couple of years ago, Australian winemaker Penfolds launched 2004 Block 42 to a staggering market price of $168,000. It is easily stole the thunder from the 1787 Chateau Lafite December 1985, which previously held the privilege of being the most expensive wine ever. Unlike the latter, with its interesting and mysterious history, Block 42 is a young upstart merely armed with a lot of bling and the rudimentary attitude to go with it. The merchandise, which is encased in special cabinet is a glass ampoule affair. It holds 750 milliliters of the 2004 Kalimna Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon. This would probably earn some frown from some sensible wine experts since the same liquor that comes in a normal bottle and packaging retails today at $661. What distinguishes the former is the design which is not unlike the shape of nuclear warhead. It is touted as “beautiful, thoughtful and unique” being made from hand-blown glass. The ampoule itself is suspended within a plumb-bob grey glass. Eminent Australian glass sculptor, Nick Mount, designed the casing (see below to appreciate).

    The owner of this ridiculously priced bottle will join a select few since there are only twelve of such wines produced in the entire world. In case you are one of the twelve, you will have a senior member of Penfolds Winemaking team at your beck and call, personally attending you in a special ceremony at the time of the opening. Penfolds declared:

The winemaker will travel to the destination of choice, where the ampoule will be ceremoniously removed from its glass plumb-bob casing and opened using a specially designed, tungsten-tipped, sterling silver scribe-snap. The winemaker will then prepare the wine using a beautifully crafted sterling silver tastevin.

    Super fancy.

    If you would immediately be next in line when Penfolds launch a similar wine supposing splurging money is right up your alley, then perhaps these ridiculously expensive contraptions might interest you as well. They most assuredly would hold their own beside the bottle of the 2004 Block 42.

Bugatti Buckle: $98,000

This belt buckle boasts of Swiss watch making technology having been developed in partnership with the luxury company Roland Iten. It reportedly has hundreds of parts and cogs, doing their little respective roles with impeccable precision every time you need to unbuckle your pants. Oh, have I mentioned that it costs more than the Chevrolet Corvette?

Zafirro Iridium Razor: $100,000

The handle of this razor is made from iridium, the material used for building spaceships. The blade is made of sapphire, which supposedly would not require any sharpening till kingdom come.

Satya Paul Design Studio Necktie: $220,000

Just when you thought it could not get better than this, here comes Satya Paul Design Studio Necktie worth a whopping $220,000. It touted itself – unsurprisingly, I may add – as THE most expensive tie ever. It is festooned with gold and diamonds. It does stake a strong claim to the word ugly but if you have the money and the itch to buy, then why hesitate?


Strangest Wine-making Practices

If you are not familiar with the term terroir, let me explain it first because I would be corrupting the concept to suit my story for this post.

Simply put, terroir refers to all environmental factors that affect the quality of the grapes and, henceforth, the wine’s taste and flavor. This could include soil, its mineral content, water, amount of sunshine, rainfall, temperature and so forth. Now, I should like to propose a different kind of terroir, one that is man-made, man-induced or something to that effect. I am talking about the variables created, built or imposed by men on environment to control it or enhance it even in order to positively affect the quality of his wine.

Let us begin with music. Must you ask if I am serious? Well, it just so happened that I am. Because there is this Italian vintner by the name of Alois Lageder of Tenutae Alois Lageder  who commissioned a sound system to be installed on his wine cellar, which doubles as a cave. I am just messing with you: the cellar is a cave. The said contraption was programmed to play Bach’s sixth Brandenburg Concerto every hour for a minute. This was complemented by a light show of prancing yeast cells on the cave walls. The vintner proudly called the affair, Lullaby for Casks and Strings and was supposed to make wine more pleasant. Well who would not wake up in good spirits after slumbering to the tune of a Bach masterpiece? If you purchase one of his bottles, kindly inform me if it worked its magic.

Let me then proceed to a day or rather an evening when the moon is full in the rolling plains of Queensland, Australia, and a certain Mike Hayes of Symphony Hill Wines harvests his grapes in all his naked, er… glory? Mr. Hayes, a vintner poised to make big splash in the Australian wine industry is said to have discovered this 4,000 year-old ritual and swore to adopt and perfect it in his winery. He officially banned clothes during harvest time because it supposedly contaminates winemaking process. The initiative – if you can call it that – is part of Mr. Hayes drive for clean working conditions. Quite a laudable goal, if you ask me.

There are also vintners who are very serious about the terroir – the original concept, that is. These people have identified the best environmental conditions that would yield the best grapes for their wine. Once problem arises in this respect, say, the wind is a bit more enthusiastic than usual, or the weather more erratic or the snow has fallen a bit thicker so that the temperature shifts from ideal to not-ideal. Leave it to these vintners to be proactive in their response. Winemaker, Jim White, for example, would call in a fleet of helicopters to help encourage the wind in a windless morning. The helicopters would hover over the vineyard, almost completely covering the sky, working their blades to obtain the desired temperature. The first time I heard of this antic, I was momentarily concerned. Shouldn’t Mr. White consider the sensibilities of his grapes? I could just imagine the noise and the stress it would most likely impose on the hapless vines.

And then, there is this story about Mr. Gustavo Gonzalez of Mira Winery. In his quest to have the perfect aging terroir, he chanced upon the idea of submerging the casks underwater. Cases and cases of his 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon were promptly deposited to the depths of Charleston Harbor. The bottle dutifully waited for three months and when the time was up, they were hoisted up to be presented before the much incited bunch of wine aficionados. A sommelier was summarily called to sample the produce. Everyone waited with bated breath as his discriminating palate savor Mr. Gonzalez’ handiwork. With much ceremony – for, after all, the affair was right in the middle of a press conference – the sommelier declared it a resounding success, sputtering words like “control”, “relaxed”, “texturally different”, “fruity fresh” and a bit more superlatives here and there to describe the experience. As was expected the crowd, driven to a frenzy, wiped the wine shelves clean, leaving a very satisfied Mr. Gonzalez grinning all the way to the bank.

And to cap this list, I would like to cite this vineyard in Apalta, Chile called Montes Wine. Its owner commissioned a feng shui expert to design his winery when it launched in 2005. The result was a combination of architectural and engineering feats that managed to incorporate elements of water, the sun and the moon and all those variables that supposedly would harness energy. The entire affair culminated in ringing a bell (it really did), which would supposedly prod the soil to be more fertile as well as to make the earth happy.

Is 2013 a Good Year for Wine?

2013 is proving to be an incredibly good year for wine. In October, CNN noted a huge global demand leading to a possible shortage as the year ends and the Christmas holiday approaches. This is despite reports released earlier by the Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV) that global wine production has already increased by as much as 12 percent from last year. Clearly, wine is a bright spot in the global economy, which is yet to fully recover from the recent global financial crisis.

    The European wine industry accounts for much of the expansion and profitability of the global wine market. Spain leads in the European production output, snagging at least 23 percent increase compared to the figures posted in 2012. France and Portugal are closely following, posting marked improvement in production as well. The European collective output is estimated to be about half of the global production of 2.8 billion cases. Despite these increases there is an expected undersupply, which Morgan Stanley Research estimated to reach about 300 million cases of wine.

    The French, of course, remains the biggest market for wine with the United States following closely. However, emerging markets are demonstrating a growing appetite for wine as well. China is a case in point. It is now the third largest wine market and the local demand is supposedly driven by its robust economy, raising the standard of living for many Chinese.

    The Morgan Stanley research noted, that many wine producing countries may have increased their output but many of these also are also big wine consumers. For example, the United States wine industry accounts for 8 percent of the global wine production. However, it consumes 12 percent of what the world produces. The potential for profit, hence, is tremendous for vintners. Following the economic principle of supply and demand, wine prices could increase as more people consume, making the wine trade more viable than ever.

    The weather condition has greatly improved if the increase in global wine production is to serve as an indication. Last year and the years before, there were ongoing vine pool and poor weather in Europe. This greatly affected production because of its adverse impact on grapes and their growth. For example, the pooling of cold air tends to hinder the accumulation of growing degree days since the grapes needed warm air temperature. The difference in growing season could be a matter of months. Longer growing season means longer time for wines to reach the market.

So, yes. It appears that 2013 is a good year for all stakeholders in the wine industry in most respects.

Crazy Wine Tasting Ideas

If you are looking for crazy wine tasting ideas keep in mind that it is easier to stage one based on a theme. It holds everything together, making the crazy atmosphere easier to maintain. Here are some suggestions.

Bring Me

Instead of buying the cache of wine yourself, have your guests bring their own bottles. Then you can infuse crazy ideas in a set of requirements for each. For example, guests are required to bring a pair: one to represent their personalities and the other according to an instructed criterion such as “something big”, “something slippery”, “something deadly”, “something rotten”, “something crazy” (see the bottle designed by Lola Madrid for Vino Loco above, with its cute straightjacket) – you get the idea. The excitement of hunting for these should already provide the craziness you are craving. You can then build on those concepts to develop games and wine tasting activities that could make the affair more fun and more crazy.


Crazy Bizaare

If the above or its versions may be too tame for you, then you could go for the literal crazy. If you’re up to it or your guests, set it in a morgue or a graveyard. To make it crazier still, begin at twelve midnight and use skulls instead of wine glasses. You can also modify this theme by interpreting crazy as extreme. Hire a private plane, for instance, and fly over North Korea or Iran while you consume your wine. You can have your thrill with the danger of getting shot at while sipping your wine away.

Opulent Crazy

There is also the creme de la crème theme. Hold the wine tasting party at the top of Burj Dubai, the Eifffel Tower or the Empire State building. Serve caviar for appetizers, use Baccarat crystal glasses, ice encrusted gems, and commission John Legend to perform. Open the rarest Bordeaux and Burgundy and party like it is your last day on the face of the earth.

Food Trip

If you prefer the more practical crazy, may I suggest focusing on your food. There are a good number of comestibles that could shock, excite and even revolt your guests. Casu Marzu, the Sardinian cheese made with maggots comes to mind. Aside from being exotic, it is also considered the most dangerous cheese on earth. Exotic foods like the boiled duck embryo, fried frogs and deep fried pig entrails should also do the trick.


Of course, one could just go back to the basics. Wanting a crazy wine party will ultimately depend on the participants. The amount of time spent coming up with your crazy ideas, activities and the accompanying tools and food stuffs, would still not be enough if your guests are not that crazy themselves or crazy about the event. So pick the appropriate people. If you were lucky, the zaniest, the wackiest and craziest of your friends would be enough to make the wine tasting party an unqualified success.


Searching for gift inspiration for Christmas?

Stop now and save your time, money and energy for other things. We did it for you! We bring you the 10 best ideas for unforgettable and original Christmas gifts.


 Christmas gift idea

Don’t buy your dad, husband or boyfriend something expected, usual, boring for Christmas. Afford them something different, completely crazy, exceptional and extraordinary. Give them an experience they will never forget. You don’t have to buy them a tank, but you can buy them a drive in one for 159,00 €.


 Christmas gift idea

Portable projector that connects to multiple devices for a “big screen” is simply brilliant and cool. It is convenient for Business Presentations, Movies, Video Games, Web Videos, Sports & TV Shows for 170,99 €.


 Christmas gift idea

Penicillin cures, but wine makes people happy, said Fleming. Make your beloved happier with a monthly wine box curated by sommeliers. Each month, you’ll discover new best wines, delivered to your door for 49 €.


 Christmas gift idea

Electric wine opener with one touch operation provides effortless and smooth cork removal in just a few seconds. The great thing about this opener is that you can’t lose it, what can happen often with small and manual wine openers. The price of this baby is 55,95 €.


 Christmas gift idea

Fancy dinner and a night in a exclusive hotel is out of most people’s price range. But why would you need something like that. Bring some of this charm into your own bathroom. Your wife, fiance or girlfriend will be grateful. It costs only 34,99 €.


 Christmas gift idea

When your neighbour shows off with his real estate on Mallorca, Greece or Italy, shut their mouth by showing them you own piece of land on the Moon. You will be the most popular guy in your company with this unique and novel property for 49,95 €.


 Christmas gift idea

The most popular Christmas gifts this year are various subscriptions. If you subscribe to cheese boxes you will in a fun way discover artisan, local, and small-batch cheese and cheese products. Each month, you’ll get cheese from renowned cheesemakers and craftspeople delivered to your door for 25,90 €. And don’t forget to pair them with adequate wine!


 Christmas gift idea

Ideal for situations where you have to write many e-mails quickly or make large notes on your cell phone or tablet computer. Brilliant, smooth, as if it is from a SF movie. One thing is for sure, everyone will envy you for 149,90 €.


Christmas gift idea

Every week chefs create for you amazing recipes that are easy to prepare. You choose the meal you want and they will deliver to you recipe together with ingredients every week. You can skip the supermarket and cook a great and healthy meal in 30 minutes or less for 5,45 €.


 Christmas gift idea

You can’t make a mistake by choosing this set as a Christmas gift. It’s a classical gentleman’s drink so your hardworking friend, boyfriend or husband can relax after rough day with a glass of good Whiskey. Cheers! You can buy it for 52,95 €.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

This Beaujolais Affair

cruSome could not help but look down their snobbish noses at a bottle of Beaujolais wine. And some could only gape at it in amazement. The reason for such polarity is that this wine could be squeezed out of vineyards in a mere two-month production, which already includes harvesting, fermentation and aging. Pretty fast no? This brings us to the bone of contention.

Recently, consumers in France took up arms and refused to buy Beaujolais and as a result more than 1.1 million cases of the wine had to be destroyed. Wine experts, wine snobs, wine amateurs – in short, just about everybody in France were pissed off because of the poor quality of Beaujolais flooding the market. The wine, in recent years, became extremely popular and the ease and the speed by which it could be produced has encouraged scrupulous vintners to keep on producing cases and cases until such time time that the infamous vin de merde (coined by wine critic Francois Mauss) came into existence. If you must ask what it means, well, that would be “shit wine” in Anglais. Several other incidents surfaced further confirming poor and greedy practices. A case in point is that one involving the Vins Georges Dubeeuf company, which was accused of diluting good vintages with low-grade wine. Naturally, the French were outraged and the rest was history. Beaujolais producers are now scrambling to do damage control.

The developments, of course, are unfortunate because the truly good bottles of Beaujolais (which could even make it to‘s monthly selection of remarkable bottles) could be extraordinary and even border on the divine considering the remarkably short winemaking process. The wine is ready to ship mere 8 weeks after the grapes were harvested. The speed is made possible by the so-called “carbonic maceration” process.

Originally, it was an early release wine drank by vineyard workers to commemorate good harvest. But the wine began spreading across Lyon. Then it reached Paris and afterwards, the world. The wine was a hit because, essentially, it is fun, fruity, hip and simple. It has also low tannin content and high acidity.

Out of all the low quality produce and the bad press generated as a result, there is still the fact that Beaujolais can be an excellent bottle of wine. If you found truly spectacular vintages, for instance, you will most assuredly agree. The trick is how to


find them. And lucky you, I have here some excellent tips in that respect.

If you want a good quality Beaujolais, go with Cru Beaujolais, Beaujolais Villages andBeaujolais Superieur. The 2011 and 2013 vintages are also very high quality bottles.

Five Great Champagne Alternatives

We are not trying to be cheap here. After all, if we desire the best we must be willing to pay the price for it. But if a straight road can lead you from point A to point B, why choose a longer, roundabout way? To apply this little analogy: why would we spend a huge amount of money (the Ace of Spades Champagne, for example, is worth a staggering $299), if there is an affordable alternative that taste the same or even better? (I wonder if some of my wine expert friends would agree). Well, I have here a list of excellent alternatives to the top and, naturally, the priciest Champagne ever to grace our planet. It is composed of five delicious sparkling wines that could hold its own against Champagne heavyweights such as Dom Perignon and Veuve Cliqout.


1. Roederer Estate Brut

Spotted from the other side of the room, this bottle could very well pass for a Dom Perignon Champagne. The similarity does not end there, however. It is also a sparkling wine, which recalls the flavor of this Champagne. To give you an idea of its character, the flavor articulates some hint of vanilla and some notable croissant, honey and orange highlights. At a fraction of the cost, this bottle exists to give the Dom a fitting alternate.


2. J. Laurens Brut Cremant de Limoux

In its own right, J. Laurens Brut Cremant de Limoux is an excellent piece of work within the affordable category of sparkling wine. I cannot help but think, however, of the “more prestigious” Champagne, Veuve Clicquot, (which this blog excellently described) every time I take a sip. At other times, when I am in a different mood, I swear this tastes even better.


3.Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV

This Grand Cru Chardonnay could rise to the occasion and challenge the extraordinarily expensive Ace of Spades Champagne. Certainly, it is as expensive as some of THE great bottles such as Bollinger Champagne or Veuve Clicquot, but in a face off with a bottle with $299 tag price, this Ruinart label will hold its ground quite admirably. The task is a tall order since the Ace is very well made, indeed.


4. 2008 Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs

I am sure that the very purpose of the existence of 2008 Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs is to challenge the famed Bollinger Champagne. The character of the flavors for both of these bottles is remarkably similar and so I wondered what happened to the concept of the terroir. This is, of course, a question reserved for champagne expert. anyway, Bollinger is produced, of course, in France whereas the Schramsberg hailed from California. They are both fruity and crisp, although the New World bottle is a bit sweeter. For $33, the 2008 Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs is roughly half the price.


5. Berlucchi ’61

There is a rule that keeps the rest of the world from copying or using Champagne brand. But that does not mean others are not successful in concocting similar spirits with the same character. Franciacorta is a case in point (see an explanation of this wine in this blog). It is Italy’s answer to the French Champagne and Berlucchi ’61 is simply one of its finest. Its floral and fruity notes will immediately remind one of the Cristal Champagne. If you have not encountered this bottle yet, try reading this piece for a glowing description of its flavor. True, the flavor does not last as long (since it is quite straightforward in the palate) but it is equally rich.

For a selection of excellent champagnes such as the best possible bottle to celebrate the coming season, you could head over to the cool wine selection by the best sommeliers at