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The year in drink: Beppi Crosariol’s cheers and jeers for 2012 Add to ...

Vandalism, forgery, nudity, armageddon – the year in drink went down with a few bracing kicks. Grab yourself a glass and join me for a recap of some highs and lows of 2012.


To a former employee of famed Italian estate Case Basse, arrested on charges of destroying more than 60,000 litres of wine worth more than $250 a bottle. (That’s $20-million total if you’re counting.) In an act that shook the wine world, a vandal broke into cellars owned by Gianfranco Soldera several weeks ago and opened the taps on all the Brunello di Montalcino casks, letting six harvests’ worth of maturing wine run horrifyingly into the drains. According to a police report cited by Italian newspaper Corriere Fiorentino, Andrea Di Gisi, 39, may have been motivated by vengeance at being denied a small apartment on the estate. Let’s just say he’s got suitable lodgings now – in jail.


To the Wine Council of Ontario, which launched a campaign advocating for private wine shops in Canada’s most populous province. Rather than calling for full-scale privatization, which neither the Wine Council nor many consumers want anyway, the trade group representing 80 domestic producers would like the government to legalize independent wine stores (as opposed to corner grocers) to compete with the LCBO. It would be akin to systems already in place in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. Prefer the shopping experience at the LCBO as many readers keep telling me they do? You’d have that option. Just don’t cite your liquor-board love as justification for a government monopoly. Otherwise, by that logic, you really should be advocating for the abolition of all private retailing so that the merchandising marvels at Queen’s Park can corner the market in trousers, bread and electronics, too. A state-run utopia!


To Scottish brewery Brewmeister, which created what it claims is the world’s strongest beer, weighing in at a head-spinning 65-per-cent alcohol by volume. Called Armageddon, it packs more punch than a cask-strength whisky and is more than 10 times stronger than most beers. It’s even more bracing than the previous Scottish record holder, BrewDog’s 55-per-cent The End of History. To make it, Brewmeister borrowed a page from the icewine playbook, cooling the beer to the point where water (but not alcohol) freezes. The ice is then removed, leaving behind one hot brew. If you find it too rough, you could always chase it with a belt of Scotch.


To Mike Hayes, owner of Symphony Hill Wines in Queensland, Australia, for risking a special kind of sunburn in an effort to make great red. The intrepid Aussie announced plans to revive a 4,000-year-old ritual by harvesting grapes in the nude. Apparently, that’s the way they once did it in Georgia, the former Soviet republic. Hayes, who studied ancient winemaking techniques as part of a Churchill Fellowship, told the Queensland Courier Mail that there’s scientific grounds for harvesting au naturel. “Clothing made from animal hides would no doubt contain bacteria that would taint the winemaking process,” he said. Makes sense, I guess. I just hope he showers first.


To Swedish company Vernissage for turning wine literally into a fashion accessory. You’ve heard of bag-in-box? How about bag-in-bag – as in handbag? Shaped to resemble a woman’s purse – complete with carrying strap – the 1.5- and 3-litre cartons feature a plastic spout that pulls out from the side. There’s a red, white and rosé, all sourced from southern France. Created a few years ago, the line was recently launched in the United States (it’s available in parts of Canada, too). Sounds like a cheesy way to tap female drinkers. While you’re at it, Vernissage, how about plastic glassware shaped like shoes?


To Robert Parker Jr., the hugely influential U.S. wine critic, who struck a deal to sell a substantial stake in his Wine Advocate newsletter to a Singapore-based group for a reported $15-million (U.S.). The Nose that Knows will continue to review his beloved regions, Bordeaux and the Rhône, for the publication while remaining chairman of the company, according to The Wall Street Journal. But the Wine Advocate will now largely be run out of Asia by long-time contributor and new editor-in-chief Lisa Perrotti-Brown. She’s amazing. A new star is born.


To the rising tide of cloying vodka flavours. As if cake, marshmallow, cotton candy, whipped cream and Froot Loops were not enough, Van Gogh – which makes a pretty good plain vodka – launched PB & J, as in peanut butter and jelly. Who’s buying this stuff?


To the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation for nabbing Rudy Kurniawan, suspected of selling millions of dollars worth of forged wine at auction. According to a grand jury indictment, Kurniawan turned his California home into “in effect, a counterfeit wine laboratory.” Agents reportedly found damning evidence, including bags of corks, thousands of fake labels, a cork inserter, empty bottles and stencils to imprint famous wine brands on wooden cases. In related news, a studio has optioned the rights to a Vanity Fair article by Mike Steinberger about the scandal. I can’t wait.

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