Nobel Prize-winning Scientist to Join the Australian Wine Research Institute Board

Plus other news and notes from the world of wine, beer and spirits.


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Nobel Prize-winning astronomer and winemaker Professor Brian Schmidt will join the Board of the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) as a special qualifications director in February 2014. He also owns and operates Maipenrai Vineyard and Winery in the Canberra District, where he produces Pinot Noir. Schmidt is a Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. He shared the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics with Saul Perlmutter and Adam G. Riess for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe and serves on three government advisory boards, amongst other distinctions.

Amazon Wine—the online retailer’s year-old wine division—announced  one-cent shipping to customers for select orders from 100 wine sellers and more than 1,000 labels, including Pacific Rim Winery, Don Sebastiani & Sons, Raymond Vineyards and others. Additionally, the year-old program has added two new markets, Ohio and Montana, shipping to a total of 22 states and the District of Columbia. Amazon’s current portfolio includes more than 900 producers and 7,000 labels.

The New York trial against Rudy Kurniawan—the alleged wine counterfeiter accused of swindling wine auction houses and collectors—continued last week, with the prosecution questioning various witnesses in front of the 12-person jury, including billionaire industrial William Koch. Koch, who has spent over $25 million fighting wine counterfeiting, told the jury that he had over 219 bottles of wine, for which he paid $2.1 million, that he suspects are fake. FBI Special Agent James Wynn, who arrested Kurniawan in 2012, recounted finding several materials in what he described as the defendant’s “workshop,” which included notebooks detailing wine blending formulas, a cork inserter, foil capsules, labels of iconic wines and various stamps designed to print serial numbers and brands with property names and vintages. Also taking the witness stand was Burgundy’s Laurent Ponsot of Domaine Ponsot, who first dealt with Kurniawan in 2008, when 97 bottles owned by Kurniawan—including a 1929 vintage Ponsot Clos de la Roche, which wasn’t produced by the domaine until 1934—were withdrawn last minute from an Acker Merrall & Condit auction. The 37-year old, who lived illegally in the U.S. for a decade, could face up to 40 years in jail if convicted.

The Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment named Moët & Chandon the official Champagne of Times Square New Year’s Eve 2014. It is the Champagne brand’s first participation in the Times Square countdown. As part of the campaign, an 11-foot bottle of Moët & Chandon Impérial will tour iconic New York City locations before arriving in time for the Times Square Ball Drop.

The Balvenie Distillery Ambassador, David Mair, was awarded Whisky Magazine’s “Icons of Whisky” Award on December 6, at a ceremony held in Edinburgh. Mair began working as a summer guide at The Balvenie Distillery 26 years ago before becoming the company’s first Global Ambassador in 2007.

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