Gianfranco Soldera makes one of the world’s most coveted Italian wines—and was the target of a break-in that sent $25 million in vino down the drain. Why does he have so many enemies?
It’s just past the one-year anniversary when Gianfranco Soldera, a complex 76-year-old man who makes some of the most coveted Brunello di Montalcino in the world, slumbered in his Tuscan home, unaware of the carnage about to take place. It was a few weeks before Christmas but not all creatures were snug in bed. A few yards away, under protective darkness, a vandal shattered the bulletproof window of Soldera’s Case Basse winery and opened the spigots on ten botti—huge oak casks used for aging the precious liquid. In a matter of minutes, 61,000 liters of wine spanning five vintages and worth upwards of $25 million went down the winery floors’ drains. As the world woke up on December 3, 2012, so did the rumors and speculation: Mafia attack. Retribution. Disgruntled employee.
Gianfranco Soldera in his wine cellar in Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy. (Manfred Klimek/ASAblanca via Getty)
Any number of people could have committed the painful crime. “Let’s face it,” wrote Jeremy Parzen on his Italian-wine—centric blog, dobianchi.com, when the news broke, “many observers of the Italian wine world (myself included) couldn’t help but think, to borrow a phrase from Lennon, instant karma’s gonna get you.” He concisely summed up what is often unsaid about the man some have described as Montalcino’s most iconic and difficult producer.
For all of his bravado, Soldera’s home at Case Basse is no palazzo, but a humble, sweet stone house at the end of a long cypress-spiked and vine-bordered road. The gentleman himself walks briskly, with a slight stoop. He had a pleasantly jowly face, punctuated by a brushy mustache under his fleshy nose, his pants always fastened to suspenders. When I paid him a visit recently, it was clear that he’d rather be having a root canal than answering questions.
Just when you thought the most competitive sport in Dubai couldn’t get any more exciting, the owners of purebred racing camels have gone and invented remote-control jockeys to whip their dromedaries to victory.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—A late-afternoon sandstorm had descended on the Al Marmoom racetrack, some 40 kilometers outside of Dubai, and dust swirled everywhere. But even with the harsh desert weather, the races went ahead as planned.
The camels—many of them owned by the royal families of the United Arab Emirates—galloped along a five-kilometer track, with the fastest ones zipping past the finish line, like clockwork, on or near the 7:40 mark. Stamped with electronic chips for identification, the animals are presented by their owners, along with parentage certificates specifying their breed and age, before every race. Afterwards, the top three finishers are taken to a nearby center to test for doping—routine fare for Dubai’s multimillion-dollar camel racing industry.
Though the camels can gallop as fast as 50 kilometers per hour (30 miles an hour)—slightly slower than the average racehorse—the most astonishing aspect of the races is not the ungulates’ blistering speed but the jockeys perched atop each animal. They weigh four to six pounds, and are equipped with remote-controlled whips that camel owners operate while driving along a parallel track in white, identical SUVs. These jockeys, in fact, are robots.
A Greenwich Village historian tells us how the bohemian paradise dramatized in the Coen Brothers’ new film ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ became what it is today—one of the squarest, priciest neighborhoods in New York.
The Coen Brothers’ new movie, Inside Llewyn Davis, is hardly a sunny, soft-focus nostalgia-fest. It depicts a hardscrabble week in the life of the titular folksinger—a period, sometime in the winter of 1961, during which Davis gets punched in the face by a stranger, nearly freezes, coatless, in the bitter New York cold, and has to beg everyone he knows for a sofa to sleep on. The low winter light captured by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel is lovely, but it’s also as bleak and grey as Davis’s prospects for musical stardom.
And yet, watching the film—a terrific, often hilarious meditation on the desperate sadness of being a nearly great artist—you can’t help wishing that you too were bumming around Greenwich Village in 1961, when the cafes were full of cigarette smoke and folk songs.
Especially when you compare Llewyn Davis’s Greenwich Village to Greenwich Village today—a place where Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs seem to be competing to open the most stores on Bleecker Street and where no one who makes less than $200,000 a year can afford to live.
What happened? For more than a century, Greenwich Village was a bohemian enclave—a cheap, artistic neighborhood where Hart Crane, Willem de Kooning, Isamu Noguchi, Frank O’Hara, Odetta, Jackson Pollock, James Baldwin, and, of course, Bob Dylan, could all live and work. Then, sometime after 1980 or so, everything changed.
The three teams attempting to walk to the South Pole as part of the Virgin Money Allied Challenge battle fatigue in brutal conditions.
The teams of wounded servicemen racing to the South Pole - including one headed by Prince Harry - are suffering 'exhaustion and mental weariness' the organisers of the Virgin Money South Pole Allied Challenge said today.
Guide Eric Philips, who was pulled out of the contest suffering altitude sickness, has now been given the all clear to rejoin the Commonwealth team.
Today is the last full day of ski-ing before an enforced 24 hour rest stop at Checkpoint 1.
A spokesperson for the expedition said, "It goes without saying that the teams are feeling the strain as the extreme cold, elevation, dry air and mental weariness start to make even the simplest tasks a mammoth effort. It has been a steep learning curve for the teams, as the slightest mistake in looking after themselves can lead to disastrous consequences.
South Beach may host the main Art Basel events, but artists are flocking to Miami’s up-and-coming Wynwood neighborhood, with its galleries, street art, and people watching.
In the neon Day-Glo 1980s—when Miami’s South Beach patios were cluttered with grandmas in rockers, not models with slamming bodies, and the only place to eat on Ocean Drive was the cheerful but not at all chic News Café—Wynwood, north of downtown, was where you’d go to buy a cutting-edge Miami Vice white sofa. And you’d do it fast. No amount of shoulder pad heft could protect you in this less-than-safe place.
Paintings of children are seen on the wall of a building in the Wynwood Walls art project on December 6, 2012 in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty)
One of the first art dealers in the neighborhood at the time, Barbara Gillman, recalls not just dealing in objets d’art, but with real objects, thrown as projectiles through her gallery windows. (She left.)
Although from the outside, parts of Wynwood still resemble Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks”—darkness surrounding a lonely, low-slung diner, a corner wedge of light the only proof of life—inside, instead of cheap barstools and a soda jerk, you might find a waiter delivering tapas or a bearded barista serving organic coffee. And instead of world-weary businessmen, you’ll find late 20-somethings electrified by the latest mural they just snapped on their iPhones, planning their next foray.
Something’s afoot in Paris, but it has nothing to do with kings or the bourgeoisie. The culprit: specialty beer. From microbrewers to bar owners, meet the people leading the uprising.
It’s almost 8 p.m. I am waiting at the Chateau Rouge metro station deep in Paris’s 18th arrondissement for Phillip, an American expat and craft-beer aficionado. The neighborhood is called Goutte d’Or, which translates to “drop of gold,” and it isn’t exactly the Paris you see in postcards. Its residents are mainly North and sub-Saharan African. People scurry past me while eating freshly roasted corn on the cob. It’s noisy, crowded, and alive. While I wait, three armed gendarmerie officers bound up the stairs from the metro and converge on a hooded man selling things on the corner of the street. Shortly after, Phillip arrives.
Courtesy La Fine Mousse
It is here, in this dynamic community, that renegade brewmaster Thierry Roche is fermenting his own drops of gold at the partly crowd-funded Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or—the only brewery that is actually in Paris. When Phillip and I arrive, Thierry is squeegeeing puddles of soapy water from underneath the oak beer tanks and out the front door. He is wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and bright white knee-high rubber boots. He admits to us that most of the time he is more of a janitor than a brewmaster. I like him already.
After a few minutes of small talk, Thierry whips out a few glasses and bottles. His unfiltered, unpasteurized, 100 percent organic beers, brewed in small batches, carry the names of local streets and districts in Goutte d’Or. He opens a bottle of Ernestine, an IPA enriched with rooibos and cola nuts that he bought at the local open-air market Marché Dejean. It’s quite bitter and has a subtle fruitiness. It goes down fast. Then we try his Charbonnière. At 7.5 percent alcohol, it’s right up my alley. It’s an amber beer with smoked malts that pours a dark caramel color with a small white head. It’s not overly carbonated or refrigerated, so all the smoky flavors come bursting forward.
In the great Caribbean melting pot, one group is largely overlooked: Jewish refugees who settled centuries ago. Their descendants are unearthing graveyards to reclaim a piece of history.
“Bless-ed Rise, Bless-ed Rise,” the three-syllable Rastafarian greeting echoed off rusted copper kettle planters lining the breezeways of our Jamaican hotel. It came from a fellow guest who lilted like an islander, yet looked like a Long Islander, so I felt comfortable asking this: “Why not say ‘good morning’?” “Ah,” he smiled up at the ceiling, as though this was the best question he’d ever heard, “Morning sounds too much like mourning.” Exactly like it, you could say. Only later, at the front desk, did I learn Jamaican Rastafarians have a thing about the dead. Luckily, he didn’t ask why we were there.
At the last minute, I’d joined a handful of volunteers, not to wade into the Caribbean waters, but rather into the past. We’d spend half the week documenting one of the island’s oldest Jewish cemeteries, and then launch an Indiana Jones-style adventure up the coast to find a hidden burial ground that we had good reason to believe was in a backyard in the sleepy town of Savanna-La-Mar.
Was its existence just another colorful strand of island lore, like tales of mysterious “duppies,” deceased spirits who haunt people in their dreams? Or would we uncover clues to a long-forgotten community? No matter. Focusing on the adventure made it easier to gloss over the unsettling fact that the first half of the week we’d be in downtown Kingston, one of the most notoriously dangerous places in the Caribbean.
Kingston is also home to the majority of Jamaica’s Jewish population, as it has been for centuries. Before the English arrived, Jamaica belonged to the Columbus family, (yes, that Columbus), who turned a blind eye to a community of Jews that, according to scholars, had been on the island since it was “settled” (there were already indigenous people living there) in 1510. They were refugees from the Inquisition, Jews who migrated to practice religion in the tolerant Dutch and English New World colonies. Some founded a synagogue in Recife, Brazil (now in ruins), then fanned out throughout the Caribbean. In addition to well-known historic Jewish sites in Barbados, Curacao, and St. Thomas, there were also once-thriving communities on Cuba, St. Kitts & Nevis, and St. Eustatius; yet, as in Jamaica, most historic evidence has been lost to generations of overgrowth and neglect.
An oversight in planning leads one future food writer to take a chance on a stranger, resulting in a feast in the countryside of Ouro Preto that would change her life forever.
Dusk was falling, that swift folding of day into darkness that characterizes the tropics. As the light condensed and dwindled I contemplated my ill planning. The fact that I would be arriving at my destination late into the night, with no bookings, no connections and no means of letting anyone know where I was seemed optimistic beyond belief. I had figured the bus trip from Rio to Ouro Preto to be around six hours but here I was with another four hours still to go. A thread of anxiety started its twist into my stomach as the bus wound ever onwards into the dense blackness of night.
Ouro Preto, Brazil (Adriana Fuchter/Getty)
The man sitting next to me on this endless journey was short and balding with a neatly trimmed beard. He wore a cable-knit cardigan and grey Velcro shoes… strange how banal details like this can be recalled… it certainly wasn’t as if I fancied him. But he was a friendly enough companion to share the view from the front seat of the bus, revealing the nuances of the landscape along the way and, as the journey progressed, more personal details of his life. He was a policeman in Rio. He was making the trip to visit his recently widowed mother. He grew up in Ouro Preto and would be there for a few days over the fiesta of Nossa Senhora do Rosário. His name was Cynlio.
It was close to midnight when the bus finally rolled into the town square. Rain falling in buckets, the pitchest black of unwelcoming nights. My querulous enquiries to the bus driver in stumbling Portuguese—the whereabouts of a hotel, an information centre, a phone booth—were all met with a blank stare of incomprehension. Cynlio popped into my one-way conversation in his pidgin Portu-English, gently informing me there would be “no thing open now, no hotel until amanhã de manhã.” In other words, tomorrow morning. But he had a ‘good’ solution. I could stay at his mother’s house, with my own room at the front. I would be safe and she would not mind …
From ceviche marinade to pickled sheep eyeballs to ground rhino horns, here are the craziest hangover cures from around the globe.
A Bloody Mary may be America’s tried-and-true hangover cure, but the morning after a 7-hour Thanksgiving dinner and countless drinks may require a stronger concoction. On Friday morning, take some cues from around the world—if you can stomach it. Just be glad you didn’t wake up in ancient Rome, where the traditional cure was a deep-fried canary, eaten whole.
After a night of too much sake, the Japanese rely on a type of dried sour plums called umeboshi. To dilute the bitterness, the less-than-brave steep them in green tea.
Just after graduating from culinary school, an Australian chef has a food epiphany when he backpacks through a part of Italy that still lives—and cooks—in the traditional ways.
Somewhere in a drawer back home in Australia, there's a photo of me standing in the Melbourne International Airport. I’m wearing a wide-brimmed outback hat and holding a beat-up Australian football under my arm. A gigantic backpack looms behind my head, dwarfing my 6-foot 3-inch frame. I’m twenty-one years old and feeling like I’m the first Aussie to ever set foot outside the Commonwealth.
It was 1998, the year Monica Lewinsky’s stained blue dress almost impeached a president and the European Central Bank was born in Frankfurt, Germany. It was also the year that I first travelled outside of Australia, and I had that particular blend of swagger and stupidity that young men have when they get their first real taste of freedom.
In hindsight that photo is the beginning of adventures that are still unfolding today. But when I posed for it, I only knew what had ended—culinary school. After four years studying and working every conceivable station at the Savoy Hotel in Melbourne, I was officially a chef. In those days, all the best chefs were European, so I reckoned that after school I’d head to Europe to study with the masters. While I was filleting barramundi and julienning carrots, I saved like a man with a plan. When culinary school ended, I sold my sky-blue Datsun 200B and counted the till; I had ten thousand Australian dollars to my name, which meant I could travel for roughly three months on $100 a day. When the money was gone, I’d need to find a job.
No, it wasn’t champagne or beer or even whiskey, but cider—the drink of the Romans and British sailors. It’s a tipple you should still be knocking back on Thanksgiving.
“It is indeed bad to eat apples. It is better to make them all into cider”
—Benjamin Franklin, in Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America, reporting an American Indian’s response to hearing the story of Adam and Eve.
No one knows exactly what the Pilgrims drank at the first Thanksgiving back in 1621. No known televised documentaries have survived to date, and little written documentation chronicling the meal exists. However, all evidence points to the fact that the Pilgrims toasted survival and that first harvest in America with mugs of hard apple cider.
Could ground balloons.
Even Al Roker might not be able to save this one. After ruining thousands of people's holiday travel plan, the weather now might ruin millions of people's favorite Thanksgiving entertainment, The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. If sustained winds go higher than 23 mph and gusts more than 34 mph, all those fun parade balloons like Snoopy and Sonic won't take off. The forecasts currently predict winds of at least 15 to 20 mph and gusts reaching 40 mph. "We are closely monitoring the weather as we do each year," says Macy's spokeswoman Holly Thomas. "On Thanksgiving morning, Macy's works closely with the NYPD, who, based on real time weather data and the official regulations determine if the balloons will fly and at what heights." The balloons have been grounded once before, in 1971.
Ending long process.
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