Oz wine trade exposed in new novel

Soon to be published is an account of an audacious plot to hijack the billion-dollar Australian wine industry. It will expose a bloody trail of corruption and murder that threatened to destroy the person who uncovered the dirty dealings.

You might expect such events to have at least made the news-in-brief columns of OLN, but don't worry - you haven't missed anything. It's the plot line of Nectar of the Gods, a "dazzling psychological thriller" by Gwen C Watkins, published on Oct 10 by No Exit Press.

Watkins is the founder of Astra Wine Imports, a US business which pioneered Australian wine, so has an insider's view of the wine trade. We look forward to reading it, especially if there is a scene in which a hapless cellar rat is caught tipping a can of peaches into a Chardonnay vat. Come on, we know it happens.

Bottle Shock 'OK', says Rickman

Talking of fiction, there have been some kind reviews for Bottle Shock, the dramatised account of the 1976 Judgement of Paris starring Alan Rickman as Steven Spurrier. Say what you like about Steven: reading countless reviews in which your character is described as an "obliviously obnoxious wine snob" can't be good for the ego, especially when your own cinematic version of events is being held up by the writers' strike in Hollywood. Spurrier hotly contests the accuracy of the way his trip to California

is portrayed in Bottle Shock (pointing out, not unfairly, that Rickman now is 28 years older than Spurrier was then). So what does the actor make of it all? "I'm so million miles away from being the right casting to play him that in a sense, you've just got to go, well, it's OK. He's called Steven Spurrier and there are facts circulating around this story and we honour those and it is true but it is based on him. So in a sense it isn't an impersonation of him apart from being English and a man in a suit and tie. And we tend not to take our suit and ties off even in 100 degrees."

Orangina ad 'confusing' for kids

Seems you can't even use images of lap-dancing animals in bikinis to promote drinks beloved by children these days without somebody getting upset. Children's charity Kidscape believes the new Orangina TV ad, featuring semi-naked giraffes, zebras, gazelles and flamingos will be confusing to youngsters. (Since these animals don't normally wear any clothes at all, perhaps Orangina was being extra responsible by covering their private parts? Just a thought.) The Advertising Standards Authority has received 165 complaints since the ad first aired on Aug 1 and is deciding whether to take action. We are sitting on the fence on this one, though maybe we're not alone in thinking there is something inherently creepy in the name of Orangina's producer: The Dr Pepper Snapple Group? Uggh!

Vodka down the pan in protest

Watching TV footage of the Russian occupation of parts of Georgia, a liquor store owner in Washington DC decided to vent his outrage in the only way he knew how. He is planning to pour a bottle of Russian vodka down the toilet (a ceremony to which the Georgian ambassador has been invited) and then ban any further sales of similar spirits in his shop. Steven Feldman will only end the boycott when the current dispute with Russia is ended to Georgia's satisfaction. And we thought vodka was a neutral spirit.

Oz cash trick used in retail scam

Had any Australians in recently? North London off-licence staff need not respond. They, and the rest of the country, should stay on red alert in case they fall for a cheeky little scam that our antipodean friends are apparently pulling all over the place. Having bet a gullible Pom that they can't rip a fiver in half, an Australian five-dollar bill is presented by the trickster - which, being made of polymer, requires superhuman power to rip in two. "I actually heard someone hustled a free four-pack of Beck's cans by using the note-ripping con at their corner shop," gloats one Aussie blogger. "Which is not really a licence to print money, but it's definitely an off-licence for drinks money."

Journalist confirmed blind drunk

A French journalist has been fined and given a stern ticking-off in court for drink-driving. It was an irresponsible thing for the 29


old to be doing, not least because he is registered blind. The court

was told that

his friend had been helping him drive, and had one hand on the steering wheel throughout . The judge didn't think that made matters much better, since the second man was drunk as well. "I really wanted to do it," said the blind man . His friend confirmed this was the case : "I saw a lot of happiness emanating from him," he said. But presumably not when both received a month's suspended jail sentence and a