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Culver City wine shop gets a mysterious order

March 13, 2013|By S. Irene Virbila
  • Papale Primitivo di Manduria 2008
Papale Primitivo di Manduria 2008 (Varvaglione Vigne & Vini )

About midday on Tuesday, Mike Carpenter, an owner of the Culver City wine shop "the Redd Collection," got a call from a gentleman with a slight Italian accent. It sounded like it was coming from overseas. The caller asked if the shop had any 2008 Papale Primitivo di Manduria from the producer Varvaglione.

Carpenter said, "'Sure, we've got it.' He asked how much we had. And I told him we have access to quite a bit, but probably only two or three cases on the floor." Then he asked if the shop could supply him with 115 bottles. That's not a problem, Carpenter told him. And when the gentleman asked if they shipped overseas, to Italy, Carpenter calculated that FedEx to Italy would be almost $2,500, or about $20 per bottle.

"Obviously, it seemed odd to be shipping an Italian wine all the way back to Italy," says Carpenter. "But when I looked on, I saw that only the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and our shop had this specific wine."

The caller gave Carpenter the credit card and dictated the address -- to the office of the Cardinal Secretary of State at the Vatican. Now this is getting interesting. No gift card. Just the address. "He never asked me not to say anything about it," says Carpenter.

After Carpenter hung up, he looked at the back label of the bottle, which explains that the wine was a favorite of Pope Benedetto XIII in the 18th century and ever since that time the wine has been called "Papale."
Why this wine and why exactly 115 bottles? The payment has gone through. The wine is being prepared for shipment. Is this a retirement gift for the outgoing Pope? If so, no card wishing him a happy retirement was enclosed with the order. Who is it for? The Cardinals deliberating in the Sistine Chapel? It's a mystery.


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