THE TEQUILA WORM TURNS A little worm at the bottom of a bottle is causing a bit of a tiff in diplomatic relations between Mexico and SA. Mexican tequila makers, who jealously guard the reputation of their fiery spirit, are fighting back against a SA firm. Tequila and Mazcal Distillers has claimed it has raised R15-million to build and operate the first tequila distillery outside of Mexico.
Needless to say the Mexicans are furious. As far as tequila makers (and most tequila drinkers) are concerned, if it is not from Mexico, it is not tequila. The European Union agrees, having granted "denomination of origin" rights to tequila akin to that given to champagne, for example, which has to be from the Champagne region of France. (That didn't prevent KWV from trying to sell its plonk as champagne)
The fiery Mexicans are also fighting back with ads in SA newspapers and have asked their trade minister to raise the matter with Alec Erwin, his local counterpart.
The stakes are high; once considered a harsh concoction for rough-and-tumble machos - especially if they swallowed the larvae at the bottom of the bottle - tequila is now savoured as a fine spirit fetching up to $100 a bottle.
A NEW ANGLE ON THE PYRAMIDS A trip to Egypt used to be high on the list of freebies for hacks who otherwise don't have the cash to go anywhere. Not any more. An invitation to a Business Times journalist to attend the opening of the Nile Hilton was wisely postponed to mid-December by its PR agency this week.
But they haven't given up hope altogether of getting the journalist there eventually: "Due to the recent terrorist attack at Luxor, I would appreciate you letting me know whether you have any objection to travelling to Egypt - although I also know that a good journalist never runs away from a story." Full points for innovativeness.
GNASH OF TEETH FROM GNASSINGBE After 15 assassination attempts in 30 years, you can hardly blame Togo's president, General Gnassingbe Eyadema for being picky about his food - he doesn't go anywhere without his personal chef, who carries suitcases full of the general's favourite nosh. At a recent summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, the general only checked into the Metropole Hotel after it promised 2m³ of refrigerator space for his three-day stay. He also insisted that three huge bodyguards supervised the preparation of emu meat and other delicacies.
JUDGE STUBS OUT LEGAL FEES Laywers acting for US states against tobacco companies have chalked up some notable victories - like the $11.3-billion settlement they won for the state of Florida. But Judge Harold Cohen of Palm Beach county court has put a dampener on the victory celebrations; he won't agree the lawyers' fees.
A little unreasonable, you might think, until you discover that the legal eagles were claiming a contingency fee of $2.8-billion - they say Florida agreed to hand over 25% of any settlement. Judge Cohen said their claim amounted to $92 593 an hour overall: that's $7 716 an hour for each of the 12 private lawyers involved, which he described as "patently ridiculous". The lawyers, needless to say, are appealing.