NEWS IN BRIEF – Aug/Sept 2001

Lion launches bid for Banksia

27 September 2001

New Zealand brewer Lion Nathan today launched a US$70million (US$34m) takeover for quoted Australian company Banksia wines.

Australian broadcaster ABC reports that Lion already has a 14.9% stake in Banksia, which was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2000.

AL

Wine Doctor wine to hit the shelves

18 September 2001

An Australian doctor is producing wine and calling it ‘Wine Doctor’ – because he’s convinced it’s good for you.

GP Philip Norrie believes that a daily glass of red or white wine is an excellent anti-oxidant, reducing death from heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure by up to 50%. His opinions are lent weight by leading epidemiologists, and studies such as the Copenhagen Heart Study, which came to the same conclusions in 1995.

Norrie told decanter.com that major UK supermarkets were interested in Wine Doctor wine. The white will be Verdelho, the red Shiraz, the grapes sourced from New South Wales. No launch date has been set.

‘This is not just wine but a medical campaign,’ Norrie said.

Foster’s joins forces with François Frères

18 September 2001

Foster’s Group division Beringer Blass has announced a joint purchase with François Frères, the world’s second largest wine barrel cooperage business.

Beringer will buy 51% of Australian cooperage A.P John Pty for A$8.3m (US$4m), leaving François Frères with 49%. Beringer said the deal would more than double its Australian oak barrel sales to 37,000 annually.

bringmywine.com folds

14 September 2001

Retail wine website Bringmywine.com has ceased trading as of today, a casualty of the public’s unwillingness to buy on the web, its director said.

‘The trading environment is not the best, and certainly not as good as it would have seemed when the idea was launched in 1999,’ managing director Kim Tidy told decanter.com. ‘The volume of customers just didn’t come through.’

Bringmywine was owned by the Cert group of companies, and was a sister company to Octavian, one of the UK’s largest wine storage and distribution companies. It started trading on the web in April this year.

‘All our customers were very happy with us,’ said Tidy. ‘We now just need to change the buying habits of the majority of the population. I am convinced people will eventually make most of their purchases on the web.’

AL

BRL Hardy eyes US purchase

12 September 2001

The managing director of Australian winemaker BRL Hardy says it plans to expand its Pacific Wine Partners business in the US. ‘What is missing in creating Pacific Wine Partners, the last piece of the jigsaw, is a 300,000 to 800,000 case US brand,’ managing director Stephen Millar said.

Pacific Wine Partners was unveiled in June as a joint venture by BRL Hardy and Constellation Brands. Its main aim is to target the mid-price wine market in the US and strengthen its position in the US through organic growth.

NM/PR

Port producer replaces man with machine

7 September 2001

Port group Taylor Fonseca is set to open a new winery this week, with the aim of replacing traditional foot treading extraction methods with state-of-the-art fermenters. The move follows five years of research into the composition and quality of port produced by using the machine-run piston plungers.

‘Our research proves that the piston plungers come within 5% of the quality attained by using traditional lagares [granite troughs],’ said David Guimaraens, technical director and company winemaker. ‘We felt it was time to use similar extraction methods for all our ports, as the performance of the fermenters is very close to that of foot-trodden lagares.’

The winery, Quinta da Nogueira, will have 30 new fermenters in total and opens on 8 September, in time for the 2001 harvest.

TC/PR

New web trading page launched

30 August 2001

Wine trader Bordeaux Index has launched a unique two-way dealing screen which it claims establishes a standard market price on around 40 top Bordeaux wines.

‘We are making the market ourselves – that is what is unique,’ says Andrew Davison at Bordeaux Index. ‘ The important thing is that it is all transparent – we show the buying price and the selling price, and there are no commissions.’ Prices quoted are lower than the average market price.

There have been nearly 700 individual trades since the section opened at the beginning of August, and some 3,000 cases sold. Wines available include the five first growths, super seconds, third and fourth growths, selected crus bourgeois and Saint-Emilions.

Peter Lehmann boasts impressive wine sales

29 August 2001

Australian winemaker Peter Lehmann has revealed a 24% rise in annual profit to A$6.2m (US$3.29m), mainly due to expanded overseas operations.

Notably, the company’s exports to Europe have risen by 87 percent and US sales by 56%. Plus, 15.4 million tonnes of grapes were processed this year – a 41% rise on last year.

NM/PR

Italian company invests heavily in Bulgaria

21 August 2001

Montalcino Invest, an Italian holding company, has recently joined forces with a Bulgarian company, Yac 2000, to invest in 300ha of land in the region of Jambol, in south-eastern Bulgaria. The two companies will be investing $10m (£6.9m) in the area over the course of the next few years. An initial 50ha of vines will be planted next spring, with the aim of gradually increasing the area under vine to 230ha by 2004.

‘The emphasis will be on international varietals: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and some Chardonnay, in addition to some experimental Sangiovese from Brunello clones and a small percentage of local varietals,’ says Silavano Gambassi, managing director of Montalcino Invest.

By 2004 the company will distribute an initial 20,000 cases of quality wine to European and US markets.

MS/DS

Brits drinking more bubbly

17 August 2001

British drinkers have a lot to celebrate according to the latest Champagne export figures. The post-millennium slump in Champagne sales appears not to have materialized with Britain’s May 2001 imports up 39% on the previous year.

And Britain topped the table of Champagne importing countries with over 7 million bottles crossing the channel in the last twelve months.

CW/PR

Cordoniu spends £7.42m on more land

14 August 2001

Spanish wine and Cava producer Cordoniu is buying 74 hectares of vineyard in California’s Napa Valley for US$6.82m (£4.7m). This adds to the 425 hectares the company already owns in the region.

The move is expected to increase the production of Cordoniu’s Artesa wine, the group’s leading product on the US market, since it decided to end Cava production in the country.

NM/PR

Mount Eden supports cancer campaign

10 August 2001

California’s Villa Mt. Eden is donating some of its wine proceeds to cancer research. For every bottle of Villa Mt. Eden wine sold during September and October 2001, the winery will contribute 50 cents to breast cancer research.

Promotional displays will feature a pink ribbon, saying, ‘Villa Mt. Eden Wines of a Lifetime.’ And there will be an enamel pink ribbon neckhanger on the bottle, which can be detached and worn by the consumer.

NM/BW

Good prospects for Washington harvest

10 August 2001

Washington State winegrowers forecast that 2001 will be their biggest harvest ever. The Washington Wine Commission estimates that almost 100,000 tons of predominantly red grapes will be harvested in the state this September. The record crush is due to a 17% increase in Washington’s vineyard plantings over the last two years.

Quality as well as quantity is predicted for the 2001 vintage following a warmer than average growing season. ‘We are expecting another classic vintage’, said Tom Waliser, chairman of The Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers.

CW/PR

Owner of Chianti estate celebrates New York ties

9 August 2001

Michael Schachner in New York

New York’s landmark Verrazzano Narrows Bridge, the official starting point of the New York marathon, has not one but two connections to Tuscan winemaker Luigi Cappellini, who will be running in this year’s race for the first time.

The bridge is named after Giovanni da Verrazzano, the Tuscan explorer who discovered New York Harbour in 1524, and who was born on the Chianti Classico estate now known as Castello di Verrazzano. In fact, three of the large stones embedded in the base of the bridge came from the property – which is now owned by Cappellini.

Rabbit Ridge on the market for $5.5m

7 August 2001

Sonoma’s Rabbit Ridge Vineyards is up for sale US$5.5m (£3.9m) after its owner was accused of gross violations of local laws.

Boss Erich Russell had production at the hilly 18 hectare property slashed earlier this year when he was found violating county laws while expanding the winery, and gaining an unfair advantage over competitors. But Russell claimed his business grew so fast he was overwhelmed by work and was unable to obtain the necessary permits.

The winery has 10 hectares acres of vines, a tasting room and a winery – but the Rabbit Ridge brand name is not part of the deal.

TC/PD

Laroche’s Chilean venture

6 August 2001

Chablis producer Michel Laroche has announced a new joint venture with the president of Chile’s Valdivieso winery, Jorge Coderch.

The first wines from the project will be Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2001

vintage. The grapes are being sourced from Valdivieso-owned vineyards in the Casablanca and Rio Claro areas with a scheduled release in spring 2002.

CW/WS

Top Mosel Winemaker retires

6 August 2001

by Wojciech Bonkowski

Top Mosel producer Hans-Leo Christoffel, of Joh Jos Christoffel in Ürzig, has decided that 2000 will be his last vintage after 50 years of active winemaking. ‘I do feel sad, but the time has come for me to slow down,’ says Christoffel.

His vineyards will now be leased to Robert Eymael of Ürzig’s Mönchhof winery. Christoffel will continue as consultant to the winery, and wines will be continue to be released under the Joh Jos Christoffel label. Some Riesling experts admit to wondering how the liaison between the two wineries will affect the resulting wines, as Eymael’s are more powerful than the wonderfully clean efforts produced by Christoffel.

It is believed that selling his vineyards to a larger estate would have deprived Christoffel of any influence on the future production, but that with this deal in place, he will continue as supervisor of the winery and will probably vinify some batches himself.

NEWS IN BRIEF – June/July 2001

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