Exclusive news and research on the wine, spirits and beer business

News Briefs for December 18, 2012

December 18, 2012

•Paul Hobbs Winery is entering Napa with the acquisition of Coombsville’s Tourmaline Vineyard from private equity firm GI Partners for an undisclosed sum. The 90-acre site has 63 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and is part of the Coombsville AVA, which was created in late 2011. Tourmaline has provided grapes to Hobbs in the past, as well as to producers like Chappellet, Jackson Family’s Cardinale and Foley Family Wines’ Merus. Hobbs’s existing California holdings include several Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards in the Russian River Valley.

•Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal will partner with Philadelphia-based Devotion Spirits to launch his own brand of vodka, Luv Shaq. Slated to roll out in April 2013, Luv Shaq will be coconut flavored, sugar- and gluten-free, and packaged in a bottle that features an image of O’Neal with giant wings. It will be positioned toward “image-conscious men and women who live active lifestyles,” according to Devotion CEO Drew Adelman, who told the NY Post that Shaq’s vodka brand will aim to compete with Diageo’s Cîroc but from a more accessible price point. Shaq previously had a tie-up with Beam Inc.’s C by Courvoisier, who sponsored the Shaq All-Star Comedy Jam’s tour across the U.S. this year and had a branded presence on stage at all performances.

•Wine sales by the world’s top five auction houses are down 19% this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. For 2012, Acker Merrall & Condit, Christie’s International, Sotheby’s, Zachys and Hart Davis Hart collectively had sales of $322 million, down from a record $397 million in 2011. The drop is largely attributed to the economic slowdown in China, where fine wine auction sales were relatively stagnant throughout the first three quarters of the year, following sales growth of 75% and 14% by the top five houses in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Meanwhile, Acker Merrall has netted $2.1 million at its final event of the year, held in New York City on December 15. The auction was 93% sold and largely dominated by Bordeaux, which accounted for 18 of the sale’s top 25 lots. Highlights included a case of 1982 Lafite (sold for $34,440) and eight bottles of 1982 Petrus ($27,060).

•Pennsylvania’s Yuengling Brewery will produce 2.9 million barrels this year and is currently valued at $1.8 billion, according to Bloomberg estimates. In 2011, Yuengling’s volume was up 14% to 2.5 million barrels, according to Impact Databank. The brewer told Shanken News Daily earlier this year it was expecting to hit 2.8 million barrels for 2012. Expansion into new markets like Ohio and increased advertising have helped drive recent growth, including a near-doubling in sales for Yuengling Light since 2010. Owner Dick Yuengling told Bloomberg two other key parts of the group’s success have been its focus on draft beer—which accounts for 30% of its business, or roughly triple that of the industry average—and its strategy of keeping its beer priced within 75 cents of mainstream brands from Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors in bars, a move at variance with most craft producers, whose offerings typically sell at a significant premium to mainstream labels.


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