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

News Briefs for January 15, 2013

January 15, 2013

•The partners behind the struggling Qream liqueur brand may soon be tussling in court. Amid rumors that Diageo had discontinued production of Qream liqueur amid weak sales, Qream co-founder and hip-hop impresario Pharrell Williams has filed a $5 million lawsuit against the drinks giant, claiming that Diageo has ineffectively marketed the brand. Williams, who helped develop and launch the vodka-based cream liqueur in July 2011, alleges that Diageo’s positioning of Qream as a club drink and subpar packaging hampered the brand. Qream, which features Strawberry Crème and Peach Crème expressions priced at around $29.99 a 750-ml., is targeted toward female consumers. Diageo, which said in a statement that Williams’s lawsuit “lacks merit,” maintains that Qream continues to be available for sale.

Treasury Wine Estates has introduced a new low-calorie wine range, The Skinny Vine, to its portfolio. The Skinny Vine line features Slim Chardonnay, Mini Moscato and Thin Zin varietals priced at $11 a 750-ml. bottle. Sourced from California grapes, each of The Skinny Vine wines contains less than 95 calories a five-ounce serving, according to Treasury. Beam Inc.’s Skinnygirl wines ($15 a bottle), by comparison, are 100 calories a five-ounce serving.

•Diageo is bringing back Tanqueray gin’s Malacca variant in a 100,000-bottle edition next month. Billed as a unique blend of botanicals and spices, Malacca, which was sold briefly in the U.S. in the early 2000s, is returning at the request of the bartending community, Diageo says. As such, it will be sold only to the on-trade. The limited edition entry, of which each bottle is individually numbered, will be available in the U.S., Spain, Germany, the U.K., Benelux, the Nordics and Western Europe. Globally, Tanqueray has hovered around 2 million cases since 2005, according to Impact Databank. In the U.S., it slipped by 7% to 1.3 million cases from 2005-2011.

•On-premise alcohol sales were down 1.5% in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to data gathered by GuestMetrics. Total alcoholic beverages sold on-premise were flat for the first nine months of the year compared to the same period in 2011. The fourth-quarter slowdown was in all three beverage alcohol categories, with wine volume declining 3%, and beer and spirits volumes both down 1.5%. In the wine category, the greatest decline came from the super-premium and premium tiers, while ultra-premium wines decelerated least. In both spirits and beer, the greatest decline also came from the premium categories. The month of December was slower than the fourth quarter overall by about 1%, due mainly to there being one less Friday this year than last.

Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits has named Jim Schleifer as its new division vice president of the tri-state area. Reporting to Deutsch senior vice president of sales Tony Kalich, Schleifer will be responsible for sales management, distributor relations and strategic planning for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Schleifer has 35 years of experience in the drinks industry. He’s been senior vice president at SPI Group North America for the past two years, working on the Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya vodka brands. Prior to that, Schleifer served eight years at The Absolut Spirits Company as vice president of sales and vice president, trade strategy. He began his career at Seagram, where he spent 23 years working on major brands including Absolut vodka and Captain Morgan.

•Napa-based Dalla Terra Winery Direct has added Sicilian wine brand Tascante to its portfolio. Produced within Sicily’s volcanic Mount Etna region, Tascante is owned by the Tasca family, founders of the Tasca d’Almerita estate. The wine is made with Nerello Mascalese grapes, a native varietal reminiscent of Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir. Tascante joins Dalla Terra’s 18-brand portfolio of Italian wines, including Adami, Badia a Coltibuono, La Valentina, Marchesi di Grésy and Tenuta Sant’Antonio, among others. The company, whose model skips the national importer level and allows distributors to buy directly from the producer, reported sales of more than 300,000 cases and revenue of $25 million in 2011.

•Rebar at the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago has completed a 1,500-square-foot expansion and now features seating for 46 guests with views of the Chicago River. The bar’s décor has also been updated, with a new corner bar and new chairs and banquettes. Rebar’s current menu consists of New Japanese cuisine, signature cocktails, wine and sake, and there are plans to expand the sushi program this spring and update the cocktails to include seasonal herbs and brighter flavor profiles.


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