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News Briefs for July 11, 2011

July 11, 2011

•In a unanimous decision by the Illinois Supreme Court, Wirtz Beverage today lost its final challenge to the Illinois Capital Bill, which raised the state’s alcohol taxes in 2009. Wirtz argued that the law violated the state constitution’s “single subject” rule in regard to raising revenue. The company also disputed the tax disparity on beer in relation to wine and spirits. The high court said the bill’s revenue initiatives were “clearly reasonably related” and dismissed Wirtz’s argument about unequal taxation, saying that such tax schemes are “well established” constitutionally. The Capital Bill added per-gallon taxes of 4.6 cents on distributors of beer, 66 cents on distributors of wine, and $4.05 on distributors of spirits. Wirtz is Illinois’ leading wine and spirits wholesaler with state revenues of over $1 billion.

•Napa Valley-based The Hess Collection, which built its reputation on Cabernet Sauvignon in the 1990s, is acquiring MacPhail, a small family winery in Sonoma focused on Pinot Noir, according to Wine Spectator. The sale includes the MacPhail brand and inventory but not the winery, which is located in Healdsburg. Founder James MacPhail will stay on as winemaker. MacPhail produces 4,000 cases a year. The price wasn’t disclosed.

•Diageo is seeking to raise its stake in top Vietnamese spirits producer Halico to 30% through a $10.4 million tender offer. In January, in one of several emerging market deals it’s made this year, Diageo entered a strategic partnership with Halico and took a 19% stake in the company from VinaCapital Vietnam Opportunity Fund Limited. It recently acquired a further 6% equity stake “from other shareholders by way of an over the counter acquisition,” a Diageo spokesperson told Shanken News Daily.

•France’s 2011 Champagne harvest is set to be the earliest in 189 years, according to the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) trade group. The CIVC expects picking to begin August 20th, thanks to an unusually warm April and one of the driest springs in a half-century.

•Laurent-Perrier’s Champagne Salon and Champagne Delamotte have formed a pact with a new U.S. importer—Vineyard Brands. The two Champagnes were previously handed in the U.S. by Wilson Daniels Ltd.

•Restaurant Week is off and running this week in New York City. Participating restaurants are offering three-course meals for $24.07 at lunch and $35 for dinner, the same price as in 2006. Some 320 restaurants are taking part, some for lunch only, and some for dinner only, but most for both. A complete list of participating restaurants is at www.nyco.com/restaurantweek.

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