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News Briefs for October 4, 2011

October 4, 2011

•Russian Standard vodka is introducing its Russian Standard Gold variant in the U.S. market beginning this month at around $45 a bottle. The upscale extension debuted in Russia in 2008, geared toward gifting with its gift box packaging and embossed gold-foil label. It will be in national U.S. distribution in time for the holidays. Russian Standard Gold joins Russian Standard Original—an Impact “Hot Prospect” up 30% to 176,000 cases in the U.S. in 2010—as well as Russian Standard Platinum and luxury vodka Imperia in the Russian Standard USA stable.

•Heaven Hill Distilleries has added a new extension to the Burnett’s flavored vodka portfolio—Hot Cinnamon. Now available across the U.S. market, the new 70-proof variant is priced at $9.99 a 750-ml. and also comes in 50-ml., 1-liter and 1.75-liter bottles. Hot Cinnamon is the 25th flavor extension in the portfolio, joining Blueberry, Cherry, Coconut, Cranberry, Espresso, Watermelon and Whipped Cream, among others. Burnett’s rose by 15% to 1.75 million nine-liter cases in 2010, according to Impact Databank.

•Ruth’s Chris Steak House will partner with Italian winemaker Marchesi Antinori on October 20 to offer a wine dinner at 38 of the restaurant’s locations across the U.S. For one day only, guests can celebrate 26 generations of winemaking at the Antinori winery with a pairing of an Antinori wine and a Ruth’s Chris signature dish. Marchese Piero Antinori, chairman of the family company, will be attend one of the events at Ruth’s Chris’s Manhattan location. Reservations are required. Pricing varies from $95 to $120 per person. For more information go to http://www.ruthschris.com/RSVP/AntinoriWineDinner.

•Michelin recently announced that 114 New York City restaurants have been added to the “Bib Gourmand” category of its 2012 guide for New York City. Bib Gourmand restaurants are classified as locations that serve two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less, excluding tax and gratuity. The category was introduced in 1997 to accommodate the taste and budgets of Michelin readers.

•U.S. restaurant chains are increasingly using social media—particularly Facebook—as a marketing tool for direct communication with their consumers. Unmetric, a social media benchmarking and intelligence firm, did a study of the Facebook pages of 15 major U.S. restaurant chains, including Starbucks, McDonalds, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Hard Rock Café and Applebees, in the first three weeks of September. The study found that the average restaurant page gained 110,000 fans over the three-week period, with many chains posting on their pages and communicating with customers at least once a day. Companies not participating in social media marketing put themselves at a disadvantage in terms of reaching a wider audience, the study concluded.

•California-based Spectrum Wine Auctions achieved total sales of nearly $6 million at its September 24-25 Hong Kong auction, with 95% of the lots selling. The two-day event was lead by top sales of rare Burgundy, including 80 lots of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, which sold for $1.08 million (HK$8.44m) against a pre-sale estimate of $830,000 (HK$6.46m). Large format bottles, such as imperials of 2005 Chateau Petrus (sold for $59,750/HK$465,000) and 1996 Chateau Lafite Rothschild ($19,120/HK$149,000), also performed well. Meanwhile, Spectrum reported that approximately one-third of the live auction’s total bids were placed via its online bidding app, launched earlier last month.

•Former Fortune Brands division Beam Inc. began trading as an independent company on the New York Stock Exchange today, completing its transformation into a stand-alone global spirits entity. Fortune Brands announced last April that it would operate as Beam Inc., following a decision to sell off its home and security and golf units to focus solely on spirits. Beam Inc. is the world’s fifth-largest spirits marketer, with a global volume of 33.5 million cases and annual sales of around $2.7 billion in 2010.

•Robert Finigan, a wine and restaurant critic who founded an influential newsletter in the 1970s, died on October 1 in San Francisco. He was 68. Finigan established Robert Finigan’s Private Guide to Wines, a newsletter for Bay Area wine lovers, in 1972, at a time when few Americans were writing about wine. The newsletter was successful and went national in 1977, creating a model for many critics who followed him. His readership declined in subsequent years, and the newsletter was canceled in 1990. But Finigan remained a leading wine writer, publishing several notable books, including Robert Finigan’s Essentials of Wine (1987) and Corks and Forks: Thirty Years of Wine and Food (2006).

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