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News Briefs for October 26, 2011

October 26, 2011

•Wine imports to Hong Kong surged 65% to HK$6.5 billion ($836m) in the first eight months of 2011, according to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. In all of 2010, wine imports to the city totaled HK$6.7 billion ($862m). Reflecting France’s—and particularly Bordeaux’s—continuing allure for Asian wine consumers, French wines led the way with a 40% share of Hong Kong’s imports during the January-August period, with shipments worth HK$2.64 billion ($340m).

•Heineken reported today that the decline in its U.S. depletions slowed in the third quarter of 2011, with its flagship brand’s decline slowing and its Mexican import Dos Equis seeing strong double-digit expansion. Overall, Heineken’s beer volume in its Americas region over the first nine months of the year was down 0.7% on an organic basis to 37.1 million hectoliters. Across its global operations, the world’s third-largest brewer saw volumes rise 3.2% organically to 124.7 million hectoliters during 2011’s first three quarters.

•San Francisco-based wine investment firm Bacchus Capital Management has made a “significant equity investment” in Sbragia Family Vineyards, a Dry Creek Valley winery known for its single vineyard wines sourced from Dry Creek, Napa and Sonoma County and distributed in the U.S. by Treasury Wine Estates. Founded in 2001 by former Beringer winemaster Ed Sbragia, Sbragia Family Vineyards produces around 12,000 cases of wine annually, with a goal of reaching 20,000 cases within the next five years. Sbragia’s wines range in price from $20 to $75 a bottle. Established in 2007 by Seagram veteran Sam Bronfman and investment bankers Peter S. Kaufman and Henry F. Owsley, Bacchus (which declined to disclose the specifics of the Sbragia deal) focuses on making equity investments in U.S.-based wineries and wine businesses.

•The Michelin Guide has recognized eight new starred restaurants in its newly released 2012 San Francisco, Bay Area & Wine Country edition. Existing three-star venues The French Laundry and Meadowood were joined this year by three new two-star restaurants—Benu, Saison and Baume—as well as five new single-star awardees. The complete list features a total of 541 restaurants, including 77 Bib Gourmand (defined as serving two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less) and 113 Under $25 restaurants, among others.

•Online restaurant marketing firm That’s Biz recently conducted a survey analyzing why diners visit and “Like” restaurant Facebook pages. The firm has released a 32-page report outlining the results of the study, which restaurateurs can receive for free through the company’s website. The survey was emailed to more than 200,000 restaurant customers across the country in July and August. That’s Biz found that roughly half of surveyors have viewed a restaurant Facebook page, 64% of which have Liked two to five of the pages they’ve visited. Some 78% of customers Like a restaurant’s page because it is their favorite restaurant, while 61% do so to access a fan-only offer or coupon and 23% to participate in a fan-only contest. For those customers who have “Unliked” a restaurant’s page, 50% cited a lack of special offers as their reason, while 46% felt that the restaurant posted too many updates.

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