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News Briefs for January 12, 2011

January 12, 2012

•New Jersey-based Winebow has confirmed to Shanken News Daily that it has a new majority owner, Brazos Private Equity of Dallas. The recent deal involved “a transfer of ownership from private equity firm Freeman Spogli & Co., our majority shareholder since 2004,” a Winebow spokesperson said, declining to add further detail. “Although we have a new majority shareholder, the operations of our business will continue with the same focus and management team as we look forward to future growth,” she added. Specializing in Italian wines through chairman Leonardo LoCascio’s Selections (representing 75 Italian producers), Winebow’s portfolio also includes wines from Spain, Chile, Argentina and Portugal, as well as spirits. The group also operates as a wholesaler in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Connecticut, Massachusetts and Illinois.

•Australian wine exports were down 10% to 703 million liters in 2011, export marketing group Wine Australia reports. Volumes to the U.S. decreased by 13% to 179 million liters, while downturns also occurred in the U.K. (-9% to 248 million liters), Canada (-10% to 50 million liters) and China (-26% to 41 million liters). Sales to Germany, however, rose 13% to 41 million liters, and while overall exports to China declined, bottled exports to the market rose in both volume and value. Global sales by value were down 9% to $1.89 billion. Meanwhile, red wine increased its share of the Australian export market to 62% while white wine slipped to 35%.

•Diageo has pledged €153 million ($195m) to renovate its Dublin-based Guinness production site, St. James’s Gate Brewery, over the next two years. The move is part of Diageo’s plan to centralize and consolidate its brewing activity, and will be followed by the closure of the group’s Kilkenny and Dundalk brewing sites by July 2013 and December 2013, respectively. St. James’s Gate’s redevelopment plans include a new brewhouse with a 7-million-hectoliter capacity, a new grain intake building and associated silos, an addition to the brewery’s existing fermentation plant and an extension to utilities generation and distribution. The St. James’s Gate brewery currently produces 35% of Diageo’s global beer output, or 4.7 million hectoliters annually.

•Pop singer Fergie has become partner and co-owner of Voli Light Vodka, a low-calorie French vodka imported by Palm Bay International. Fergie is the second celebrity owner for the brand, which is also co-owned by hip-hop artist Pitbull. Rolled out into limited U.S. markets in 2010, the brand claims to have 25%-40% fewer calories than most leading vodka brands and features five flavors—Lyte (original), Lemon, Orange Vanilla, Espresso Vanilla and Raspberry Cocoa—priced at $19.99 a 750-ml. Voli has since expanded to more than 40 markets worldwide, including Asia and Latin America.

•Alpana Singh, who announced her resignation as Lettuce Entertain You’s director of wine and spirits this past November after more than a decade with the company, confirmed this week that she will be opening a wine bar in Chicago with Matt Fisher and John Ward, the owners of Chicago restaurant Bistronomic. Details about the new joint venture, including location, concept and name, have yet to be finalized.

•Napa Valley’s Old Bridge Cellars is introducing two new wine brands to the U.S.—Greywacke from New Zealand and Poggiotondo from Italy. Marlborough-based Greywacke’s portfolio includes a Sauvignon Blanc ($19.99 a 750-ml.), “Wild Sauvignon” ($29.99) and Pinot Noir ($39.99). Tuscany-based Poggiotondo’s offerings include a Bianco Toscana IGT ($12.00), Rosso Toscana IGT ($12.00), Cerro Del Massi Chianti DOCG ($15.99), Chianti Superiore DOCG ($19.99) and Vermentino ($19.99). Limited supplies of Poggiotondo’s Reserve tier wines will also be available in the U.S. The two brands join an Old Bridge Cellars portfolio centered on Australian wines, including d’Arenberg, Leeuwin Estate, Giant Steps and others.



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