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

News Briefs for March 14, 2012

March 14, 2012

Beam Inc. has raised prices on its Bourbon brands and could take a second round of U.S. price hikes this year, Beam North America president Bill Newlands told the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit earlier this week. The group’s Bourbon portfolio—which includes Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and Knob Creek, among others—would likely see the most dramatic increase, due primarily to rising corn prices in the U.S. Additionally, Beam’s Scotch, Tequila and Cognac prices could also rise, in response to improving economic conditions. Newlands expects vodka prices to remain unchanged, given the category’s competitive and crowded nature.

•Bordeaux’s Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) is partnering with local Chinese firm CITIC to invest CNY100 million ($15.8m) in a new vineyard project in eastern China’s Shangdong province. DBR Lafite said the site, located on Shandong’s Penglai peninsula, will support about 25 hectares (62 acres) of vineyards as well as a winery now under construction. The Shangdong project is DBR Lafite’s first winemaking venture in Asia, following earlier investments in Argentina and Chile. Penglai has become an area of notable activity within China’s wine industry, with more than 30 boutique producers. Its winegrape production has doubled to 140,000 tons since 2005.

•Upscale restaurant chain Ruth’s Chris Steak House has unveiled Sizzle, Swizzle and Swirl, a new premium happy hour program, at nearly 40 of its U.S. locations. During happy hour, handcrafted cocktails, premium wines, select beers and new bar food offerings will be priced at $7 each. Wine options include Hayes Ranch Chardonnay, Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot and Wily Jack Cabernet Sauvignon, while the cocktail menu will feature a Classic Cosmo, Pomegranate Martini and Ruth’s Manhattan, among others. Meanwhile, the chain’s owner, Ruth’s Hospitality, has repurchased convertible preferred stock in its own shares valued at $60.2 million from New York private equity Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co.

Bacardi has named Mike Birch as managing director of global travel retail, effective May 1. Birch will be based in London. He replaces Andrew Carter, who will stay at Bacardi until April before leaving to become managing director of Treasury Wine Estates’ Europe, Middle East and Africa region and its travel retail unit. Birch, who has been with Bacardi for 15 years, currently is global sales leadership director. Prior to that, he served as sales director for the U.K and commercial director for Ireland.

•Minneapolis-based Granite City Food & Brewery is opening its first Tennessee restaurant in Franklin, just south of Nashville, this summer. The company recently announced a new Granite City outpost in Troy, Michigan, slated to debut May 1. Both new venues will feature an updated design, including a wrap-around indoor and outdoor bar, an exhibition kitchen, a wood-fired pizza oven and the brand’s signature on-site brewery. Including these new locations, Granite City Food & Brewery operates 28 units throughout the Midwest. The company also acquired the assets of seven Cadillac Ranch All American Bar & Grill units last year, as Shanken News Daily reported on November 8, 2011.

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