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News Briefs for March 5, 2013

March 5, 2013

•Stolichnaya parent company SPI Group is reportedly eyeing a takeover of Poland’s debt-ridden Central European Distribution Group (CEDC). According to news reports, SPI is currently discussing the possibility of jointly acquiring CEDC with other industry players, though any specific potential partnerships were undisclosed. In January, CEDC ceded operational control to Russian Standard chairman Roustam Tariko in exchange for up to $65 million in funding, and last week, the company began offering stock in exchange for notes in an effort to reduce its senior note debt by $750 million. Should the exchange plan—which expires March 22—prove unsuccessful, the company said that it could subsequently proceed with a fall-back, prepackaged bankruptcy.

•Concha y Toro has extended its Gran Reserva Serie Riberas line with a Chardonnay. The Serie Riberas, or “Riverbank Series,” is a line of single-vineyard wines, each grown in proximity to one of Chile’s major rivers. Riverbank’s Chardonnay, the sixth varietal to be added to the range, is made from grapes grown at Ucúquer Vineyard near the Rapel River and has been aged for nine months in medium-toast French oak barrels. The series also includes Sauvignon Blanc (also from Rapel River), Cabernet Sauvignon (Tinguiririca), Carmenère (Cachapoal), Malbec (Tinguiririca) and Merlot (Maule). Retailing nationwide at around $17 a 750-ml., the wines are imported by Excelsior Wines, a joint venture between Concha and Banfi Vintners.

•Woodinville, Washington-based O Wines is expanding distribution of its Chardonnay and red blend offerings nationwide beginning in April. O Wines Chardonnay ($14) was previously only available in the Northwest. Meanwhile, O’s Red Wine ($16)—a blend of Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah—was added after Ste. Michelle Wine Estates acquired the brand last September. Founded in 2006 by Stacy Lill and Kathy Johanson, O Wines provides scholarships to low-income young women and has raised $125,000 and funded more than 40 student scholarships in four years. Lill continues to work with the company as brand ambassador.

•Heaven Hill is introducing new packaging for its Admiral Nelson’s rum brand this spring. Admiral Nelson’s updated bottle features “a traditional bulbed neck design atop a tapered body resulting in a more modern, premium look.” Admiral Nelson’s label has also been upgraded with bolder type and a cleaner style for better recognition on the shelf. The repack is taking effect across the Admiral Nelson’s franchise. The rum brand, which Heaven Hill acquired from Luxco in 2011, sells over 800,000 cases in the U.S. annually.

•E&J Gallo’s Shellback rum is embarking on an six-city mixology tour in the U.S. Kicking off in Dallas on March 13, the “All Hands on Deck” campaign will feature an interactive mixology workshop led by expert Tony Abou-Ganim, who will teach participating guests how to create modern versions of classic cocktails using Shellback. Following its Texas debut, “All Hands on Deck” will subsequently launch in San Francisco (April 10), Miami (May 2), Chicago (June 25), New York City (July 9) and Los Angeles (August 16).

•Steven Klauber, a former executive with William Grant & Sons USA, has been named managing director of Punzoné, Inc., owner of Punzoné vodka, an upscale organic brand from Italy. Punzoné is currently available in high-end restaurants and bars throughout New York and New Jersey, as well as in retail chains such as Whole Foods and Stew Leonard’s in those markets. Klauber was formerly William Grant & Sons USA’s chief financial officer and senior vice president.

•Horizon Beverage Group, one of New England’s largest spirits and wine distributors, is reorganizing its senior management team, effective March 11. Horizon has formed an executive committee to assume all top line managerial responsibilities across the five-state New England region (including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont). Jim Tsiumis, senior vice president, has been added to the executive committee and will spearhead corporate strategy. In addition, a sales operating group will be created to manage day-to-day sales operations for all core business units. The sales operating group will report directly to the executive committee.


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