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News Briefs for July 3, 2013

July 3, 2013

•Speaking to analysts on a conference call following Constellation’s first-quarter results announcement yesterday, company CEO Rob Sands revealed that the group has big plans for innovation in the beer category now that it controls its own production of Grupo Modelo brands for the U.S. market. First in the pipeline is Modelo Especial Chelada, a Bloody Mary-style beer, which will hit the market in early fall. Meanwhile, Constellation’s Crown Imports unit is test-marketing Modelo Especial Light, and new draft formats for Corona Light, Negra Modelo and Pacifico are also in the works for select markets. “With the ownership of our own production, we can produce new packages and new types that previously we were entirely reliant upon the consent of Modelo to produce,” Sands said, adding that innovation in the U.S. market hadn’t been a priority for Modelo in recent years.

Treasury Wine Estates is boosting its luxury vineyard holdings with an agreement to acquire Tasmania’s White Hills Vineyard from current owner Brown Brothers for an undisclosed sum. Located in Tasmania’s Tamar Valley, White Hills was established in 2004. It’s planted to 83 acres of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. In announcing the Tasmanian deal, Treasury said “cooler climate regions lend themselves to premium quality fruit and also hold appeal from a longer-term sourcing and climate change perspective.” Treasury CEO David Dearie added that the move fits with the group’s strategy of “owning or controlling vineyards that supply grapes for our luxury wine portfolio,” linking it with other recent premium vineyard purchases, including in South Australia, over the past 18 months. Tasmania is becoming “an increasingly important source of fruit” for Treasury’s Penfolds brand, Dearie noted.

Banfi Vintners is promoting Juan Vega to the position of vice president of sales and marketing. Vega will report to co-CEOs James Mariani and Cristina Mariani-May. He will also continue in his current position as head of sales at Excelsior, Banfi’s joint venture with Concha y Toro, and begin working with Charles Andrews, Banfi’s vice president, general manager for sales and marketing, to take on additional responsibilities for the Banfi sales division. The appointment effectively names Vega as the successor to Andrews.

•New Jersey-based importer Vision Wine & Spirits has added reality star Ramona Singer’s namesake wine range to its portfolio. Singer, who appears on Bravo’s Real Housewives of New York City series, first launched the Ramona range in 2010, offering both a Pinot Grigio and a red blend made with Sangiovese and Merlot. Priced at $12.99 a 750-ml., Ramona wines are currently available in more than 20 states, with further expansion to follow.

•Groupon has launched a restaurant reservation service to compete with companies like OpenTable. Groupon Reserve offers users a 20% to 40% discount on their restaurant bill when they book a table through the service, which is currently available at restaurants in New York City, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., with plans to expand to additional U.S. markets and international cities by year-end. Groupon Reserve runs through technology from Savored.com, which Groupon acquired for roughly $20 million last fall, and costs participating restaurants a “small, per-diner fee,” Ben McKean, general manager of the new service, told Adweek on Monday.

•French wine merchant Paris Wine Co. has launched a new online retail platform designed to introduce global consumers to boutique and small-batch wines from France. The online, members-only site features a selection curated by founder and buyer Joshua Adler, who previously led the wine programs for Paris’s Spring Restaurant and San Francisco’s Bi-Rite Market. The retail site’s debut selection includes a variety of new Loire Valley producers, and rare offerings such as a white Burgundy from Vincent Dancer; verticals of Drappier Carte d’Or Champagne dating back to 1959; and red wines from Elian Daros in Côte du Marmandais. Site membership is currently free.

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