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News Briefs for February 24, 2015

February 24, 2015

•Pernod Ricard is launching a new extension to its Chivas Regal Scotch whisky brand in the U.S. market. According to Pernod, the new entry—Chivas Regal Extra (80 proof)—is created using rare whiskies matured in Oloroso Sherry casks, with the French company’s Strathisla malt comprising the heart of the blend. It’s currently available in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago, Northern California and Texas, and will expand nationally later this year. Chivas Regal, which has hovered just below 400,000 cases stateside lately, was recently overtaken by single malt The Glenlivet as Pernod’s biggest Scotch brand in the U.S. market.

•Buoyed by dozens of superb 2013 Cabernet Sauvignons, the 19th Premiere Napa Valley barrel tasting and auction set a new record Saturday in St. Helena, Calif., with a sale that topped $6 million, surpassing the 2014 event’s $5.9 million and raising nearly twice the total from 2012. As in years past, bidding was frenzied inside the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone as patrons jockeyed to secure their favorite wines. The 225 lots were created for and sold exclusively at Saturday’s event, which benefited Napa Valley Vintners (NVV). They included some of Napa Valley’s rarest blends, crafted in microlots ranging in size from five to 20 cases. Wine Spectator has the full story.

•Darden Restaurants Inc. has named Eugene Lee as its permanent chief executive. Lee had been serving as interim CEO since October, when he replaced Clarence Otis, whose management of the restaurant group had been targeted by activist investors Starboard and Barington Capital. Before rising to the CEO post, Lee previously served as president and COO at Darden, whose brands include Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Seasons 52 and others.

•Parlier, California-based O’Neill Vintners & Distillers has appointed industry veteran Alex Parra to the newly created role of director of marketing. Parra will oversee all marketing efforts behind the company’s national portfolio of brands—which includes Line 39, Redtree, Austerity, Backhouse, Camelot and Moscato Allegro, among others, accounting for nearly 600,000 cases in total. Prior to joining O’Neill, Parra was a brand manager at Constellation Brands, where he oversaw labels such as Mark West, Estancia and Rex Goliath. He has also held roles at Del Monte Foods and marketing agency MediaVest. In addition to its branded business, O’Neill also produces roughly 400,000 cases of private label wines annually.

•AB InBev has extended its popular Bud Light Rita franchise with the new summer seasonal, Lemon-Ade-Rita. The brand’s latest RTD is a lemonade Margarita-flavored offering featuring Bud Light Lime that is meant to be served over ice. Bud Light Lime Lemon-Ade-Rita (8% abv) will be available in 12-packs of 8-ounce cans, four-packs of 16-ounce cans and 25-ounce cans. It joins the Rita portfolio that includes the year-round flavors Lime-A-Rita, Mang-O-Rita, Raz-Ber-Rita and Straw-Ber-Rita, as well as the seasonal Apple-Rita and Cran-Brr-Rita. AB says the latest flavor aligns with the range’s social positioning as a ready-to-drink option for outdoor consumption during warmer weather while also complementing its winter seasonal, Cran-Brr-Rita, for year-round entertaining. The Rita line, which includes all six flavors, is estimated to have reached 2.3 million barrels in 2014 on about 69% growth, according to Impact Databank.

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