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News Briefs for December 21, 2017

December 21, 2017

•Classified-growth Bordeaux specialist Joanne U.S. has aligned with Wilson Daniels Wholesale in the New York and New Jersey markets. The new partnership will see Wilson Daniels Wholesale distribute Joanne U.S. wines to nearly 2,000 accounts throughout the two states. Joanne U.S. is the stateside arm of Maison Joanne, one of the top players in classified-growth Bordeaux globally, led by fifth-generation family owner Pierre Antoine Castéja. The Joanne U.S. business supplies classified Bordeaux to leading retailers nationally, and has a strong on-premise presence in New York and New Jersey based on fine dining establishments. Wilson Daniels president Rocco Lombardo recently told SND that the New York/New Jersey wholesale business is expected to reach $26 million in revenue this year, up from $20 million in 2016.

•Industry groups are hailing the inclusion of a reduction in the federal excise tax on beverage alcohol producers as part of the GOP tax overhaul that has passed both houses of Congress. The measure reduces the federal excise tax on distillers’ first 100,000 proof gallons from around $13.50 a proof gallon down to $2.70, providing a boon for the craft distilling segment. For wine, under the changes, all wineries will be allowed to claim a tax credit of between $.535 and $1 per gallon on the first 750,000 gallons of production (previously only small wineries could claim such credits). The legislation also redefines table wine as having up to 16% alcohol from the current 14%, and allows sparkling wine to qualify for the tax credit. Brewers and beer importers are seeing excise taxes slashed as well.

•The New York State Liquor Authority has levied a $3.5 million fine against Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits after uncovering a “pay-to-play” scheme in the Albany area. The investigation, which opened in 2015, found that the Southern Glazer’s district manager for Albany was using his corporate credit card to run up large charges at certain accounts, effectively lowering the price of alcohol purchased by those accounts from the wholesaler. According to the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA), Southern Glazer’s has been cooperative since the violations were brought to the company’s attention. The fine will be levied against the company’s Albany and Syracuse offices, with $1 million of the $3.5 million total suspended pending future compliance. Earlier this year, Southern Glazer’s and Breakthru Beverage, among other brokers, agreed to pay $5 million and $2 million penalties respectively in Pennsylvania for providing cash and gifts to PA Liquor Control Board officials.

•Robert Wilmers, an American banking executive and the owner of Bordeaux’s Château Haut-Bailly, died Dec. 16 at his home in New York City. He was 83. Wilmers, known by everyone as Bob, suffered a heart attack while recovering from a recent surgery. Wine Spectator takes a look at Wilmers’ life and career.

•King Estate has named third-generation family member Justin King as national sales manager. King originally joined the winery’s sales team in 2011 as northeast area manager, and later became Oregon state manager. He has also represented the winery in Japan and European markets. In his new role, he will lead a nine-person sales team and assume responsibility for distributor relations. King Estate’s eponymous brand sells about 120,000 cases in the U.S., while its Acrobat label is at around 145,000 cases.

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