Time for a Rosé Holiday: Start Thinking Pink (& Don’t Stop All Summer)

Posted on | April 30, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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For wine retailers, holidays help make the calendar go ’round. And for good reason: people—especially adults—are creatures of habit. Holidays, over the years, become exclamation points that enliven the comma-punctuated routines of our lives. Whether it’s the romantic promise of Valentine’s Day, the Kosher curve of Passover, or the gift-giving/party-throwing hoopla that stretches from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, holidays give cause for wine shops and wine shoppers to co-celebrate.

This spring, as the days get longer and the mercury rises, it occurs to me that perhaps it’s time to start treating rosé as a holiday of its own. After all, rosé is one of the few wines that exudes genuine seasonality—it’s built for warm weather—plus the decorative power of pink is darn near automatic. So why not give rosé the holiday treatment? Dress up the front window. Rearrange wine displays. Put up some some evocative signage and a call-out on your website home page. Just like with on-the-calendar holidays, a celebration of rosé represents an opportunity to freshen up the retail-wine experience you offer.

Maybe you want to make May “Rosé Month,” or feature a different rosé at discount each week, or toss a recipe for salade niçoise into your newsletter. The point is: now is the time to put holiday-like power behind a category of wine. Why? First of all, drawing attention to these delicious dry pink wines is arguably a more natural promotion than other holiday promotions you put into motion through the year. With their light body and crisp acidity, rosés are built for picnics picnics, backyard BBQs and practically any casual setting where food and wine are on the agenda.

Want an even better reason to put rosés in the spotlight? It will make you look smarter than the average wine bear. Seriously. As trends go, America’s taste for rosé has passed the tipping point. Most consumers have moved on from the assumption that pink wine is necessarily sweet, and they know that dry rosés are emblems of summer. And for those who haven’t gone whole-hog for dry pink, the learning curve for rosé is one very easily scaled slope (see box).

 

Pink Beyond Provence

Pink is red-hot. Consider these stats, based on the rosés of Provence, arguably arguably the bellwether of all dry pinks in the world market. Exports of rosé wine from the Provence region of France to the U.S. grew 62% in volume during 2011 as compared to 2010, according to the French customs agency Ubifrance. On value, rosé exports for the 2010-’11 period increased at a rate of 49%, reaching a record high of 9.9 million euros. These numbers confirm an upward trend that began in 2003 and has seen double-digit growth rates in each year since. Last year’s jump of 62% was the largest single increase in Provence rosé export volumes in that eight-year period. In short, Provence rosés are hot, and getting hotter.

While the promoters of Provence can go pink in the face declaring that their region is THE source for quality dry rosé, we all know better. This is not meant to put-down Provence; there is a time and place to debate whether Provence is the gold standard for rosé quality (and I’d argue it is), but that debate does not belong on the retail floor in May.

Dry pink wine is made—and made well—from the North Fork to South Africa, from Iberia to California, and all over France, for that matter. And fine rosé can come from all types of grapes, vinified solo or as blends. These are simple wines by virtue of how they are made; they emerge light and fruity—rarely serious or intense. Their stylistic (and price) spectrum is naturally narrow compared to many other types of wine.

Rosé is a practically universal and fundamentally unifying wine—all the more reason to give it the holiday treatment, making it more about where it’s going—backyard? backpacking? picnic? pool party?—than where it came from.

Simply put, treat it as fun wine. Stock a few different kinds, at a few different price points—and don’t be afraid to pick one or two because they have nice labels. The fundamental character of these wines is solidly pleasing: Sell a dry pink wine to a red-blooded American wine lover in the thrall of summer and your mutual chance of success is pretty darn good.

An Insider’s View

So as not to see the rosé trend strictly through my own rose-tinted glasses, I turned to an industry colleague to get some more perspective. Cathleen Burke Visscher is a marketing veteran who recently formed Wine Works & Co., specialists in fine wines and spirits. She works closely with Bobby Kacher, an importer whose mainly French portfolio has always been strong in authentic regional wines at impressively reasonable prices (of the 16 rosé table wines he carries, 15 have SRP of $15 or under). Some of Visscher’s thoughts on the state of rosé in America:

  • When category growth started to emerge around 2005, it was more coastal. Now rosé is a very strong and growing category all over the country, both at retail and in restaurants. On-premise, rosé is very strong by the glass but bottles are also solid.
  • By the glass as a category continues to grow as consumers are ever more keen to experiment and wine buyers can put out more esoteric wines without the risk of those wines being lost in a big wine list. Let’s face it: consumers may not ever go to the Languedoc or Corbières section of a wine list, but if a rosé is offered by the glass from that region and is one of a few rosés, it will be ordered and enjoyed.
  • Retailers from chains to independents are having success carrying rosés. Grocery chains tend to carry big brand names and most good independent retailers will carry at least a dozen from all over the world. It is a category in which people like to try different rosés and compare them.
  • The pink trend in still wines extends to a growing trend in sparkling wines and Champagne. Pink everything continues to be very strong.

Keep it Simple

I have the good fortune of leading a lot of consumer tastings in the NYC metro area. I’ll be pouring a Kacher Selection at an event next weekend—Château Grande Cassagne 2010, a 60%/40% blend of Syrah and Grenache from Costières de Nîmes. I will not be dwelling on the ancient riverbed clay/limestone soil, or 6-16 hours of skin contact, or the fact that this 200-acre estate has been in one family for five generations, or even the fact that they harvest at night to preserve freshness. However, I will review how it got pink, how it got dry, and then we’ll discuss why, starting now, wines like this should be on their radar right through August. Rosé season is officially under way.

New Products & Promotions: May 2012 Edition

Posted on | April 30, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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W.J. DEUTSCH ADDS FLIRT RED BLEND TO PORTFOLIO

With red blends proving to be solid sellers, W.J. Deutsch & Sons recently unveiled Flirt, a 2010 California red blend of Syrah, Zinfandel and Tempranillo, created through a joint venture with Vintage Wine Estates. The playful POS materials invite consumers to try Flirt, using the tagline, “Your other wine will never know.”

flirtwinery.com

SRP: $10.99

MASKED RIDER PINOT NOIR SCORES AS “BEST BUY”

The Masked Rider 2009 California Pinot Noir recently was touted as a “Best Buy” with a score of 88 points in the Wine Enthusiast buying guide. Based upon the Masked Rider, a famous cowboy legend who has searched the corners of the untamed West, Masked Rider wines bring good value and are meant to be enjoyed with food, family and friends.

antareswine.com

707-265-4050

DESTILERÍA SERRALLÉS PRESENTS CALICHE RUM

Caliche super-premium white rum, named after Spanish limestone, is a collaboration between sixth-generation rum producer Roberto Serrallés and entrepreneur Rande Gerber. Caliche Rum is aged up to five years using the solera aging process. The result is an extremely smooth rum with a clean balance of vanilla and citrus flavors and just a hint of oak. Versatile in many classic rum cocktails.

calicherum.com

SRP: $24.99

NEW SWEET REVENGE THE ORIGINAL WILD STRAWBERRY SOUR MASH

Introducing Sweet Revenge, the original wild strawberry sour mash. She’s a showstopping shade of pink, but don’t be fooled by her rosy appearance—though she’s sweet and juicy upfront, she’s got a raw, rockin’, 77-proof finish. Sweet Revenge is suggested as a shot, chilled or shaken over ice.

sweet-revenge.com

SRP: $19.99

PUNTA SERENA TEQUILA SPORTS SLEEK BOTTLE DESIGN

Punta Serena is a 100% Blue Agave Tequila, produced in the heart of Jalisco, Mexico. Credit for its rich tones and smooth flavors is due to being aged in American white oak barrels for up to three times longer than competitors. The bottle was handcrafted and designed with an emerald-jeweled cork top and logo to offer sensuous appeal reminiscent of fine Cognac bottles.

tequilapuntaserena.com

SRP: Prices Vary

PALM BAY THINKS PINK WITH LUNETTA ROSÉ

Palm Bay International has introduced a new sparkling rosé, Lunetta Rosé, produced by Cavit. The wine is crisp and fruity; the cuvée is Chardonnay blended with Trentino red grape varieties including Lagrein, Teroldego and Pinot Noir. Lunetta Rosé hopes to capture the success of Lunetta Prosecco, launched in 2011.

palmbay.com/lunetta

SRP: $11.99

 

TREASURY WINE ESTATES INVITES MILLENIAL WOMEN TO BE. PLAYFUL

Be. is a new line of California wines from Treasury Wine Estates that hit stores this spring. The line is distinctive in being the first line created by millennial women for millennial women, offering fun, playful yet chic wines for everyday enjoyment. The line features Be. Fresh Chardonnay; Be. Flirty Pink Moscato; Be. Bright Pinot Grigio; and Be. Brilliant Riesling.

bewinery.com

SRP: $9.99 – $12.99

 

TEMPTING EL FURIOSO TEMPRANILLO

As one of the most famous varietals of Spain, Tempranillo is a rich and spicy wine with fruitforward characteristics of raspberry and plum. El Furioso Tempranillo 2009, from Spain’s Duero Valley, is best with grilled meats and spicy dishes. The wine is fresh, with a touch of spice and well-balanced acidity. El Furioso is marketed nationally by Antares Wine Company.

antareswine.com

707-265-4050

VNC COCKTAILS NOW OFFER 200ml MINIS

The VnC Cocktails line has been offered in 1L sizes since the New Zealand brand’s launch. Now the Ready To Pour cocktails—in flavors including Margarita, Vodka Mojito and Pomegranate Cosmo—come in a convenient 200ml size, complete with plastic cup. Great for on-the-go or sporting events. Available in 6x1L format or 12x200ml format, all 14% ABV.

vnccocktails.com

SRP 200ml: $3.45

 

INNIS & GUNN DEBUT IRISH WHISKEY CASK STOUT

Innis & Gunn, the Scottish craft beer maker, has brought its limited-edition Irish Whiskey Cask beer to the U.S. Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Cask is the first beer aged in former triple-distilled Irish whiskey barrels. This is Innis & Gunn’s fifth limited-edition release, and the beer is robust with intense aromas of dark chocolate enhanced with the brand’s signature vanilla and oak notes.

innisandgunn.com

SRP 4-pack: $12.99

MILAGRO LAUNCHES NEWEST INNOVATION—UNICO

Milagro Tequila recently introduced Unico, its super-premium, limited-edition blend. A “kitchen distillery” was built in Jalisco to produce 5,000 liters of micro-distilled silver that serves as a base for Unico; that base is then blended with selections of aged reserves so the tequilas can marry. The unique bottle features the signature “piña” hand-blown inside the glass.

facebook.com/milagro

SRP: $300

SHOCK TOP BELGIAN WHEAT ADDS SEASONAL LEMON SHANDY

As the weather gets warmer, Shock Top Belgian Wheat introduces its latest seasonal offering, Shock Top Lemon Shandy, available through the end of July. Shock Top Lemon Shandy is a unique interpretation of a classic style—smooth wheat beer complemented by spices and natural lemonade flavor. Available in six- and 12-packs of bottles and 12-packs of cans, as well as on draught.

shocktopbeer.com

 

Blended Scotch Comeback? A Struggling Category Sees Salvation Through Premiumization

Posted on | April 28, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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Dewar's signature cocktails: Old Fashioned, Blood & Sand, Dewar's Smash

For decades, it appeared that blended Scotch whisky, the stuff of highballs and whisky sours, would end not with a bang but a whimper, suffering steady declines at the hands of an aging consumer base, the white spirits boom and aspirational young drinkers. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), in 2011, 7.6 million cases of blended Scotch were sold, representing an overall decline of 2.6% from the previous year—the largest decrease of any spirit and the latest in a long series of negatives.

That said, this lumbering category still has a sparkle in its eye: Super-premium offerings of the most expensive blended Scotch—including brands like Chivas 18 and Johnnie Walker Blue—enjoyed dramatic 66.9% growth in 2011. The future for blended Scotch whisky appears to lie in premiumization and appealing to single-malt fans. Growing from a mere 2.6% of total Scotch volume in 1990, single malts accounted for an impressive 13% by 2010 according to Impact Databank. According to DISCUS, single malts grew 9.5% by volume from 2010 to 2011 alone. So where do blends go from here?

Too Big to Fail

Blended Scotch volumes are suffering greatest at the entry level, posting drops in excess of 4% at both the value and premium levels according to DISCUS. But this is one part of a much larger story, according to J.C. Iglesias, director of marketing for Scotch whisky and Cognac at Pernod Ricard USA. “The blended category has seen long-term declines,” says Iglesias. “But there are two different stories going on: what I call the age-statement and non-age-statement blended Scotches. There is the hypothesis that consumers go to a shelf and when they see an age statement they perceive quality, and so those brands are relatively healthy.” In fact, Chivas Regal, which offers blended Scotch in ages of 12, 18 and 25, managed a 1.3% gain overall for 2010.

According to Iglesias, the age-statement blends among luxury brands project the image that aspirational drinkers want to portray. “When you want to say something positive to your peers in public, you don’t want to purchase a $15 bottle of Scotch,” he says. “I think everyone is doing well with their middle ground—the $50 and up blends.” Indeed, considering the precipitous tumble by former leaders like Cutty Sark and J&B, higher-end marques will have to bail out the category.

Part of the upscale aspiration for Dewar’s—which includes the iconic White Label as well as Dewar’s 12 and 18—has included redesigned upscale packaging. “Dewar’s has benefited from the growth of the Scotch category in the premium-plus and single-malt segments. Dewar’s higher marques have experienced growth, and in particular Dewar’s 12 has grown double digits in the past year,” says Juan Rovira, chief marketing officer for Bacardi U.S.A.

Art Appreciation

Nearly all blended Scotch producers agree that education remains a key to keeping blends relevant. It appears that many new drinkers are coming to the Scotch category from the top, rather than working their way through highballs, blended Scotch and then moving to malts. In order to get them to consider Scotch outside of the abundance of single malts, it’s critical to relate the importance of the blender’s art.

“There is a lot of education to be done in the Scotch category,” says Adam Rosen, director of Scotch for Diageo, which includes luxury blended Scotch behemoth Johnnie Walker. “We have many single malts that make up Walker, and they come together to create a specific flavor profile that has amazing consistency. A single malt is a beautiful solo instrument, but with the art of blending you can compose a symphony in a way that one distillery can’t.”

With an array of expressions, denoted by both age and their popular “color” label calls, including Red, Black, Green, Gold and Blue, Johnnie Walker is well positioned to educate on the quality and diversity available in blended Scotch. According to Rosen, this is accomplished through programs like the Striding Man Society and an invitational mentorship program called the House of Walker.

The prestige of blending is also getting a boost among serious Scotch enthusiasts from smaller producers like John Glaser, founder of Compass Box Whisky Co.  Glaser’s latest blended Scotch endeavor, Great King Street, debuted in the U.S. in fall 2011. “We all know blends are on a downward trend. When you look at the cheaper blends in particular it is a horror show,” says Glaser. “Blends need a revival because people think they are all bad and only single malts can be good.”

Getting down to specifics, blended Scotch is a blend of malt whiskey, made in pot stills from only malted barley, and grain whisky, a lighter whiskey that can use various grains and is generally made in column stills. By varying the recipe, including the ratio of the whisky types, and selecting different age and quality of casks, the blender changes the final whisky. For Great King Street, “we are sourcing from the best casks, including first-fill grain whisky, and some malts coming from virgin oak and Sherry barrels, so they are more active casks. And, we are using 50% malt, where most premium blends only go as high as 40%,” explains Glaser.

As in so many other spirit categories, blended Scotch seems to be undergoing a blossoming of points of distinction. Campbeltown Loch, for instance, features an exceptionally high malt content for a whisky at its price point. Grand Macnish 12 Year Old, the first in a planned series of age-statement bottlings, was aged in both Sherry and bourbon casks. Cluny, one of America’s top-selling domestically bottled blended Scotches, is composed of more than 30 malt whiskies from all over Scotland, plus aged grain whiskies. Glen Salen was created specifically for North America, aiming to deliver the flavor and interest of malt whisky but at a competitive price; exemplifying the “blended malt” genre, it contains only malt whiskies—from 35 different distilleries.

Other blenders have tinkered with their recipes and explored new expressions, to appeal to drinkers accustomed to bigger flavor and more body. Katy Stollery, global public relations manager for The Famous Grouse, distributed by Rémy Cointreau USA, explains, “The Black Grouse is a blend of The Famous Grouse with peated malts to create a smoky but smooth whisky. This is proving very popular with a younger audience.”

Go Long

While many blended Scotch drinkers take their high-end blends neat or on the rocks, the affordability and drinkability of blended Scotches makes them ideal for usage occasions that don’t compete directly with malt whisky, like the highball. “We are encouraging people to drink Great King Street as a highball, a long drink. A classic highball, made with ice, club soda, a dash of bitters and a lemon twist would certainly be the signature drink,” says Glaser, citing the current vogue for such high-end highballs in Japan.

Relatively speaking, blended Scotch may also be suffering because it has remained largely on the sidelines during the current cocktail craze. “There is not much point in promoting 25 Chivas cocktails that will never see the light of day,” says Pernod Ricard’s Iglesias. “But we do use Chivas and Coke, ginger ale and soda as a sort of ‘on ramp.’ Add a Rob Roy and Old-Fashioned to that, and it’s about all you need to know.”

Whether in a highball or on the rocks, these simple, classic ways to enjoy Scotch are bing fueled by popular culture, notably the 1960s-inspired hit series Mad Men. “We want to stay relevant for today, and properties like Mad Men are actually helping,” says Diageo’s Rosen. “These guys are drinking Scotch on the rocks, and that is tremendous for Walker because something they embody is status, masculinity and success.”

Other occasions that would make single-malt lovers cringe, but seem perfectly acceptable for blended Scotch, include a stay in the freezer.  According to Rosen, Johnnie Walker Gold Label, an 18-year-old blend, has a contingent of freezer-loving fans. And Famous Grouse offers Snow Grouse, actually a blended grain whisky, designed to be light in flavor and sipped from the freezer. Consumers may be demanding more than ever from blended Scotch, but by promoting quality and innovation, leading brands are keeping the art of the blend alive.  

Baffled by ‘Blended’?

In November 2011, Compass Box Whisky Co. bottled a whisky known as the “The Last Vatted Malt,” a farewell to historic Scotch labeling terms like “vatted malt” and “pure malt,” traditionally used to describe a whisky made from two or more single malts. With The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 in full effect, these descriptions became prohibited from Scotch whisky labels. While the new law aims to better distinguish the five styles of Scotch whisky, some see a heavy hand in protecting “single-malt,” resulting in an extravagant use of the term “blended” across all-malt, all-grain and malt-grain whiskies.

Here is a thumbnail summary of the definitions laid out in The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 (SWR), which replaced the Scotch Whisky Order 1990:

• The two basic types of Scotch Whisky, from which all blends are made, are Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Single Grain Scotch Whisky. In practice there is no change in the way that Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Single Grain Scotch Whisky must be produced.

• Single Malt Scotch Whisky means a Scotch Whisky produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery by batch distillation in pot stills.

• Single Grain Scotch Whisky means a Scotch Whisky distilled at a single distillery but which, in addition to water and malted barley, may also be produced from whole grains of other malted or unmalted cereals.

• Blended Scotch Whisky is defined under the SWR as a combination of one or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies with one or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies, which accords with traditional practice.

• Blended Malt Scotch Whisky means a blend of two or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies from different distilleries.

• Blended Grain Scotch Whisky means a blend of two or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies     from different distilleries.

US Scanner Data Results

Posted on | April 27, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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Key trends for US tracked channel scanner data for the four-week period ending 4/14 are as follows.

Note: we would focus on market share trends or 2-yr avg. sales growth for this Nielsen cycle given this year’s 4-week period included Easter, which was not in last year’s, which particularly distorted results for beverages.

Alcohol: Beer category sales growth was +7.8% (2-yr avg. of +2.0. ABI sales were +7.8% (+1.3% 2-yr avg.) and TAP sales +2.9% (+0.1% 2-yr avg.). ABI’s share was flat, TAP lost 131 bps of share, while Crown gained 15 bps. Wine category sales remained solid, up 10.6% (2-yr avg. of +5.2%). STZ’s wine sales accelerated, up +12.0% (2-yr avg. of +3.2%), and gained 18 bps of share, vs. its 52-week trend of 33 bps of share losses.

Source: Morgan Stanley

Apr 26th

State Taps Into Brewers

Posted on | April 26, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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In a blow to New York’s growing number of small beer crafters, the state has quietly ended tax and fee exemptions for in-state brewers after it was sued by an out-of-state distributor.

The announcement stunned local brewers, many of whom learned in an email that two treasured exemptions-worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to some breweries-had been declared unconstitutional by a state court on March 28 in response to a lawsuit by Shelton Brothers, a Massachusetts-based distribution company.

All beer sold in New York will now be subject to state and city excise taxes, ending the exemption for the first 200,000 barrels of production. In addition, each type of beer released by a brewery will be subject to an annual $150 registration fee. Previously, New York breweries were exempt if they produced fewer than 1,500 barrels.

Brewers across the state worried that the changes could dim one of New York’s brightest industries, even as they admitted the decision wasn’t entirely unfair.

“We were caught by surprise, but I don’t believe that the decision is necessarily wrong,” said David Katleski, president of the New York State Brewers Association, who also owns Empire Brewing Company in Syracuse.

But he warned that the new costs would have a “major impact” on the ability of companies to continue expanding, noting that prices of ingredients had also spiked in recent months.

“The margins are getting thinner and thinner,” he said.

New York’s brewing industry has experienced dramatic growth in recent years. When the brewers association was founded in 2003, there were 48 breweries, Mr. Katleski estimated. Today there are 89-with 42 more in the planning stages.

Now, distributors will be charged 14 cents per gallon in state taxes and an additional 12 cents per gallon for beer sold in New York City. “Distributor” is defined as the first person to sell the beer, meaning that if a brewery sells beer to a distributor based in New York state, it is responsible for the state tax.

If the distributor then sells to a retailer in New York City, the distributor is responsible for the city tax.

Combined with the new $150 fee per label, the new charges cast an unusual pall on an industry that had been singled out by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a pride of the state. Many new breweries specialize in producing small batches of carefully crafted flavors, sometimes cultivating six or seven variations on a single style such as India Pale Ale. Now there will be a penalty for such creativity, brewers said.

Barrier Brewing Company, which began selling beer in 2010, now produces 42 varieties, though it produces only 500 barrels of beer a year. “It’s potentially a tremendous charge,” said co-owner Evan Klein.

The excise tax “kind of makes sense” he said. “It’s unfortunate, but at least you’re being taxed on a certain production level.”

By contrast, the registration fee is “like you’re being punished for having diversity in your product,” he said. “It doesn’t make much sense.”

The State Liquor Authority has collected $584,550 in registration fees this year, said spokesman William Crowley. He defended the fee, saying it was designed “to protect public health and safety by ensuring the authenticity of the product; ensuring labels are not misleading or deceptive; to provide consumers with accurate information” and to fund the authority.

Many brewers blamed Shelton Brothers, which brought the suit. Initially, the company was contesting a ruling by the SLA outlawing a Christmas label that pictured Santa Claus, said company President Daniel Shelton.

During the course of the lawsuit, it added a claim that the registration fees were unfair, he said. “My goal was always just to get the label fees knocked out because there’s no reason for them,” he said, adding that his company works in 45 states and New York’s registration charges are the most onerous.

Mr. Shelton said he had been hoping to join with New York’s breweries to work to repeal the law. Instead, he said he received threats and was called the Antichrist in at least one email.

“We’re just saying, ‘Look, it’s only fair that we shouldn’t have to pay the tax while you don’t pay the tax.’ It’s that simple,” he said.

In three weeks, Barrier Brewing Company, based in Oceanside, is planning to open a new facility that will triple its capacity, Mr. Klein said. He estimated that the company could now be liable for $20,000 in additional taxes and fees.

The Captain Lawrence Brewing Company in Elmsford recently completed a $1.5 million expansion that increased capacity from about 9,000 barrels a year to more than 40,000, said owner and head brewer Scott Vaccaro. “Then we get hit with this,” he said, calling himself “disappointed.”

If the new brewery produces 20,000 barrels of beer next year, Mr. Vaccaro estimated the company’s liability at $87,000.

He criticized state officials for not alerting brewers earlier and working to have a program in place to ameliorate its effects.

“It’s a growing industry that’s adding jobs continually,” he said. “This is no way to keep it on the right track.”

Source: WSJ

By SOPHIA HOLLANDER

Apr 25th

A Rum With a Story to Tell: Bacardi Turns 150 Years Old

Posted on | April 25, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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One of Cuba's oldest drinks, the Authentic Bacardi Mojito

Each year, there are more Bacardi cocktails consumed than there are people who live on our planet. It’s sheer volume combined with its legendary history—this year Bacardi celebrates its 150th birthday—puts the rum giant in a category of one within the spirits world.

A Foundation of Innovation

Bacardi’s well-deserved reputation as an innovator began on day one with Don Facundo Bacardí Massó in Cuba in 1862. “He created the first light, smooth rum in an era when rum was rough and untamed,” explains Toby Whitmoyer, vice president, brand managing director, Rums, Bacardi U.S.A., Inc. “He revolutionized what rum could be.”

The meticulous Don Facundo introduced controlled fermentation and charcoal filtration for reducing and removing unwanted flavors. He was the first to identify and use an isolated strain of yeast he discovered in the sugarcane fields in Santiago de Cuba (the same strain still used today). After much experimentation, Don Facundo determined that high quality blackstrap molasses was the finest raw ingredient for yielding the best rum. And he was the first to blend and age rums in barrels to achieve better taste and smoothness.

At the Cutting Edge of Mixology

Bacardi grew and evolved over the years to become the largest privately-held spirits company in the world, one that today sells more than 200 brands and labels in over 150 countries around the world. Yet the Bacardi brand remains at the heart of the company’s vast international portfolio, with a track record hard to beat. In 1979—in spite of wars, American Prohibition, the Cuban revolution and subsequently being forced to relinquish assets and leave the country—Bacardi Rum became the number-one selling premium spirit on the planet. But more than just supplying a great quantity of what consumers were drinking, Bacardi changed the way we drank.

“Bacardi has played a critical role in creating the modern mixology culture,” says Whitmoyer.

The original Daiquiri (a blend of Bacardi and lime juice) was created by an American in Cuba, in 1898, and Bacardi was the base of the original Piña Colada. (In an interesting court verdict in 1936, a judge ruled that the Bacardi Cocktail, a Daiquiri with a grenadine splash, must be made with Bacardi rum.) The rum-and-cola Cuba Libre, a celebratory drink born in Cuba to toast the end of the Spanish-American War around 1900, remains the number one cocktail in the world today. Though the Mojito traces its roots to a 15th century drink called the Draque, the first recorded Mojito recipe is Bacardi’s original. In the fickle, ever-changing world of mixology, Bacardi cocktails have unusual staying power.

At the Flavor Forefront

Bacardi pioneered the category of flavored rums with the introduction of Bacardi Limón in 1995. The most recent, in a long list of flavor extensions, are Arctic Grape, Wolf Berry (aka Goji berry) & Blueberry and Sapote-infused Black Raspberry. “We are excited about continuing our successful line of superfruit infusions like our previously introduced Dragon Berry and Rock Coconut,” says Whitmoyer. “Our line of flavored rums  allows bartenders to bring natural flavors and aromas with a light body and smooth taste,” says Juan Coronado, Bacardi Brand Master. “Bacardi’s flavors bring new flavor possibilities to the cocktail glass, going from light and beautiful citrus notes to exotic fruits like Dragon fruit.”

Within two years of creating the legendary Bacardi Breezer in 1988 (designed to compete in the wine cooler category in the U.S.), it was ranked third among ready-to-drink spirits brands. Today, Bacardi offers a wide selection of cocktails: “Between the party drinks and the classic cocktail line—five of which are an RTD format—and the new low-calorie cocktail line we are unveiling this spring, we aim to deliver convenience options and cover a wide range of consumer need,” says Whitmoyer.

Another first: Bacardi Wolf Berry and Bacardi Black Razz packs feature temperature and black light activated labels—when they go in the freezer or are exposed to black light, different images appear. “It’s the first time a large company has brought a packaging innovation like this to market,” says Derek Hopkins, senior vice president, sales, Bacardi U.S.A. “It’s highly attractive to consumers, lending a ‘cool’ factor and a point of differentiation, and both on- and off-premise retailers can leverage that appeal to attract consumers.”

Dark Rum Boom

Compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. has historically not been a dark rum market. “While we have had a reasonably developed gold rum and spiced rum market, the traditional dark rums have remained a very tiny category here,” explains Whitmoyer. That, however, is showing signs of changing.

“High-end, dark rums and spiced rums are fueling the growth of the rum category,” says Hopkins (albeit from a small base). He points to Bacardi 8 and Bacardi’s relatively new OakHeart Spiced Rum as showing the most dramatic growth. “This is in large part because of interest from the mixology community and the overall resurgence of interest in dark spirits. Consumers have clearly elevated their perception of rum, and dark rums are now part of their consideration set alongside bourbons and whiskies.”

Coronado adds, “The dark Rum segment will continue to grow, as more consumers and bartenders become more knowledgeable; they understand that a rum that has been aged for 8 years is equivalent to a 18 year old whiskey due to the warm climate in the Caribbean.”

Bacardi’s dark rum portfolio got a big boost with the introduction of OakHeart last July. “As the rum leader, we felt it was important for us to bring out a spiced rum expression,” says Whitmoyer. Within 90 days of hitting the market, OakHeart became the fourth largest spiced rum in the U.S.

“Compared with other spiced rums, OakHeart has a slightly more mature taste; it’s balanced and less sweet with a hint of smoke that comes from aging in charred barrels,” Whitmoyer explains. “It’s unique in that it can be consumed neat or on the rocks, not simply in cocktails.”

Staying Relevant in the Bars

As hard as it is to visualize today, there was a time when vodka was barely a blip on the bartender’s radar—where clear spirits were concerned, rum was king. Yet vodka’s ascendance is not a bad thing, says Hopkins: “Spirits have gained significant share of total beverage alcohol consumption, stealing share away from beer. The overall size of the pie has gotten bigger and both vodka and rum are benefiting from this. In addition, the popularity of vodka has been good for white spirits as a whole.”

Bacardi’s focus today is reminding the trade—particularly bartenders—why rum is distinct: “Vodka is undoubtedly a very flexible spirit in cocktails, but rum is a really unique ingredient; it brings that sense of fun and energy; it creates cocktails that are more than the sum of their parts.”

To help keep this message alive in the on-premise, Bacardi holds a Legacy Cocktail Competition to identify the best drink—this year’s winner was from New York City.

“Bacardi’s brand master program in the U.S. works to actively train and educate bartenders across the country about the versatility of rum and our fantastic story,” Whitmoyer describes. “Few people in the industry realize that Bacardi is 150 years old—we want to spend this year telling our story in a more direct way.”

The company has metamorphosized dramatically since its founding, but its priorities have not changed. Bacardi’s focus remains the core rum portfolio, and the continued growth of base brand, Bacardi Superior, Whimoyer emphasizes: “We see a growing interest in rum—this is where we think the action is.”

Bar Talk: The Middleman

Posted on | April 25, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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Daniel Brancusi, Vitae, New York City

When a restaurant opens in Midtown Manhattan, a suited crowd, in search of post-corporate unwinding, is a probable demographic. Elegant newcomer Vitae is no exception. During “cocktail hour,” the x-shaped table in the entry is packed with movers and shakers sipping the likes of ZD Napa Chardonnay and Parusso Barolo—there are 30 wines available by the glass—and sharing charcuterie plates. How does bartender Daniel Brancusi, an alum of José Andrés and B.R. Guest restaurants, reach this business-centric crew? By simply giving them what they want.

THE BEVERAGE NETWORK: Unlike, say, an edgy East Village bar, where patrons seek out adventurous cocktails, guests at Vitae seem more likely to play it safe with martinis. How do you navigate predictable predilections?

DANIEL BRANCUSI: Very carefully. There aren’t that many wild drinks on the menu, but we cement it with classics. Many mixologists create these crazy cocktails without looking back. I always want to be rooted. Our menu progresses through cocktail eras, starting with the Fish House Punch from the 1790s. We’ll offer a modern spin on the Sazerac [the El Gallito with jalapeno-infused tequila, mezcal, hibiscus cordial, mole and celery bitters and Herbsaint] but then the staff also needs to understand how to make a proper Sazerac.

TBN: So educating the staff is key?

DB: The staff has embraced the cocktail program, so they know how to sell it. But they also have an understanding of the classics. If a guest asks for something with Nonino grappa, we have to know what to do with it. Some bars have Pernod sitting on the shelf but they don’t know how to use it in a drink. Whether a guest wants something with bourbon that is not sweet or with tequila that is sweet, we have to be able to deliver.

TBN: You used to work for José Andrés. How do you feel that experience influences you behind the bar at Vitae?

DB: We used to do a salt air, an essence, on the margarita there. But time is an issue here. These guys aren’t going to wait around for drinks. We can’t be as serious. We have a Painkiller [the classic rum and cream of coconut drink adapted from George and Marie Myrick’s circa 1971 recipe] but at the same time there’s an attention to detail. We make our own orgeat, tonic and ginger beer.

TBN: What are the most popular drinks on the menu?

DB: The highest-selling is the Bourbon Sidecar [with Elijah Craig 12-year bourbon instead of the usual Cognac] and then the Bayou Buck [Tito’s vodka, St. George absinthe, honey-ginger syrup, fresh lime juice, ginger beer and Peychaud’s Bitters]. I don’t think of it as a vodka cocktail, though, but as an absinthe and ginger drink that has vodka. If things don’t work we take them off the menu. It’s evolving. It should always be evolving.

TBN: How do you encourage your guests, who might be set in their ways, to try something outside their comfort zone?

DB: To push boundaries in Midtown, maybe this sounds corny, but you need to stay true to yourself. Maybe they’re asking for a martini, but you want that martini to be so well made that they’ll trust you, and then the next time they’ll maybe try a Sidecar, and then the next time they’ll try a Negroni. People are jaded by the eccentricities of cocktails, not classics done right.

 

Do EU Organic Rules For Wine Leave Glass Half Empty?

Posted on | April 24, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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* Sulphite content cut not enough, say organic producers

* Alternative methods to preserve wine need to be developed

* Organic wine has marketing appeal

Italian vintners who avoid chemicals are disappointed with the new EU rules for labelling wines organic, saying the long-awaited criteria are too “lax”.

After lengthy debate, the European Commission agreed in February on a set of conditions which will allow a wine made from organic grapes to be called “organic wine”. Such a label is expected to lure health-conscious consumers around the world.

Reaction from Italy, Europe’s second-biggest grower of organic grapes after Spain, was mixed: with cheers from the agriculture ministry and scepticism from farmers who put a lot of effort and funds into making chemicals-free wine.

“The rules are too broad. With my own rules, I am much more restrictive than Brussels,” Gregorio Dell’Adami de Tarczal, owner of an organic farm in Tuscany and winemaker, told Reuters at a wine fair at the end of March.

New rules for the much-contested use of sulphites in wine are the most thorny issue.

De Tarczal, who makes 30,000 bottles of wine and 2,000 bottles of grappa a year from organic grapes he grows without chemical pesticides or fertilizers, said he already adds only 20-25 mg of sulphites per litre, way below the new EU rules.

Health-conscious consumers tend to shy away from products containing sulphites which are added as preservatives to wine, foods and cosmetics but can be an irritant which causes rashes and wheezing in people who are sensitive to them.

Under the new EU regulation which kicks in with this year’s wine harvest, maximum sulphite content for organic wine will be cut by 50 mg per litre from the levels allowed for conventional dry wines and by 30 mg per litre for sweet wines.

That means newly labelled dry red organic wine will be allowed a sulphite content of up to 100 mg per litre, while up to 150 mg per litre of sulphites could be added to organic white and rose dry wines.

“We are not satisfied,” Domenico Bosco, wine expert at Italy’s biggest farmers’ association Coldiretti, said.

“We wanted regulations to include a reduction of sulphite content by at least a half. To start with a 50 percent cut, but aiming at a complete elimination of the use of sulphites in the organic wine within three to five years,” Bosco said.

OLD AND NEW WAYS TO KEEP WINE FRESH

In the meantime, new techniques will be developed and sharpened to allow producers to preserve wine without using sulphites, for example, injection of inert gases to protect wine from bacteria, he said.

Some winemakers rely on the old methods to prevent wine from going sour.

Claudia Carretti, who with her husband makes what they call natural wines, said they do without added sulphites and use instead an ancient long maceration process with grape skins left fermenting together with other grape materials for a long time.

“We have wine which is 7 years old and it’s a proof that the ancient technique works,” said Carretti whose family makes about 20,000 bottles of natural wine at their Podere Pradarolo estate near Parma in central Italy.

For Bosco, the new rules also mean a missed marketing opportunity for organic wine makers who had counted on more stringent criteria to give them a competitive advantage over conventional wines.

Makers of good conventional wine in Italy, Spain and southern France where natural conditions help farmers grow healthy grapes, keep sulphite contents close to new limits set for organic wine, he said.

Italy needs to boost production of organic wine if it wants to compete with other major winemakers in the small but rapidly growing organic wine market, especially in northern Europe where consumers are very attentive to healthy food and drinks, winemakers and experts said.

“Having an organic product is a major plus for expanding in Nordic markets,” Tiziana Sarnari, wine analyst at Italian agricultural think tank ISMEA said.

About 200 million litres of wine are made from organic grapes a year in Italy, or just about 5 percent of total annual wine output in the world’s second-biggest wine producer.

Organic vineyards occupied just 30,341 hectares in Italy in 2010, with another 21,931 hectares being converted into organic farming, against 670,107 hectares under all vineyards in the country, according to Italian organic farming database SINAB.

Source: Reuters

By Svetlana Kovalyova

Apr 24th

Sommeliers Embrace Chilean Wine at Corkbuzz Master Class

Posted on | April 23, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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On April 10th, over 30 Guild of Sommeliers members attended the Wines of Chile Master Class at Corkbuzz Wine Studio, led by Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer. He was joined by fellow Master Sommeliers Laura Maniec (co-owner of Corkbuzz Wine Studio) and Cameron Douglas to discuss the four flights of wine featuring Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Carmenère from various regions of Chile.

Third Annual Drink Ribera Grand Tasting Comes to NYC

Posted on | April 23, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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On March 12th, “Drink Ribera. Drink Spain.”, which is the U.S. marketing campaign of the Consejo Regulador of Ribera del Duero, hosted over 100 wineries from the Ribera del Duero region of Spain at the third annual Drink Ribera Grand Tasting at the Trump Soho. The event attracted over 400 industry professionals and guests.

 
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