Liquor Industry News 3-18-13

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Brewers Expect to Resolve Antitrust Issues

 

Source: WSJ

By BRENT KENDALL

Mar 15th

 

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV BUD -0.86% and Mexico’s Grupo Modelo GMODELO.MX -0.33% SAB said Friday they expect to resolve antitrust issues raised by the Justice Department about the two beer makers’ proposed merger.

 

In a joint court filing, the parties said they have made “substantial progress” toward a resolution, based on revised terms of the merger that the companies announced after the Justice Department sued to block the original deal in late January. They asked a Washington, D.C., federal judge to postpone proceedings in the case until April 9, saying the extra time “will likely enable the parties to complete their discussions.”

 

The parties had previously requested a stay of proceedings that was set to expire March 19.

 

AB InBev is seeking to acquire the 50% of Modelo it doesn’t already own. With the revised deal terms, AB InBev offered to sell an additional $2.9 billion of assets to Constellation Brands Inc. STZ +2.33% in a bid to rescue the proposed $20.1 billion Modelo takeover.

 

Under the new terms, AB InBev agreed to sell Modelo’s Piedras Negras brewery in Mexico to Constellation, which would also secure perpetual U.S. licensing rights to five Modelo brands.

 

The beer companies said the revised deal would preserve Modelo as an independent competitor in the U.S. market and address the issues raised by the government. Constellation also is involved in the settlement talks.

 

AB InBev, owner of Bud Light and Budweiser, and MillerCoors, maker of the Coors Light brand, are the two leading players in the U.S. beer market. Modelo, whose Corona is the best-selling imported beer in the U.S., runs a distant third.

 

 

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AB InBev, DOJ Seek New Stay Amid $20B Merger Deal Talks

 

Source: Law 360

By Melissa Lipman

March 15, 2013

 

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, Grupo Modelo SAB de CV, Constellation Brands Inc. and the U.S. Department of Justice have made “substantial progress” in their talks to settle their antitrust fight over InBev’s proposed $20.1 billion Modelo buy, the parties said Friday as they pushed to extend the stay of the case.

 

The judge overseeing the case originally stayed the dispute in late February after the DOJ said it needed more time to review a revised proposed antitrust fix that would send Modelo’s U.S. business to Constellation. The original stay is due to expire through March 19, but the parties have now asked the court to extend that to April 9.

 

“The parties . have made substantial progress toward a resolution of this matter based on the terms of the revised transaction,” the motion said. “An extension of the stay will likely enable the parties to complete their discussions regarding the possibility of a resolution.”

 

In June, AB InBev and Modelo announced their plans to create a global powerhouse in the ever-consolidating beer world. Together, the companies would hold 46 percent of the U.S. beer market, according to the DOJ.

 

But in late January, the DOJ sued to block the combination. At the time, Antitrust Division chief Bill Baer warned that removing Modelo from the competitive landscape would make it even easier for AB InBev and the other “remaining beer companies to engage in coordinated leader-follower pricing strategies in the future.”

 

Just two weeks later, AB InBev agreed to send more of Modelo’s U.S. assets to Constellation in a bid to secure the DOJ’s approval.

 

AB InBev had already planned to sell Grupo Modelo’s half of its U.S. distribution joint venture with Constellation, Crown Imports, to the company for $1.85 billion. But the new agreement would completely divest Modelo’s U.S. operations, the companies said at the time.

 

Now, in addition to getting full ownership of Crown, Constellation will pay another $2.9 billion for Modelo’s Piedras Negras brewery in Mexico, as well as perpetual licenses to Modelo’s brands. The original arrangement included only a supply and licensing agreement that AB InBev could buy back in 10 years.

 

Because the brewery near the Texas border currently only meets 60 percent of the U.S. import demand for Corona and Modelo’s other brands, the deal also lays out a three-year transition services agreement to give Constellation time to expand the Piedras Negras plant, the companies said.

 

“We believe this revised agreement addresses all of the concerns raised by the U.S. Department of Justice in its lawsuit, leaving no doubt about Constellation’s Crown beer division’s complete independence and ability to compete,” AB InBev and Constellation said in a joint statement at the time.

 

AB InBev is represented by Steven Sunshine, Greg Craig, James Keyte, Ian John, Jess Biggio, Karen Hoffman Lent, John Seward and Steven Albertson of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP.

 

Modelo is represented by Richard J. Stark and Yonatan Even of Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP.

 

The proposed intervenors are represented by Margaret H. Warner, Raymond A. Jacobsen Jr. and Jon B. Dubrow of McDermott Will & Emery LLP.

 

The case is U.S. v. Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV et al., case number 1:13-cv-00127, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

 

 

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‘Simply unacceptable’: Unite slams Diageo and peers over UK tax loophole

 

Source: Beverage Daily

By Ben Bouckley

15-Mar-2013

 

Unite the Union says the use of a legal loophole that it claims allows large multinationals such as Diageo to reduce tax payments on UK profits ‘simply isn’t acceptable’.

 

In an article on Diageo published in its ‘Tax Gap’ article series in February 2009, The Guardian noted that the giant UK plc. paid £43m/year ($65m) over the previous decade in UK corporation tax.

 

The paper said the 10-year tax bill would be nearer £144m/year if it reflected Diageo’s actual physical UK presence, but that the firm only paid taxing on profits said to arise in the country.

 

Diageo has also, quite legally, cut its UK tax bill by transferring legal ownership of brands such as Johnnie Walker (in 2000) and J&B (2006) to Dutch subsidiary Diageo Brands BV, the paper noted.

 

This Monday Unite national officer for food and drink, Jenny Formby attacked what she claimed was Diageo’s exploitation of a tax loophole.

 

“Diageo is extremely successful, and last year profits jumped by 32% to a colossal £3.1bn, yet the company prefers to pay its tax via Amsterdam, to avoid paying what is due in this country,” she said.

 

Age of huge public cutbacks

 

Formby told BeverageDaily.com today that Unite’s concern over this kind of tax loophole, such practices are glossed in a recent comment piece in The Guardian , was “well-rehearsed, and as can be seen from the recent campaign against Starbucks, widely supported by the public”.

 

Formby added:”We’re not suggesting it isn’t legal, simply that it isn’t acceptable that hugely profitable multinationals can avoid paying tax on profits made in the UK, clearly part of a broader political debate in an age of huge cutbacks in public spending on vital services.”

 

Diageo moved a number of its brands to The Netherlands in 1998, establishing a new marketing center there, and transferred other brands there later to ensure closeness to senior marketing staff.

 

A Diageo spokeswoman told BeverageDaily.com that the drinks giant’s significant commercial operations in The Netherlands encompassed management, marketing and supply of key brands.

 

“Our Amsterdam operations have been fully disclosed to and reviewed by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and we have paid the tax deemed appropriate. This was endorsed by a National Audit Office (NAO) review in 2012,” she said.

 

200 staff worked at the global marketing centre of excellence, the spokeswoman added, while a number of Diageo’s acquired brands were based in Amsterdam, “in order to also benefit from this centre of excellence”.

 

Diageo’s Dutch logistical hub

 

She said: “The Netherlands also represents an important logistical centre for Diageo. The bulk of our product is shipped around the world from Rotterdam.”

 

Discussing Unite’s concerns regarding Diageo’s Monday announcement that it plans to overhaul its global supply and procurement operations – with job losses likely – Formby said her union planned to seek assurances on jobs at a local level across all UK sites.

 

“We’re always concerned about possible impacts on jobs when this kind of restructuring is carried out,” Formby said, “as workers inevitably pay the price with their jobs, although of course we very much hope there will be no impact in the UK”.

 

Diageo did not respond to Formby’s demand that it conduct itself in a “more responsible way” and provide UK workers with assurances on jobs, and simply said discussions with Unite were ongoing.

 

 

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Tennessee: Bill bans energy drinks wherever alcohol served

 

Source: the Pacer

By Mary Jean Hall

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

 

Jager bombs, Vodka-Red Bulls, Electric Screwdrivers and other energy drink cocktails may soon be illegal for restaurants and bars to serve if House Bill 347 passes through the state legislature.

 

HB 347 by Rep. McManus prohibits the sale of energy drinks at a business with a license or permit to serve or sell liquor by the drink. SB 110 is the companion bill.

 

The bill would designate the offense as a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by fine and suspension of an offender’s license or permit to serve or sell liquor by the drink.

 

The legislation considers an “energy drink” as any beverage that contains methylxanthines, and whose main purpose is to boost a person’s energy.

 

Some local business owners, including Johnny Nanney, owner of Cadillac’s, see the bill as detrimental to their business. Cadillac’s is a local bar on the corner of Lindell and Church Streets.

 

“It would definitely hurt our business,” Nanney said. “It’s a significant amount of revenue. Bomb shots with energy drinks are probably our most popular drinks.”

Nanney estimates that Cadillac’s sells about ten cases of energy drinks each week. He also stated that Cadillac’s has never noted any consumer health problems with the alcohol and energy drink combinations.

 

“We’ve never had an energy drink related problem,” he said. “From time to time we will have people over the limit, but we get them home safely. Energy drinks have never been an issue.”

 

Nanney looks for his customers to reach out to their respective representatives and senators.

 

“People should voice their opinions on it,” Nanney continued.

 

Similar bills have been presented through other city and state governments citing sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.

 

According to the CDC, when alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks the caffeine in the drinks can mask the depressant effects of alcohol. The CDC also states that drinkers who consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks are three times more likely to binge drink than drinkers who do not report mixing alcohol with energy drinks.

 

Amelia M. Arria, Ph.D., Associate Director for the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland College Park, with other scientists and professors, compiled a letter that was addressed to some Attorney Generals. In the letter, Arria reported that as many as 28 percent of U.S. college students combine caffeine and alcohol when drinking.

 

“The consumption of caffeinated alcoholic beverages has been associated with increased risk of serious injury to oneself and to others, as the result of driving while intoxicated, sexual assault and other dangerous behaviors,” Arria said.

 

On March 8 the Tennessee General Assembly Fiscal Review Committee studied the potential fiscal impact of HB 347 and estimated that there was not a significant fiscal impact .The act would take effect July 1, 2013 upon passage.

 

UTM students who are registered to vote in District 76, which contains Weakley County and parts of Obion and Carroll Counties, can contact Rep. Andy Holt (R) at

rep.andy.holt@capitol.tn.gov to give their opinions on the bill. Constituents can also call his Nashville office at 615-741-7847.

 

Students who live outside of the Martin area can visit www.capitol.tn.gov/house/members for a list of the other representatives in the state.

 

For more information on HB 347 or other bills currently traveling through the state legislature, visitwww.capitol.tn.gov/legislation.

 

 

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MADD Announces Opposition To Privatization

 

Source: SacBee

By UFCW PA Wine & Spirits Council

Mar. 13, 2013

 

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has announced its opposition to the privatization of the retail sale of alcohol, a decision that should compel every lawmaker to oppose Gov. Corbett’s reckless scheme to dismantle the state’s Liquor Control Board.

 

MADD, the nation’s largest nonprofit working to protect families from drunk driving and underage drinking, cited an analysis of 17 peer-reviewed studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their position statement.

 

MADD stated that, “The CDC concluded that privatization of alcohol sales will result in a reduction in the enforcement of sales regulations including enforcement of the minimum legal drinking age. Therefore, policies or legislation transferring state alcohol control to private control are counter to MADD’s mission of eliminating drunk driving and preventing underage drinking.”

 

Gov. Corbett has proposed dismantling the LCB and adding up to 30,000 retail outlets for the sale of beer, wine and spirits in the Commonwealth. The scheme would jeopardize 5,000 family-sustaining jobs that the LCB provides, along with 1,100 Main Street beer distributors and the 10,000 Pennsylvanians they employ.

 

Despite widespread opposition, Gov. Corbett told The Philadelphia Inquirer that, “I have not had one person . . . tell me this is a mistake.”

 

“Obviously, the governor is not listening. He is just completely out of touch with working Pennsylvanians and he has decided to ignore the experts,” said Wendell W. Young IV, President, UFCW Local 1776, and Chairman of the UFCW PA Wine & Spirits Council.

 

“Privatization is just bad public policy. The CDC says so and now MADD agrees,” continues Young, “The fact is that every single legitimate study of this issue has found that privatization leads to serious health risks. Gov. Corbett would be wise to listen to the experts and pull the plug on this risky scheme.”

 

To read more from MADD’s web site, please visit http://www.madd.org/about-us/position-statements/madds-positions-on-1.html.

 

 

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Deaths in Libya From Alcohol Poison Reaches 87

 

Source: AP

By ESAM MOHAMED

March 17, 2013

 

Libya’s health minister says the death toll from drinking homemade alcohol that contained poisonous methanol has risen to 87.

 

Minister Nouri Doghman says 1,044 people have been harmed.

 

He said Sunday that 15 people were blinded, and others went into comas or suffered kidney failure. He said some people admitted themselves to the hospital too late, contributing to the increasing toll.

 

The deaths were first reported a week ago.

 

The dead range in age from 19 to 50 years old.

 

The sale and consumption of alcohol is banned in the conservative North African country. Like illegal drugs elsewhere, some Libyans turn to black market dealers to buy alcohol, which is often cooked in homes or deserted farms.

 

 

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‘Healthy’ alcohol-based beverages tipped as top trend in 2013-2014 (Excerpt)

 

Source: Beverage Daily

By Ben Bouckley

14-Mar-2013

 

Healthy Beverage Expo experts claim that 2013-2014 will see healthy alcoholic drinks emerge, including wines instilled with goji berries and ginseng, and lower calorie and more organic options.

 

The organizers of the forthcoming show in Las Vegas (June 7-9) said that in 2013-2014, US consumers may begin to see alcoholic drinks touted as enhanced/healthy, as more producers add vitamins and all-natural ingredients.

 

Kim Jage, marketing and sales director, Healthy Beverage Expo, gave the example of wine infused with botanicals, which had been manufactured in China for at least the last century.

 

Some people believe that these kinds of alcoholic drink, sometimes instilled with fresh items like goji berries and ginseng, are beneficial to the body.

 

Jage said: “We will see healthier alcohol in all forms with less calories and more organic options, with many announcing their non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) status.

 

 

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Beverages: Keeping an Eye on CPI

 

Source: CITI

March 15th

 

Prices on CSDs Continue to Decelerate Sequentially – We have analyzed the CPI data for Non-Alcoholic Ready-To-Drink (NARTD) Beverages on a seasonally adjusted basis, and note that for the month of February, the CPI for Non-Alcoholic Beverages and Beverage Products decreased 0.5% (while price increases have decelerated from peak levels in December 2011). The CPI for Carbonated Drinks was down 0.8% this month, vs. -0.4% last month (in line with the general trend of sequentially decelerating prices since the end of 2011). Meanwhile, the CPI for Juices increased 0.9% this month, slightly above the +0.8% change seen last month.

 

Alcoholic Beverage Prices Were Up Again – The CPI for Alcoholic Beverages (Off-Premise) increased 0.8% in February, showing a sequential acceleration compared to the prior month (+0.5%). The CPI for Alcoholic Beverages (On-Premise) increased 2.3% this month, slightly down from the 2.4% increase seen in the previous month. The CPI for Beer (Off-Premise) increased 1.0% this month, down from the 1.2% increase seen in the prior month. The CPI for Spirits (Off-Premise) was up 0.3% this month, above the -0.2% change seen in January. The CPI for Wine (Off-Premise) increased 0.7% in February, above the 0.2% decrease seen in January.

 

Snack Prices Were Up Again, Although Price Increases Have Decelerated Since Mid-2012 – The CPI for Snacks increased 2.6% in February, above the 2.1% increase seen in the prior month (although there is still a general trend of decelerating price increases since June 2012). The CPI for Food (Off-Premise) increased 1.2% this month, up slightly from the 1.1% increase seen in the prior month. The CPI for Food (On-Premise) increased 2.3% this month, in line with the trend of gradually decelerating price increases over the past nine months. The CPI for Food (Vending) increased 2.7% in February, above last month’s 2.2% increase. The CPI for Cereals was down 0.2% in February, and continues to show a general trend of sequential deceleration since 4Q11 (mostly due to the significant commodity inflation observed in 2H11).

 

 

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BREW: “Redhooked” on Craft; Upgrading BREW to Buy

 

Source: CITI

Mar 17th

 

Rating Change

Target Price Change

Estimate Change

 

Upgrading BREW to Buy with $10 Target Price (37% ETR) – After a rocky 2012, as BREW continued to work through its growing pains as a small, pure-play craft beer story, we believe that management’s learnings and brand investments over the last few years position the company well to deliver accelerating shipment growth in 2013, and margin expansion in 2014 and beyond. Our more constructive view reflects:

 

Achievable outlook for robust volume growth, given: (i) Kona’s strong organic growth and expanded distribution, (ii) the momentum seen for Redhook’s turnaround, (iii) easing declines for Widmer Brothers, (iv) better pricing and demand forecast modeling, and (v) the continued benefits of improved mix.

 

Realistic outlook for higher levels of investment spending, which is reflected in our expectation for modest margin contraction in 2013, given stiff competition in craft beer and the potential need for additional investments to support long-term growth.

 

Limited downside risk given takeout potential by ABI, which has a ~30% stake in the company.

 

Adjusting Our Estimates – Taking into account BREW’s 2012 results and management’s guidance for 2013, as well as the opportunities and challenges noted above, we are updating our EPS estimates as follows: FY13 to $0.15 (from $0.14), FY14 to $0.20 (from $0.16) and FY15 to $0.24 (from $0.18).

 

Raising Our Target Price – We are raising our target price to $10 (from $7.50 previously). Our new valuation reflects a target valuation of 1.0x 2013 sales, which is slightly ahead of the stock’s historic average, which we believe is warranted given our outlook for more consistent sales growth and the future opportunities for margin expansion.

 

 

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NABCA Legislative Update: March 2, 2013-March 15, 2013

 

Source: NABCA

Mar 15th

 

http://www.nabca.org/News/Files/130315%20Legislation%20and%20Regulation%20State%20Update.pdf

 

http://www.nabca.org/News/Files/130315%20Legislation%20and%20Regulation%20Category%20Update.pdf

 

http://www.nabca.org/News/Files/130315%20Regulatory%20Update.pdf

 

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In the battle against alcohol abuse, the buck stops at the government

 

The failure to push through plans for minimum alcohol pricing places markets over lives and communities

 

Source: The Guardian

Deborah Orr

Friday 15 March 2013

 

I fail to understand why those on the right of the Conservative party feel so chagrined. It must have escaped their notice that every time David Cameron attempts to do anything other than cut public funding or privatise public services, the attempt ends in ignominy. The latest damp squib is minimum alcohol pricing, which breaks the one rule of the neoliberal club – never intervene in private markets.

 

Having been brought up in a town whose streets were paved with empty Buckfast bottles, I understand the baleful attraction of cheap, strong booze, and what it can do to individuals and their unfortunate families. But more than that, I understand how impervious markets can be to human suffering. The market for Buckfast Tonic Wine is largely concentrated in the part of the country where I grew up. It’s a notorious local tipple. But supplies are sent up to Lanarkshire from Buckfast Abbey in Devon. It’s made by Benedictine monks who have long insisted that they just make the stuff, and have nothing to do with matters of abusive consumption or the misery and suffering that may cause. Monks? For God’s sake.

 

Whatever one thinks of minimum alcohol pricing as an attempt to curb the temptation to buy cheap booze, one ought to be aware that those who stand against it, stand against it in just the way that those Benedictine monks do. They are blankly uninterested in the human cost of their profits. It’s more important to protect the freedom of a market, than it is to protect individuals, families and communities ravaged by alcohol abuse. The right of the Conservative party believe in this and only this. Hell mend them, as a Benedictine might say.

 

 

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American Amber

 

Dispelling the myths, one part olde apothecary and one part log cabin, that distillers spin around bourbon.

 

Source: WSJ

By MAX WATMAN

Mar 16th

 

The myths that surround America’s native spirit, bourbon, are many and, for the most part, not particularly harmful. It’s entertaining, for instance, to imagine that, in the late 1780s, the Rev. Elijah Craig bought wooden barrels from a fish merchant and cleaned them out by charring the insides of the barrel before he put his whiskey on a boat bound for New Orleans, where the formerly clear whiskey was found to have an appealing amber glow and a taste mellowed by interaction with charred oak: entertaining to imagine, often repeated, and false.

 

In “Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey,” historian Michael Veach handily dismisses the myths. Regarding Elijah Craig, Mr. Veach reminds us that barrels made to store fish wouldn’t have been watertight. Craig already had a successful distilling business: He, and his fellow spirit-sellers, would have known that distillers in France had been aging brandies in charred barrels since the 15th century. At some point, they started doing the same in Kentucky. It’s not as romantic as accidental revelation, but it is the truth.

 

And while bourbon lore is mostly fun, there is an industry-wide misdirection at work that obscures the actual history of the trade. The nation’s distillers market their whiskey as one part olde apothecary (look at the labels) and one part log-cabin folklore. The recipes are supposedly family secrets, closely guarded while generations stirred the same small pot and proudly bottled their whiskey in the family cave. Bourbon labels are works of art, not public record. As the spirits writer Chuck Cowdery once wrote regarding this phenomenon: “There are no actual Keebler Elves.”

 

Let’s call it the Evan Williams effect: The label on every bottle of Evan Williams says “Since 1783” and “Kentucky’s 1st Distiller,” but Evan Williams is produced by a distillery called Heaven Hill. Heaven Hill, Mr. Veach writes, was a post-Prohibition success story, founded in 1935 by the five Shapira brothers. “The brothers had no prior experience in the distilling industry,” he writes, “but they knew how to run a business-they owned a chain of department stores in Kentucky-and they had a solid business plan, which included hiring first Harry Beam and his son Joe to run the distillery.” Parker Beam holds the job today, the sixth Beam to work at Heaven Hill; he is training his son Craig to take the reins. They make excellent bourbon, but 1783?

 

For those who love brown whiskey, the legends are hardly necessary. The real tales that Mr. Veach recounts bubble with geeky fun.

 

It was James E. Pepper, for instance, who first covered the corks in his bottles with a strip stamp bearing his signature. If the stamp wasn’t intact, the whiskey wasn’t “Genuine Pepper.” The importance of marketing “genuine” whiskey as such was fueled by the prevalence of rectifiers, who took high proof, clear spirit and flavored it to resemble the whiskeys of the day. Mr. Veach quotes from a manual published around 1860 that has recipes for imitating the flavors of not only Irish, Scotch and Old Bourbon Whiskey but also for Tuscaloosa Whiskey (flavored with tea and wintergreen, colored with cochineal and burnt sugar) and Oronoko Rye Whiskey (refined sugar, burnt sugar, tea and oil of pear). These recipes, writes Mr. Veach, are valuable not only as “direct evidence of the way in which cheap whiskey was being produced” but also as “indirect evidence about the products being imitated.”

 

In the 1980s, the American whiskey business watched closely as single malt Scotch boomed. Elmer T. Lee, a master distiller at the time, “remembered that Colonel Albert Blanton, the manager of the distillery . . . in the 1930s and 1940s, would find a very high-quality barrel of bourbon and have its contents bottled, without blending, for use as gifts for dignitaries visiting the distillery. The Blanton’s brand of single-barrel bourbon hit the market in 1984.” This is the stuff that gives a whiskey lover goosebumps.

 

My only complaint is that Mr. Veach might have pointedly controverted myths rather than softly dismissing them with scholarly evidence. As he moves through the claims to the title of “Kentucky’s First Distiller,” it gradually becomes clear that we will never know the answer. One cannot fault Mr. Veach’s account, but every once in a while, I wished he’d taken off the gloves and smacked some of the marketing departments that continue the tradition of Kentucky kitsch.

 

-Mr. Watman is the author of “Chasing the White Dog.”

 

 

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Wine Revolution: As Drinkers And Growers, U.S. Declares Independence

 

Source: NPR

by Lydia Zuraw

March 16, 2013

 

A curious shift has happened in global wine-drinking trends: Americans have overtaken the French and Italians, Europe’s traditional lovers of the fruits of the vine, as the world’s top wine market.

 

And it’s not just wine drinking that’s taken off stateside: U.S. wine production is also on the rise.

 

Back in the 1970s, there were about 400 wineries in America. Today, there are more than 7,000. And they’re not just in locations like Napa, Calif.; Walla Walla, Wash.; and Willamette Valley, Ore. They’re in places that are less familiar as wine regions: Texas, Ohio, Hawaii and even Alaska.

 

“I’ve had some stunning American wines, and I don’t think anyone should think that American wine is necessarily inferior to, say, French or Italian,” Jancis Robinson, a leading authority on wine, tells Weekend Edition host Scott Simon

 

Robinson is the co-author of American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United States. The book traces what she calls an American “wine revolution” that is kind of amazing, considering it was only 20 years ago that the industry was feeling threatened by Neo-Prohibitionists.

 

“But now, wine seems to be such a popular interest with a whole load of people – particularly young people,” Robinson says.

 

That interest has even led to wineries sprouting up right in the middle of cities. Just ship in grapes from a nearby vineyard, and you’ve got a resource for city-dwellers to see how wine is made.

 

While you may think your local wine can’t possibly be as good as something imported, that’s not necessarily the case, Robinson says.

 

She says she’s especially a fan of some wines produced around the Finger Lakes in New York. She’s also found a very good copy of champagne from the Gruet family in New Mexico.

 

“Pretty much all countries that make wine make some good wine and some bad wine,” says Robinson. “Yes, it’s true that the majority of the very, very, very finest wines I have ever had have been from France, but then, France makes more wine than everyone else most years.”

 

Because winters can be pretty harsh in the American interior, European grapevines are tricky to grow. But new varieties like Traminette were bred to survive the climate. Then there’s the all-American Norton grape, discovered in Virginia and particularly popular in Missouri vineyards.

 

“It makes some really serious red wines,” Robinson says. “So you can have very respectable Missouri Norton that has not an ounce of influence of France or Italy in it.”

 

 

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California wine giant confirms purchase of prime Oregon vineyard lands

 

Source: The Oregonian

By Dana Tims

March 15, 2013

 

Word of the first large-scale acquisition of Oregon vineyard lands by a California winemaker was made official Friday, when Jackson Family Wines confirmed it has bought vineyard lands in the Willamette Valley.

 

The company, based in Napa, announced it has paid an undisclosed amount of money for a total of 392 acres.

 

Three parcels are involved, the company said. The Zena East and Zena Middle vineyards total 42 acres planted with pinot noir grapes. They are located in the Eola-Amity Hills growing area.

 

Maple Grove, a third, far larger parcel of 350 acres, is farther south in the foothills near Dallas. It is developed and fully trellised, but not yet planted.

 

The company’s confirmation of the transaction comes after weeks of speculation among Oregon wine industry representatives that the first significant acquisition of vineyard land in the state was in the offing.

 

Barbara Banke, chairman of Jackson Family Wines, said the company looks forward to producing high-quality Oregon pinot noir.

 

“When we saw Zena East, Zena Middle and Maple Grove,” she said in a statement, “we were enthused about making world-class pinot noir from these distinctive properties.”

 

The company purchased Willamette Valley pinot noir grapes during the 2012 harvest and was impressed by the quality of the fruit, she said.

 

This is the first domestic vineyard acquisition outside of California for the company, which produces wine under the Kendall Jackson and LaCrema labels, among others.

 

 

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Former HK politician’s wine collection goes for $6.2 million

      

Source: Globalpost

Mar 17th

 

A former Hong Kong politician sold off part of his rare wine collection for over $6 million, auction house Christie’s said Sunday, after a scandal over a wine cellar at his home was partly blamed for his loss in last year’s leadership race.

 

The city’s former number two Henry Tang was set to become the chief executive in 2012 until a series of gaffes and the discovery of an illegal basement containing the cellar at his luxury home made him deeply unpopular.

 

The two-day auction, which fetched $6.22 million, included a wide selection of Burgundys with vintages ranging from 1949 to 2010, Christie’s said, and dozens of wine aficionados attended with others bidding online.

 

The highlights of the sale were six magnums of Romanée Conti Vintage 1995 which sold for $156,695 and 12 bottles of Montrachet Vintage 1978 which sold for $109,687.

 

Though there were thousands of bottles on offer, they represented just a small portion of Tang’s collection, the auction house said.

 

“He’s at a point where there’s enough wine that he can share them with joy,” Christie’s head of wine in China, Simon Tam, told AFP at the sale.

 

In an interview with Tang last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that none of the bottles in the Christie’s sale were stored in the illegal cellar.

 

Tang is a well-known wine connoisseur who abolished duties on wine imports to Hong Kong in 2008, helping to turn the city into a regional wine centre.

 

Chief secretary until September 2011, Tang was thought to be Beijing’s choice for Hong Kong’s top job in the run-up to the chief executive election in March last year.

 

But his campaign began with a public admission of marital infidelity and suffered another blow with the discovery of the unauthorised basement, which reportedly also included a Japanese-style bath and a workout room.

 

His main rival Leung Chun-ying was subsequently handpicked for the post by a 1,200-strong election committee dominated by pro-Beijing elites, after China apparently switched sides.

 

Since his election, Leung has also apologised for illegal structures built without planning permission at his own luxury Hong Kong home.

 

Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and authorities regularly prosecute residents for making illegal additions to their houses.

 

 

——

Elite Advisers’ Wine Fund Favors Burgundy Over Bordeaux

 

Source: Bloomberg

By Guy Collins

Mar 15, 2013

 

Elite Advisers SA’s wine fund, one of Europe’s largest, is boosting its holdings of Burgundy over Bordeaux and sees value in the region even after price gains.

 

The investment vehicle, branded Nobles Crus, has a five- year track record and had 102 million euros ($135 million) under management at the end of December. Wines held include a Romanee- Conti 1915 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, harvested during World War I, and Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes dating back to 1811, when Napoleonic troops were fighting in Spain.

 

Historic Burgundies including Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Henri Jayer and Armand Rousseau are driving prices this year, boosted by Chinese collectors focusing on the region after fueling Bordeaux gains in 2010 and 2011. While Medoc first growths fell last year amid the financial crisis in Europe and the U.S., they have rallied since November, lifting the market and encouraging buying in lesser-known labels.

 

“People are becoming more interested in Burgundy,” Christian Roger, Chief Executive Officer of Gruppo Vino e Finanza, the Milan-based manager for Nobles Crus, said last month. “I don’t think the prices are too high. I think there will be other domaines which will be sought.”

 

The fund aims to keep more than 50 percent of its holdings in Burgundy, and, when appropriate, as much as 55 percent to 60 percent. That fell to 46 percent following purchases of Bordeaux 2009 and 2010 futures, and now managers want to rebalance it.

 

“It’s a strategy that we’ve had since the start, and that I am continuing,” Roger said. The Luxembourg fund, set up by Elite’s founders Miriam Wilson and Michel Tamisier in late 2007, is boosting Burgundy to more than half of managed wine assets.

 

Burgundy Market

 

Auction houses and investment managers have cited demand for Burgundy in the past six months. A 1990 case from Henri Jayer’s Vosne-Romanee Cros Parantoux vineyard sold for $113,525 at Hart Davis Hart in Chicago last month. Jayer, who died in 2006, is one of Burgundy’s most sought-after wine-makers.

 

Wine sold at a Sotheby’s (BID) January sale in London included a case of Chambertin 1999 Armand Rousseau and 12 bottles of the more recent Chambertin Clos de Beze 2005 Armand Rousseau, which each fetched 11,163 pounds ($17,640). Six bottles of Domaine Dujac Echezeaux 1978 made HK$196,800 ($25,380) at Acker Merrall & Condit in Hong Kong the same month.

 

Nobles Crus aims to place 70 percent of its assets in older vintages, 20 percent in wine futures and 10 percent in cash. Wine is bought from private cellars, merchants and restaurants.

 

According to data from Elite Advisers, Nobles Crus returned 7.8 percent in 2012 after gains of 11 percent in 2011, 13 percent in 2010, 9.8 percent in 2009 and 20 percent in 2008.

Track Record

 

That compared with declines for the Bordeaux-dominated Liv- ex 100 Fine Wine Index of 8.9 percent in 2012, 15 percent in 2011 and 14 percent in 2008 and gains of 40 percent in 2010 and 16 percent in 2009.

 

The valuation method used by Nobles Crus was subjected to scrutiny by the Financial Times in September after the newspaper sought a Liv-ex estimate of Bordeaux wine in the collection. Elite Advisers responded by commissioning an external report and writing to investors explaining its procedures.

 

“On average we’re now doing basically a 12 percent return per annum,” Wilson told Bloomberg in an interview during a visit to London in January.

 

“We not only have the Bordeaux wines, which are the most well-known in the U.K. market. We have the Burgundy wines, we have the top wines from Italy and from Spain, and this diversification has given us the performance.”

 

Italian Wines

 

Elite Advisers had 63,000 bottles in its collection in Geneva at the end of 2012, according to Roger. Main holdings include Chateau Latour, Chateau Petrus, Chateau Ausone and Chateau Cheval Blanc in Bordeaux, Romanee-Conti DRC in Burgundy, Barolo from Italy and Vega Sicilia from Spain.

 

Monthly valuations are based on four prices for each wine, two from auction houses and two from European or U.K. merchants. Elite Advisers has 10 auction houses and 60 merchants from whom it draws prices, and the fund is audited by Deloitte.

 

“Every piece of pricing that we get is backed up, documented and controlled by our auditors at the end of each year,” Wilson said.

 

Burgundies held by the fund as of December 2011, the latest date for which detailed information is available, included more than 40 vintages of Romanee-Conti spanning the past century and Jayer Cros Parantoux from 13 separate years back to 1978.

 

 

——

Wine: there’s life in natural wine yet

 

Some in the trade say natural wine has had its day. I wouldn’t be so sure.

 

Source: The Guardian

Fiona Beckett

Friday 15 March 2013

 

Among the forecasts of what was going to be big in the wine world in 2013, and what was going to bomb, there was a great deal of triumphant crowing that we’d seen the last of so-called “natural” wines – that is, those made without chemical additives and little, if any, sulphur.

 

The trouble about such punditry is that it’s often several steps ahead of the public, who haven’t even become aware of a trend before it’s dismissed as passé. And in the case of natural wine, drinkers may have a totally different perspective from the trade, concerning themselves less with conformity or technical correctness than with a desire for as unmucked-about wine as possible.

 

Well, now’s a good chance to make up your own mind. March has been proclaimed Real Wine Month and all sorts of restaurants, bars and retailers will mark it by offering at least a couple of natural wines by the glass. And tomorrow there’s an all-day Real Wine Fair at Tobacco Dock in Wapping, London E1 – for details, go to therealwinefair.com.

 

So where should you start with natural wines? I’d go for reds rather than whites, which are more dependent on sulphur to preserve their purity. A perfect example is Raisins Gaulois, a joyous, quaffable, beaujolais-like red from the Lapierre family, which cries out for a picnic or a plate of charcuterie (£9.99 a bottle or, even better, £56.16 for a five-litre wine box, Les Caves de Pyrène – also available at £11.27 from Wine Bear, or £10.73 if you buy six, and £11.50 from Ellis Wharton; 12.5% abv)

 

Natural sparkling wines are also really attractive, generally having a much lower dosage (sugar addition) than conventional wines, which gives you a stronger sense of the fruit. Try the refreshingly light, almost appley Villiera Brut Natural 2009 (£10.99 in larger branches of Marks & Spencer; 12% abv), from South Africa, which has no dosage at all and is sulphur-free.

Wine: Château la Colombière Fronton 2010

 

A lot of producers, meanwhile, don’t choose to market their wines as organic or natural. The Bristol-based importer Vine Trail, for instance, places more emphasis on the fact that its producers are small artisanal growers than on whatever organic and biodynamic credentials they may have. But you couldn’t find a more natural-tasting wine than the delicious Château la Colombière Fronton 2010 (£10.66), in which you can almost smell the soil and stones of the vineyard, as well as fruit that tastes as if it’s been ripped straight from the vine.

 

Apply the same kind of open-mindedness to wine as you do to a new cuisine or ingredient, say, and you’ll find that natural wines still have a lot to offer, despite what some might say.

 

 

——

New breakaway sparkling wine appellation to rival Cava

 

Source: Decanter

by James Lawrence

Friday 15 March 2013

 

Leading Penedes winemaker Raventos I Blanc – which quit the Cava DO because of ‘poor image and low standards’ – has unveiled the framework for a new sparkling wine appellation.

 

The proposed designation, named Conca Del Riu Anoia, will significantly deviate from the existent Cava DO.

 

‘After 150 years, Cava has become a solely volume-oriented DO with no geographical distinction in terms of climate and soils, it has a poor image; with low viticultural standards. For this reason, we decided to start from the beginning and create a quality orientated designation for our wines,’ owner Pepe Raventos told Decanter.com.

 

Raventos is not alone in criticising the Cava DO: by November last year around nine producers had left.

 

Conca Del Riu Anoia is intended to form a very small geographical area surrounding the Anoia River valley between the Anoia and Foix Rivers in eastern Penedes.

 

A key aspect of the appellation is a severe tightening of the current rules of production, Raventos explained.

 

‘Under our rules, producers must pay growers a minimum of 1?/Kg – the current price averages ?0.20/Kg – the vineyards must be organically certified, at least ten years old and yields will be set at a maximum of 10,000kg/ha,’ Raventos said.

 

‘We are also increasing the minimum period on the lees from 9 to 18 months and only indigenous varieties can be used,’ he added.

 

The Cava DO stipulates that companies can include domestic and international varieties, including Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with no rules as to the composition of the blend.

 

The Raventos family will submit their proposal to the Consejo Regulador this spring.

 

However, some wineries have criticised Raventos’ plans and remain committed to working inside the DO framework.

 

‘It seems quite cowardly to us, as it’s clearly easier to abandon the DO than to fight for change,’ Eva Plazas, senior winemaker at Vilarnua said.

 

Josep Albet, current president of the Penedes consejo regulador, has recommended making significant changes to the appellation rules in response to this move by Raventos and others.

 

In order to combat the growing crisis, Albet has advised making significant changes to the appellation rules, including increasing the minimal time the wine is in contact with the lees from 12 to 15 months.

 

‘We need to emphasise that Cava is a high quality, unique product,’ Albet said.

 

 

——

How Beer Gave Us Civilization

 

Source: New York Times

By JEFFREY P. KAHN

Mar 15th

 

HUMAN beings are social animals. But just as important, we are socially constrained as well.

 

We can probably thank the latter trait for keeping our fledgling species alive at the dawn of man. Five core social instincts, I have argued, gave structure and strength to our primeval herds. They kept us safely codependent with our fellow clan members, assigned us a rank in the pecking order, made sure we all did our chores, discouraged us from offending others, and removed us from this social coil when we became a drag on shared resources.

 

Thus could our ancient forebears cooperate, prosper, multiply – and pass along their DNA to later generations.

 

But then, these same lifesaving social instincts didn’t readily lend themselves to exploration, artistic expression, romance, inventiveness and experimentation – the other human drives that make for a vibrant civilization.

 

To free up those, we needed something that would suppress the rigid social codes that kept our clans safe and alive. We needed something that, on occasion, would let us break free from our biological herd imperative – or at least let us suppress our angst when we did.

 

We needed beer.

 

Luckily, from time to time, our ancestors, like other animals, would run across fermented fruit or grain and sample it. How this accidental discovery evolved into the first keg party, of course, is still unknown. But evolve it did, perhaps as early as 10,000 years ago.

 

Current theory has it that grain was first domesticated for food. But since the 1950s, many scholars have found circumstantial evidence that supports the idea that some early humans grew and stored grain for beer, even before they cultivated it for bread.

 

Brian Hayden and colleagues at Simon Fraser University in Canada provide new support for this theory in an article published this month (and online last year) in the Journal of Archeological Method and Theory. Examining potential beer-brewing tools in archaeological remains from the Natufian culture in the Eastern Mediterranean, the team concludes that “brewing of beer was an important aspect of feasting and society in the Late Epipaleolithic” era.

 

Anthropological studies in Mexico suggest a similar conclusion: there, the ancestral grass of modern maize, teosinte, was well suited for making beer – but was much less so for making corn flour for bread or tortillas. It took generations for Mexican farmers to domesticate this grass into maize, which then became a staple of the local diet.

 

Once the effects of these early brews were discovered, the value of beer (as well as wine and other fermented potions) must have become immediately apparent. With the help of the new psychopharmacological brew, humans could quell the angst of defying those herd instincts. Conversations around the campfire, no doubt, took on a new dimension: the painfully shy, their angst suddenly quelled, could now speak their minds.

 

But the alcohol would have had more far-ranging effects, too, reducing the strong herd instincts to maintain a rigid social structure. In time, humans became more expansive in their thinking, as well as more collaborative and creative. A night of modest tippling may have ushered in these feelings of freedom – though, the morning after, instincts to conform and submit would have kicked back in to restore the social order.

 

Some evidence suggests that these early brews (or wines) were also considered aids in deliberation. In long ago Germany and Persia, collective decisions of state were made after a few warm ones, then double-checked when sober. Elsewhere, they did it the other way around.

 

Beer was thought to be so important in many bygone civilizations that the Code of Urukagina, often cited as the first legal code, even prescribed it as a central unit of payment and penance.

 

Part of beer’s virtue in ancient times was that its alcohol content would have been sharply limited. As far as the research has shown, distillation of alcohol to higher concentrations began only about 2,000 years ago.

 

Today, many people drink too much because they have more than average social anxiety or panic anxiety to quell – disorders that may result, in fact, from those primeval herd instincts kicking into overdrive. But getting drunk, unfortunately, only compounds the problem: it can lead to decivilizing behaviors and encounters, and harm the body over time. For those with anxiety and depressive disorders, indeed, there are much safer and more effective drugs than alcohol – and together with psychotherapy, these newfangled improvements on beer can ease the angst.

 

But beer’s place in the development of civilization deserves at least a raising of the glass. As the ever rational Ben Franklin supposedly said, “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

 

Several thousand years before Franklin, I’m guessing, some Neolithic fellow probably made the same toast.

 

Jeffrey P. Kahn, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry atnNewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, is the author of “Angst: Origins of Anxiety and Depression.”

 

 

——

Penfolds MD leaves Treasury Wine Estates (Excerpt)

 

Source: Just-Drinks

By James Wilmore

15 March 2013

 

The head of Treasury Wine Estates’ Penfolds wine brand has left the company with “immediate effect” after a year in the role, the company has confirmed.

 

Gary Burnand, who became MD of the brand last March, will be replaced by Simon Marton, head of TWE’s Wolf Blass unit, while the group seeks a permanent replacement. Burnand, who joined the company in December 2011, reported in to TWE chief executive David Dearie.

 

 

——

Henry Besant dies aged 40

 

Source: Drinks International

By Hamish Smith

15 March, 2013

 

Leading drinks industry figure Henry Besant died in hospital yesterday following a heart attack.

 

Besant, who passed away aged 40 having been admitted to hospital two weeks ago, was known as one of the UK’s best bartenders and for his work in the global promotion of the tequila category.

 

Alongside fellow bartender and tequila authority, Dre Masso, Besant co-founded Olmeca Altos tequila and the Tahona Society – a global network of bartenders formed in recognition and celebration of tequila.

 

Besant had worked closely with Drinks International magazine both as a judge on the International Spirits Challenge tequila panel and as an academy member of The World’s 50 Best Bars.

 

Respected for his work and passion, and liked as a man, the drinks industry mourns his passing.

 

 

——

Restaurateurs tell Senate minimum wage hike will hurt

 

Source: NRA

March 15, 2013

 

A New Jersey-based restaurateur told a Senate panel that increasing the federal minimum wage would have a negative effect on the restaurant industry.

 

Melvin “Mel” Sickler, a multiunit franchisee of the Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and Cinnabon brands, testified March 14 before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on recently introduced legislation that would increase the federal minimum wage rate by 39 percent, from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 per hour.

 

Sickler told the panel that an increase could force operators to reduce employee hours, postpone plans for new hiring and expansion, and reduce the number of restaurant employees.

 

“The restaurant industry is dominated by small businesses – more than seven in 10 eating and drinking establishments are single-unit operations,” Sickler said. “Food and labor costs are the two most significant line items for a restaurant. With average pre-tax margins of roughly 4 to 6 percent, increases in food and labor costs can have a dramatic impact on a restaurant’s bottom line. Only a small minority of restaurants will be able to handle a 39 percent minimum wage increase without taking actions that will harm workers.”

 

Sickler, who testified on behalf of the National Restaurant Association, also noted the decline of restaurant job opportunities in Oregon after the state began raising its minimum wage above the federal level in 1997. All restaurants in the United States employed an average of 16.9 workers in 2011, unchanged from 1996. Oregon’s restaurants, however, employed an average of only 13.8 workers in 2011, or 2.6 fewer employees per establishment than they did before the state’s minimum wage began rising above the federal level in 1997.

 

In addition, David Rutigliano, co-owner of the six-unit SBC Restaurant Group in Shelton, Conn., testified on behalf of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, saying the combination of an increased minimum wage, the enactment of mandatory paid sick leave legislation in his state and compliance with the health care law – all at a time when the economy and many small businesses are still struggling – would be a tough burden.

 

“At a time when many businesses are struggling to keep their doors open, mandating wage increases will only hurt those employees which this proposal seeks to help,” he said. “In my home state of Connecticut, where we already have the fourth-highest minimum wage at $8.25 and one of the highest tipped wages at $5.69, there is currently a proposal in the state legislature that seeks to increase the minimum wage to $9.75 and the tipped wage to $6.73. That, along with the recently enacted mandatory paid sick leave law, is making an already difficult situation even worse. Add to that the Affordable Care Act, and I ask anyone here to explain how . the restaurant industry, which is labor heavy and runs on extremely low profit margins, will survive let alone prosper?”

 

Sickler told the committee that the restaurant industry, while serving as the gateway for many young people to enter the workforce, also provides great opportunities for advancement.

 

“The National Restaurant Association calls on members of this committee and all of those serving in Congress to focus on policies that encourage more people, not fewer, to enter the workforce,” he said. “Our collective goal should be to get our young people hired and on the path to achieving the American Dream.”

 

 

——

Pennsylvania: Coming this week – Liquor privatization’s first big test

 

Source: Philly.com

March 17, 2013

 

This coming week will be the first test of whether the legislature can finally reach consensus on a plan to privatize the sale of wine and hard liquor in Pennsylvania.

 

The House Liquor Control Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Monday to consider Gov. Corbett’s privatization plan, which calls for auctioning off the state’s 600-plus wine and spirits shops to the private sector. The proceeds from the sale – about $1 billion – would be given to public schools through a new initiative to help them pay for early childhood education and school security, among other things.

 

If it passes muster in committee, the bill would then be sent to the House floor for debate. Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny), privatization’s most vocal supporter in the legislature, has vowed to bring the measure to a full floor vote by the end of the month. If he achieves that, it would be the furthest a liquor privatization bill has moved through the legislature.

 

“This is really over the goal line,” Turzai told reporters recently. “People recognize that Pennsylvania needs a change.”

 

But as both Turzai and Corbett know well, the road toward privatization is pocked with pitfalls – from both ends of the political spectrum. Democrats and the union representing state store clerks have historically opposed it, arguing that it will cost the state much-needed revenue (the Liquor Control Board kicks in about $80 million in profits annually to the state’s general fund) and thousands of workers good-paying jobs. And a number of conservative Republicans believe the state should continue strict controls over alcohol sales.

 

But Monday’s hearing will feature no debate. There will be no witnesses to provide testimony, just committee members asking questions and voting on the measure. Republicans who control the House said the reason for that format is because privatization has been exhaustively debated for years – and that there is no reason to do so again.

 

Still, Corbett’s privatization proposal is different from ones floated in the past. And it is expected to be amended in committee Monday with even more changes.

 

House Republicans said their amendment would allow for the basics of Corbett’s plan: allowing supermarkets and convenience stores to sell alcohol. But it would also scale back Corbett’s aggressive approach to privatization.

 

The amendment calls for 1,200 wine and spirits licenses, and would allow the state’s beer retailers first crack at them. After that, other retailers, such as grocery stores, could apply for one.

 

But the amendment would not immediately shut down the state stores. According to information provided by House Republicans, their plan would try to phase them out over time – and may not achieve that in certain counties: for instance, under their plan, all state stores in a particular county would have to close, but only if there are twice the number of privately-owned wine and spirits stores, plus grocery stores, in that county.

 

It is a complicated formula, but House Republicans said they believe they have the votes for it.

 

“Our goal is to move this,” said Turzai. “I can tell you that our caucus is very engaged in the discussion and there is significant support for moving Pennsylvania forward.”

 

 

——

Oregon: Oregon bill would ban beer and wine from self-checkout lines

 

The Oregonian

By Jeff Mapes

March 15, 2013

 

Hey you! Forget about taking that six-pack of beer through the self-checkout line.

 

Take it through one of the regular checkout lines instead.

 

That’s what you might hear at your local grocery store if House Bill 2398 becomes law in Oregon.

 

The bill, which has set off a fight between the grocery industry and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, will be up for a hearing at 8 a.m. Friday in the House Business and Labor Committee.

 

The bill would prohibit sales of alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and over-the-counter and prescription drugs in the self checkout lines.  Since stores already keep tobacco products and prescription drugs away from self-checkout lines, the bill would mostly affect beer, wine and over-the-counter medications.

 

Jeff Anderson, secretary-treasurer of UFCW Local 555 said his union sought the bill because their members face quick termination if they allow an under-age person to buy alcohol or tobacco — and it’s harder for workers to make sure they are stopping those sales if they’re watching several people go through the self-checkout line at one time.

 

“You should see some of these college kids,” said Anderson. “They’re having a field day running through these U-scans.  They’ll scan a six-pack of pop and then bag a six-pack of beer.”

 

Joe Gilliam, who heads the Northwest Grocers Association, said the self-check scanners haven’t caused clerks problems in weeding out underage buyers.  The equipment only allows sales to proceed after a clerk can check an ID or see that the buyer is clearly old enough.

 

One thing is clear, said Gilliam: if the bill became law, “it would limit the convenience for our customers…if you have just a six-pack, (the self-check lines) get you out of there right away.”

 

On Friday, legislators will also consider another bill relating to tobacco. House Bill 2870 would allow counties to levy their own tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

 

Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen said the measure is widely supported by financially hard-hit counties looking for another source of income.  He said he’d like to put revenue from a local tobacco tax into improving health care, particularly for mental health.

 

The measure faces opposition from retailers who say it’s cumbersome to have different taxes in different jurisdictions — and who fear it will particularly hurt convenience stores that will lose sales to stores in neighboring counties with lower taxes.

 

House Bill 2870 will be heard at 8 a.m. in the House Revenue Committee.

 

Legislators on the House Higher Education and Workforce Committee will hold a hearing on legislation allowing Portland State University and the University of Oregon to establish their own governing boards.  House Bill 2149 will also be taken up at 8 a.m.

 

There are no floor sessions in either the House or Senate on Friday.

 

 

——

Connecticut: Lawmakers Considering Bill To Allow Beer To Be Sold In ‘Juice’ Pouches

 

Source: CBS

March 16, 2013

 

Connecticut lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow malt beverages and beer to be sold in pliable pouches.

 

The state’s liquor industry is pushing for the legislation, arguing that Connecticut is the only state that bans such packaging for malt-based products. Dwayne Kratt, senior director for government affairs at the North American headquarters of sprits company Diageo in Norwalk, said the same kind of packaging is used for many products such as sauces, juices and laundry detergents.

 

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection opposes the bill.

 

DEEP argues that such containers cannot be recycled and the legislation runs counter to the state’s efforts to boost the rate of recycling and reuse in Connecticut.

 

The General Assembly’s Environment Committee is scheduled vote Monday on the legislation.

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