Wednesday April 17th 2013
World Malbec Day
Biodynamic FLOWER Day Great To Taste Or Drink Wine!
Beverages: Keeping an Eye on CPI
Alcoholic Beverage Prices Were Up Again – The CPI for Alcoholic Beverages (Off-Premise) increased 1.1% in March, showing a sequential acceleration compared to the prior month (+0.8%). The CPI for Alcoholic Beverages (On-Premise) increased 2.6% this month, slightly up from the 2.3% increase seen in the previous month. The CPI for Beer (Off-Premise) increased 1.0% this month, in line with the 1.0% increase seen in the prior month. The CPI for Spirits (Off-Premise) was up 1.5% this month, above the 0.3% change seen in February. The CPI for Wine (Off-Premise) increased 0.9% in March, above the 0.7% increase seen in February.
China’s Fake Alcohol
Its black market in fake alcohol is a health risk and costly to legitimate restaurants and bars.
Source: The National Review
By Jillian Kay Melchior
Two days before Christmas, Chinese authorities led a raid in the capital city. Their findings would be shocking, had it been anywhere but China: 37,000 bottles of counterfeit alcohol, destined for Bar Street in Sanlitun, a popular drinking hub for expats in Beijing.
A gang of counterfeiters had apparently been collecting empty bottles of genuine alcohol, refilling them with a cheap substitute from who knows where, and then reselling them to bars. The police arrested a handful of people, but expats suspected the bar owners had been complicit, too – how else could they afford to offer their famously strong “10 kuai drinks” (U.S. $1.61)?
China is notorious for forgeries and counterfeits. Earlier this year, the China Bee Products Association claimed that half of all honey sold in the mainland is fake. Kunming in Yunnan Province brims with artificial Apple shops, converted overnight to “Smart Stores” throughout the duration of government campaigns to stamp out intellectual-property violations. Before the final Harry Potter book was released in 2007, J. K. Rowling knockoffs, including Harry Potter and the Crystal Vase and Harry Potter and Leopard Walk Up to Dragon, made their way to Chinese bookstores, as CBS reported.
Shops at the Beijing Silk Market hawk everything from fake Adidas to fake Gucci. And near Drum Tower, I once saw a gift shop selling a suitcase full of phony American hundred-dollar bills.
Alcohol is yet another item that’s frequently counterfeited. Joe Passanante, an American doctor based in Beijing, tells me that “from what I’ve seen clinically, [counterfeit alcohol] seems to be a widespread problem,” adding that “being a physician, I think it’s personally happened to me.”
Like melamine-tainted milk and counterfeit pharmaceuticals, China’s fake alcohol can carry significant health risks. Sometimes, it’s merely an inferior alcohol – think two-buck Chuck – being substituted and sold as a pricier one. But counterfeiters also use chemically distinct alcohol that’s dangerous if consumed. It’s generally made from one of three bases: ethylene glycol, which is essentially antifreeze, attacks the kidneys and heart and is potentially fatal; methanol, which attacks the retinal nerve and can result in blindness; and isopropyl alcohol, more commonly known as rubbing alcohol.
Passanante says that from what he’s seen, he suspects most of the counterfeit alcohol in Beijing is isopropyl alcohol – though “we never know. There’s no specific test for it. . . . If it doesn’t kill you the night you drink it, most people will be fine.” The clearest indications are a slightly fruity breath smell and a crippling hangover the next morning, Passanante says.
As little as 250 milliliters – just over a cup – of isopropyl alcohol causes heavy intoxication and can reportedly be fatal, though people have survived after drinking much more. Passing out, imbibers can enter a coma. Those who die after drinking isopropyl alcohol generally drown in their own vomit or saliva. And “there are a lot of what appear to be responsible people ending up in a coma,” Passanante says.
Jeff Gi, an expert mixologist and the owner of Beijing’s Mai Bar, tells me he’s been approached by vendors who offered him fake liquor at hugely discounted prices. Known for his dedication to cocktail perfection – Gi often takes five minutes to fine-tune even the simple Hendricks and tonic – Mai Bar uses only genuine alcohol.
“But a lot of people use fake alcohol because they want to save money, and it’s cheap,” Gi says. “They don’t care about the quality or their customer’s experience . . . and they don’t care if you come back or not.”
Like any black-market product, China’s counterfeit alcohol is hard to quantify. Some big liquor producers collect their own statistics on the prevalence of alcohol counterfeiting, but they keep them secret, fearing their brand might become associated with fakery and therefore altogether avoided in China’s huge and emerging consumer-goods market, says Marjana Martinic, the deputy president of the International Center for Alcohol Policies.
The few estimates that have emerged are disturbing. George Chen, a restaurateur who specializes in wine, told TimeOut Shanghai that his best guess is that up to 80 percent of the city’s alcohol isn’t genuine – either not meant for consumption or an inferior substitute marketed as a higher-priced brand. The chief executive of Brown-Forman, maker of Jack Daniels, has claimed that one-third of the alcohol consumed globally is produced illicitly. And the World Health Organization has found that in Southeast Asia, homebrew or other illegally procured beverages account for 69 percent of overall alcohol consumption.
Even anecdotally, it’s evident that fake alcohol is a big problem in China. Barely a month after the December 23 crackdown, Beijing police busted a bigger ring, arresting 88 suspects and confiscating counterfeit alcohol worth $861,000. The state-run media reported in February that a single public-security officer was responsible for monitoring the alcohol quality in more than 20 Sanlitun bars, and when I was there in March 2013, 10-kuai drinks were still abundantly available.
Nor is alcohol counterfeiting limited to Beijing. Last November, authorities in Zhejiang Province discovered 10,000 bottles of fake Château Lafite Rothschild, valued at around $16 million. China’s nouveau riche crave wine as a status symbol, and sometimes the flamboyant display of wealth is more pleasurable than taste; the BBC has reported that around 70 percent of the Château Lafite bottles sold in China aren’t the real thing.
Two years ago, Chinese police reported that at least $33,800 in fake booze had been sold around Shanghai before 25 people were caught and arrested. In Huaihua, Hunan Province, police found counterfeit alcohol valued at $675,000 in 2011; and in Shoaxing City, Zhejiang Province, police broke up a $305 million operation that had sold counterfeit alcohol in 97 Chinese cities. The China Daily reported that the suspects “had allegedly poured cheap liquors into real containers . . . that they had bought from liquor vendors and rag pickers.” And those are just a few examples.
Counterfeit alcohol is not only dangerous – it’s also harmful to businesses, which are already contending with China’s complicated and often corrupt economic system.
“It’s a nightmare. It’s an absolute nightmare,” says Charlie, a veteran bartender in China who works at The Stumble Inn in Sanlitun, who declined to give his last name. “The fake booze hurts. If you poured it in your car, it would probably work. I’ve siphoned petrol out of a car before, and it was a more pleasant taste. But it’s a roaring trade. It’s a 10-kaui mojito, and people are cheap.”
Charlie tells me that fake alcohol presents “a massive problem, especially when you’re trying to run a good, clean establishment.” There’s the competition factor – a rum and Coke at Stumble Inn costs about 45 yuan, compared to 10 yuan for a drink of questionable origin across the street. Moreover, customers bar-hop in Sanlitun, starting the night out at Stumble Inn and ending up at a less reputable establishment. The next morning, they show up with a brutal hangover, and they want to blame Charlie for selling them fake booze.
Stumble Inn has coped by establishing a reputation for an honest drink. Each bottle of liquor is examined. The latest labeling information from the company is scrutinized, and the liquor is taste- and smell-tested before it’s served. Whenever possible, the bar uses vendors recommended by the liquor companies. When it can’t, it instead consults with other expat bars to find a supplier with a good reputation. Stumble Inn also withholds 40 to 60 percent of suppliers’ payments for at least 30 days, and if even one fake is discovered, “we stop dealing with them immediately, and they will not be paid,” Charlie says. He estimates the bar spends more than $800 a month on quality control for food and drinks.
Vouching for the integrity of alcohol can be difficult for suppliers, too, though. Chinese manufacturers expert in forging have been known to produce not only counterfeit bottles and counterfeit liquor – some also counterfeit the customs stamps and certifications that are supposed to mark the real deal.
Consequently, China’s bartenders have come up with their own tests. One tells me that Jack Daniels “is the benchmark. If they’re using it, I can smell it and I can taste it. It’s the most unique-smelling alcohol there is.” An additional perk? If it’s real, Jack Daniels will leave a white band around the perimeter of a glass when it’s mixed with Coca-Cola. The fake version doesn’t. Bombay and tonic is also a good test, bartenders tell me, because it has a slightly bluish tint when exposed to light. And seasoned drinkers can often taste the difference, too.
Of course, the fact that bartenders and bar owners feel the need to do their own diligence is telling. China’s black market in counterfeit goods challenges not only the health of its people but also its legitimate economy. It’s essentially a short-sighted approach economics. And like fake alcohol, it can be expected to end in one hell of a hangover.
Cognac shipments down -7% in March, with Asia volatility continuing
Global Cognac shipments fell -7% in March, a turnaround from the +10% reported in February, despite a soft comparable of -1%. Exports fell -6% (+5% in February), impacted by weak reported Asian shipments. There was also a meaningful fall in domestic shipments (5% of industry), down -20%. 12-month rolling industry volumes are now up +2.4% vs. the +2.8% rate in February.
Asian shipments were soft again, down -18% following the -11% drop last month. However, the comparable was particularly tough at +28%. Chinese volumes fell -29%, following the -22% drop in February, but was cycling a +78% comparable given the earlier Chinese New Year (CNY). We note next month’s comparable will remain equally tough at +79% given the stock build last year after the CNY celebrations and ahead of price increases. The rolling 12-month shipment trend into China is now +4%, compared to the prior double-digit run-rate (c.+10%). Singaporean shipments (the largest Asian market) fell -9% vs. a -2% decrease in February, while Hong Kong fell -40%; both are markets where most of the product ends up moving into China. Taking both of these markets into account, we estimate overall exports to China fell -21% in March vs. the 12-month trend which is still up +6% (this was +9% in February).
The US, the largest global export cognac market (c.30% of exports), reported shipments up only +1% (+11% in February) while some of the larger European markets also reported weaker trends; Germany -10%, Norway -36% and Russia -27%. However, the UK reported a solid result with shipments up 15%, a continuation of the strength we have seen year to date.
There continues to be volatility in the monthly cognac data with the March dataset still impacted by the shift in Chinese New Year in our view (difficult China comparable). The focus now is on price increases taken by the industry in March/April. LVMH mentioned on its Q1 sales analyst call (April 16th) that it has taken a 4.5% price increase on VSOP brands and slightly more on XO.
Given the favourable price/mix dynamics of brown spirits and attractive industry TSRs, we remain fundamentally positive on the major spirits companies and reiterate our Overweight ratings on Diageo (PT 2400p) and Pernod (PT EUR110). However, given the current uncertainty around consumer off-take in China and concerns over the future for gifting/banqueting in the region following the recent political transition, we accept Pernod may struggle to make significant headway until greater trading clarity is established. Diageo remains our preferred play for now given its leading position in the growing US market, benefits still to come from the United Spirits acquisition in India and favourable FX tailwinds.
Drinks industry “no role” to play in alcohol policy creation – WHO (Excerpt)
By Ben Cooper
16 April 2013
The alcohol industry has “no role” to play in formulating alcohol policies designed to tackle alcohol-related harm, according to the director-general of the World Health Organization.
The claim was made by Dr Margaret Chan in a letter to the British Medical Journal (BMJ) last week. The creation of alcohol policies must be “protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests”, said Dr Chan, who also gave explicit support to the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA), a consortium of health NGOs and academics that has voiced its opposition to industry engagement on the issue.
One small glass of wine a week fine during pregnancy, suggests study
Pregnant women who consume low levels of alcohol ‘no more likely to have children with cognitive or behavioural problems’
Source: The Guardian
17 April 2013
Women who drink one small glass of wine a week while pregnant are no more likely to have children with cognitive or behavioural problems as those who do not drink at all during pregnancy, research suggests.
Light drinking during pregnancy “is not linked to adverse behavioural or cognitive outcomes in childhood”, the new study found.
Previous studies have linked heavy drinking during pregnancy to health and development problems in children. But the authors wanted to examine the effects of low-level consumption.
In the new study, published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, more than 10,000 seven-year-olds took cognitive tests and their parents and teachers interviewed or asked to complete questionnaires.
The findings suggest that children born to light drinkers – those who drank two units or less a week – had lower behavioural difficulty scores than children born to mothers who abstained from drinking during pregnancy. Similarly they were found to have higher cognitive test scores for reading, maths and spatial skills tests.
When the authors adjusted the score for potential confounding factors, most of the results did not prove to be significant. But boys born to mothers who drank small amounts during pregnancy were found to have significantly better reading and spatial skills.
The paper concludes that while children born to light drinkers appeared to have more favourable developmental profiles compared with those born to mothers who did not drink during pregnancy, after statistical adjustment these differences largely disappeared.
“In this large, nationally representative study of seven-year-olds, there appeared to be no increased risk of a negative impact of light drinking in pregnancy on behavioural or cognitive development,” the authors wrote.
“Prior to statistical adjustment, children born to light drinkers appeared to have more favourable developmental profiles than children whose mothers did not drink during their pregnancies, but, after statistical adjustment, the differences largely disappeared.
“Our findings . support the suggestion that low levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy are not linked to behavioural or cognitive problems during early to mid-childhood.”
Prof Yvonne Kelly, co-author of the study from University College London, said: “There appears to be no increased risk of negative impacts of light drinking in pregnancy on behavioural or cognitive development in seven-year-old children.
“We need to understand more about how children’s environments influence their behavioural and intellectual development. While we have followed these children for the first seven years of their lives, further research is needed to detect whether any adverse effects of low levels of alcohol consumption in pregnancy emerge later in childhood.”
The government’s advice to women who are pregnant or trying to conceive is that they should avoid alcohol altogether.
But if they choose to drink they should not consume more than one or two units once or twice a week.
Top 10 biggest US craft brewers
Source: the drinks business
by Andy Young
15th April, 2013
The Brewers Association, a not-for-profit trade group that collates production statistics for the US brewing industry, has released details of the top craft breweries in the US.
Craft beerThe association describes an American craft brewer as “small, independent and traditional”.
Small means that the brewer has an annual production of six million barrels of beer or less, “flavoured malt beverages are not considered beer for purposes of this definition”.
Independent means that “less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer”. And traditional relates to “a brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavour.”
The association claims that there are more than 2,000 breweries in the US and 97% of these are “small and independent”, adding that “on average, most Americans live within 10 miles of a brewery, and hundreds of thousands of people have toured or tasted at their local brewery.”
Craft beer sales are booming in the US and the association said: “Nielsen research confirmed that beer drinkers are shifting to more robust beer styles and we know from Information Resources that seasonal beer is one of the top selling craft beer categories.”
Speaking about these results Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, said: “In 2012, craft surpassed 6% of the total US beer market, with volume and dollar sales reaching record levels. Increasingly, beer lovers are turning to craft brewed beer from small and independent producers to satisfy their thirst for bold, innovative and flavour-forward beers.”
Click through the following pages to find the top 10 US craft brewers, based on 2012 beer sales volume.
NABCA – Register for the 76th Annual Conference
Dates: May 15-19, 2013
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Please remember to register with NABCA by next Monday, April 22, 2013 before the fees increase! The Arizona Biltmore room block has sold out, please contact the Meetings Department for an alternate list of hotel options. We recommend making a reservation with one of these hotels as soon as possible. Visit www.nabca.org for registration and rooming details.
For questions, please contact the Meetings Department at email@example.com or 703-578-4200. Thank you!
Direct-to-consumer wine sales outperform overall US wine exports: Report
17 April 2013
The US direct-to-consumer wine sales has increased by 10% to $1.46bn in 2012, which is greater than the overall value of wine exports in the US, according to 2013 Direct Shipping Report by ShipCompliant and Wines & Vines.
The report was prepared by combining the different transactions processed through ShipCompliant Direct compliance platform and Wines & Vines’ comprehensive database of wineries to find out the consumer shipping channel of a winery.
According to the report, the volume of wines shipped directly to consumer increased 7.7% to more than 3.17 million nine-liter cases in 2012, when compared to 2011 figures.
Among different region wineries, Napa County wineries topped the sales list with $713m worth of wine shipped in 2012. However, the value was less than the overall wine shipping channel.
ShipCompliant CEO Jason Eckenroth said the report will guide wineries emphasizing the importance of direct-to-consumer channel.
“The idea is to give wineries not just the systems to help sell to consumers, but also new ideas and insights to apply to wine sales and marketing,” Eckenroth.
US-based ShipCompilant provides wine and spirits suppliers and importers with automated alcohol beverage compliance tools.
Moscato drives US wine sales to new heights
by Chris Mercer in California
Tuesday 16 April 2013
Sales of wine in the US hit a new record in 2012, spurred on by drinkers’ growing thirst for Moscato.
Figures released by the California-based Wine Institute show that Moscato sales rose by a third in volume last year in US chain retailers, excluding bars and restaurants.
The grape variety, which has been talked up by hip-hop stars such as Lil’ Kim and Kanye West, now commands a 6% share of wine bought in retail chains, where it is more popular than Sauvignon Blanc and only two percentage share points behind Pinot Grigio.
Moscato’s rise, based largely on the lower-alcohol, lightly sparkling style, helped overall wine sales in the US to rise by 2% in 2012, to 360.1m cases. Sales rose by 5% in value, to US$34.6bn.
‘It is likely that American [wine] consumption will continue to expand over the next decade,’ said wine industry consultant Jon Fredrikson, of Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates.
He cited strong demographics and better distribution, noting too that Facebook Gifts and Amazon have both moved into online wine sales. Direct wine shipping is now allowed in 39 US states.
‘Consumers have more access to wine with wine-selling locations expanding by well over 50,000 from five years ago,’ added Danny Brager, vice president of beverage alcohol practice at Nielsen.
California accounted for 58% of wine sales by volume and close to 64% of sales by value in the US last year.
Other varietals performing well in chain retailers included Malbec, which saw volume sales rise by a fifth in this channel off a low base. Sweet red wine is also considered a style to watch.
Non-sulphur wines ‘a reality’ with natural preservative
Source: the drinks business
by Rupert Millar
16th April, 2013
Integrapes, a company in Italy, is currently testing an anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial preservative derived from grape pips that it claims is as effective as sulphur.
Furthermore, the wine is supposed to retain more of its natural aromas, particularly the more delicate floral aromas that sulphur can cover.
Derived from the polyphenols found naturally in grape seeds, the resulting solution is added to the must and wine at various points in the winemaking process.
The kits vary only slightly for red, white, rosé and sparkling but essentially involve one litre of the preservative added to every 20 hectolitres of wine at the end of the alcoholic and then malolactic fermentations and then prior to bottling.
The resulting wine is then non-sulphur but supposedly with the potential to age, something many “natural” wines are criticised for not doing.
Commercial director, Donatello Calaprice, told the drinks business that the company had been experimenting and conducting trials for the past seven years and still had wines from that time which are drinkable.
He described the method as a form of “homeopathy”.
Integrapes compares four figures regarding levels of sulphur, anti-oxidants (in vitro using both the Folin-Ciocalteu Index and ORAC Unit) and pigmentation (anthocyanins C3GE) in wines using sulphur and those using Integrapes method.
In nearly all cases, wines (red, white and sparkling) produced with Integrapes’ solution outperform those produced with sulphur.
For example, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon displayed sulphur levels of 2mg per litre, registered 50.05 on the Folin-Ciocalteu Index, 120.33 C3GE/100ml (anthocyanins equivalent) and 16,665 ORAC Units.
By contrast, the Cabernet Sauvignon produced normally displayed equivalent results of: 41mg/L SO2, 35.55 on the Folin-Ciocalteu Index, 32.22 C3GE/100ml and 11,820 ORAC Units.
The product has been endorsed by one of Italy’s leading wine writers Luca Maroni, who is also collaborating in the on-going tests.
He has stated: “I have tasted hundreds of wines from around the world developed without sulphur dioxide (natural, organic, biodynamic, etc.).
“But so far each of these has turned out to be, irreversibly, off, oxidised or stained by oenological processing defects which compromise the integrity of the fruit.
“Then I tasted the first white wine produced with the Integrapes method and the fruit was blameless, pure and oxidatively still intact.
“The dream of wine without added sulphites in now a reality.”
Parker and Galloni settle dispute
by Adam Lechmere
Tuesday 16 April 2013
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and its former correspondent Antonio Galloni have settled their dispute out of court.
Antonio Galloni told Decanter.com he could make no comment on the confidential settlement but he said the dispute had been resolved amicably.
On the erobertparker.com bulletin board, Robert Parker said, ‘We are pleased to announce that The Wine Advocate and [Galloni’s company] All Grapes Media have resolved all of our outstanding issues amicably, and The Wine Advocate has withdrawn its lawsuit against Mr Galloni and All Grapes Media.’
In March, the Wine Advocate announced it was suing its former California correspondent for breach of contract, fraud and defamation.
Galloni, who was contracted by the influential wine journal for a reported US$300,000 a year to cover California wines, resigned earlier this year after a majority share in the Wine Advocate was bought by a group of Singaporean investors.
The crux of the Wine Advocate’s suit was a report on Sonoma wines that Galloni was due to deliver, explaining to subscribers on his new website that he would not be able to do justice to the diversity of the region in time for the Wine Advocate’s February issue.
Parker said, ‘We expect that Antonio’s Sonoma report will appear in the April issue of The Wine Advocate and that Antonio’s Brunello reviews will be added to our data base sometime in May. We thank our subscribers for their patience during this period.’
20 Individuals From Across the United States Earn Title of Advanced Sommelier
Martin Sheehan-Stross of San Francisco Takes Home the Rudd Scholarship
Five days of intense examination culminated today with 20 new names being added to the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas list of distinguished Advanced Sommeliers.
Held at Disney’s Grand Californian Resort from April 8-12, 39 candidates sat for the exam, which is the third in a series of four increasingly challenging tests of knowledge and skill offered by the court. At this level, candidates with a superior understanding of wine theory and beverage service, as well as a highly sophisticated tasting ability, are distinguished from the thousands of wine service professionals who attempt the court’s exams on a yearly basis. Of the 20 passers, one rose to the top as the exam’s highest scorer. Martin Sheehan-Stross of San Francisco earned the Rudd Scholarship, offered by the Guild of Sommeliers, which provides funds toward the coursework needed to prepare for the Masters Exam and an invitation to attend the prestigious Rudd Masters Roundtable in Napa Valley, California.
By the time candidates reach the Advanced Examination, most have already invested years of study, in addition to significant time working in and around the beverage industry. From here, they’ll set their sights on the Court’s Master Sommelier Diploma Exam, which just 197 individuals worldwide have ever managed to pass.
“The dedication and talent needed to pass this portion of the exam and succeed in this field is tremendous,” said Shayn Bjornholm, the examination director for the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas. “It is a pleasure to see such impressive qualities in these 20 individuals, and their commitment and enthusiasm is an inspiration to the industry.”
“I am pleased to welcome these exceptional individuals to the next level in wine education,” said Greg Harrington, dhairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas. “They should all be, as we are, extremely proud of their achievements.”
The complete list of candidates who earned the title of Advanced Sommelier at the recent Anaheim, California exam includes:
Martin Beally (Seattle, WA)
Caryn Benke (Andina Restaurant, Portland, OR)
Paul Coker (Stonehill Tavern at St. Regis, Monarch Beach, CA)
Lauren Collins (L’Espalier, Boston, MA)
Nicholas Daddona (Boston Harbor Hotel, Boston, MA)
Michael Dolinski (Restaurant Gordon Ramsay at the London, New York, NY)
John Filkins (Wit & Wisdom, A Tavern by Michael Mina at Four Seasons, Baltimore, MD)
Alexander Good (Alloy Dining Ltd., Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
Sean Isono (Halekulani, Honolulu, HI)
Carlin Karr (Frasca Food & Wine, Boulder, CO)
Patrick Miner (Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Walnut Creek, CA)
Jeremiah Morehouse (SPQR, San Francisco, CA)
Steven Murphey (Mid-State Wine and Liq., Houston, TX)
Carolyn Peete (Charleston, SC)
Cameron Porter (Los Olivos Wine Merchant and Café, Los Olivos, CA)
Benjamin Roberts (Masraff’s Restaurant, Houston, TX)
Martin Sheehan-Stross (San Francisco, CA)
Jonathan Sloane (Quince, San Francisco, CA)
Ryan Stetins (Napa, CA)
Shane Taylor (Blue Water Café, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
About the Court of Master Sommeliers
The Court of Master Sommeliers was established in England in 1977 to encourage improved standards of beverage knowledge and service in hotels and restaurants. The first Master Sommelier Diploma Exam to be held in the United States was in 1987. The title Master Sommelier marks the highest recognition of wine and spirits knowledge, beverage service abilities, and professionalism in the hospitality trade. Education was then, and remains today, the Court’s charter. There are four stages involved in attaining the top qualifications of Master Sommelier: 1) Introductory Sommelier Course; 2) Certified Sommelier Exam; 3) Advanced Sommelier Course; and 4) Master Sommelier Diploma. There are 129 professionals who have earned the title of Master Sommelier as part of the Americas chapter since the organization’s inception. Of those, 111 are men and 18 are women. There are 197 professionals worldwide who have received the title of Master Sommelier since the first Master Sommelier Diploma Exam. For more information, visit www.mastersommeliers.org.
William Grant & Sons appoints new US chief (Excerpt)
By James Wilmore
16 April 2013
William Grant & Sons has promoted one of its senior executives to the role of managing director and president of its US division.
The appointment of Jonathan Yusen, currently the company’s senior US marketing VP, was announced by the UK-headquartered group today (16 April). Yusen replaces Simon Hunt, who was recently promoted to the newly-created role of the group’s chief commercial officer, the Glenfiddich distiller said.
Mendocino Wine Company Names Verónica E. Portello as Western Division Manager
Mendocino Wine Company, a family-owned wine company based in Mendocino, California, has named Verónica E. Portello as Western Division Manager, effective April 8, 2013.
With over 19 years of experience in the wine and spirits industry, Portello is a proven performer. Prior to joining Mendocino Wine Company, Portello spent time at Freixenet as their West Division Sales Manager, Vice President of National Accounts at Huneeus Vintners, and at Aveniu Brands as Regional Sales Director.
“Having called on the entire west at some time or another, I am thrilled to take on the division manager position at Mendocino Wine Company,” said Portello. “Brand building is my strength, and I look forward to working closely with the distributor network in promoting, growing and educating the public on the fantastic wines of MWC. Working alongside the Thornhill family and with industry veterans such as Gary Glass and John Girty will be a great honor for me.”
“We are very excited to have Verónica on our team,” stated Chase Thornhill, Senior Brand Manager for Mendocino Wine Company. “With her years of knowledge and experience she’s a perfect fit, and we look forward to growing the brands with her help.”
About Mendocino Wine Company
Formed in 2004, the Mendocino Wine Co. (MWC) owns and operates Parducci Wine Cellars, Mendocino’s oldest winery, as well as Paul Dolan Vineyards, Sketchbook and Wines That Rock, among others. The Thornhill family continues the tradition of making award-winning wines using sustainable wine growing and land use practices.
Tesco profits halve as supermarket group confirms US exit
Tesco, Britain’s biggest retailer, has reported its first fall in profits since the early 1990s after its decision to pull out of the US cost more than £1bn and a slowdown in sales in the UK also hit the company.
Source: Daily Telegraph
By Graham Ruddick
17 Apr 2013
Philip Clarke, chief executive, said the results “are natural consequences of the strategic changes we first began over a year ago and which conclude today”.
Mr Clarke launched a strategic review of Tesco’s US venture Fresh & Easy last year and has now confirmed that the company will exit the business.
Sir Terry Leahy, Mr Clarke’s predecessor, launched Fresh & Easy in 2007 but it is yet to make a profit.
In order to exit Fresh & Easy, Mr Clarke has been forced to book a £1bn writedown on the value of Tesco’s assets in the US. On top of £169m of trading losses in the last year, this means the US venture has wiped £1.2bn from profits.
In the UK, Tesco has also written off £804m after deciding not to build stores on more than 100 sites that it controls.
The company said: “We have reviewed all of the schemes included in the pipeline individually, assessing their viability and potential to deliver an appropriate level of return on capital employed if built out.
“As a result, we have identified more than 100 sites – the majority of which were bought between five and ten years ago, at a higher point in the property cycle – which we no longer plan to develop and have therefore written their values down.”
Last year, Mr Clarke launched a £1bn investment plan to revitalise Tesco in the UK after it was forced to warn that profits would be lower than expected.
This plan included hiring more staff, revamping stores, and relaunching food ranges, such as converting Tesco Value into Everyday Value.
Mr Clarke said Tesco is making “real progress” in the UK.
However, trading profits in the 52 weeks to February 23 fell 8.3pc to £2.3bn.
In total, Tesco reported pre-tax profits of £1.96bn, a 52pc drop on last year. However, this does not include the US writedown, which has been accounted for as a discontinued operation. When this is included, Tesco made just £120m after tax, compared to £2.8bn last year.
The company held its final dividend at 10.13p.
Mr Clarke said: “The announcements made today are natural consequences of the strategic changes we first began over a year ago and which conclude today.
“With profound and rapid change in the way consumers live their lives, our objective is to be the best multichannel retailer for customers.
“Our plan to ‘Build a Better Tesco’ is on track and I am pleased with the real progress in the UK. We have already made substantial improvements to our customers’ shopping experience, which are starting to be reflected in a better performance.
“We have set the business on the right track to deliver realistic, sustainable and attractive returns and long-term growth for shareholders. The consequences are non-cash write-offs relating to the United States, from which we today confirm our decision to exit, and for UK property investments which we will not pursue because of our fundamentally different approach to space.
“We have also faced external challenges which have affected our performance, notably in Europe and Korea.
“Our focus now is on disciplined and targeted investment in those markets with significant growth potential and the opportunity to deliver strong returns.”
Target lowers Q1 sales and profit forecast
By Mike Troy
April 16, 2013
Softer than expected sales trends prompted Target to lower its first quarter earnings outlook Tuesday morning.
The company said it now expects first quarter comps to be flat, after previously forecasting a range of flat to 2% growth. The softer than expected sales prompted the company to revise first quarter adjusted profit expectations to an unspecified level of “slightly below” earlier guidance of $1.10 to $1.20.
The reduced guidance was offered as part of a financial update connected to the company’s recent settlement of a debt tender offer and credit card portfolio sale. According to the company, factors contributing to the reduction included losses related to the early retirement of debt of approximately $445 million, or 41 cents per share and expected earnings per share dilution of 23 cents related to the company’s Canadian segment somewhat offset by accounting gains of approximately 36 cents associated with the sale of Target’s entire consumer credit card receivables portfolio to TD Bank Group.
The sales weakness was characterized as softer than expected, but Target chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel did offer a heavy dose of pessimism when sharing his first quarter outlook back in February when fourth quarter results were reported.
“As we enter 2013, we will plan appropriately, as the U.S. economy is growing at a painfully slow rate and unemployment remains persistently high,” Steinhafel said during the company’s fourth quarter conference call. “While there are some encouraging signs in the housing market, volatility in consumer confidence, the payroll tax increase, and rise in the price of gas all present incremental headwinds. Given these new challenges facing an already sluggish economy, we have a tempered view of the near-term sales environment.”
Despite the first quarter weakness, Target maintained its full year profit forecast which calls for adjusted earnings per share in the range of $4.85 to $5.05.
Target currently operates 1,784 in the United States and 24 units in Canada.
Minnesota: Minnesota brewers, liquor lobbyists say proposed alcohol tax hike will hit consumers
Source: Associated Press
By Kyle Potter
Lawmakers’ plan to boost alcohol taxes in Minnesota could add as much as $2 to the cost of a standard 12-pack of beer, local brewers and liquor lobbyists said Tuesday as they tried to rally opposition to the proposed tax spike.
House Democrats argue that a hike in Minnesota’s alcohol excise tax, which was part of the tax package they unveiled Monday, would be a small, 7-cent-per-drink increase to help the state raise revenue and pay for the social costs of alcoholism. But executives at two of Minnesota’s largest homegrown breweries said the proposal would quadruple their annual tax bills and eventually hit beer drinkers’ wallets.
“Ultimately, we throw our customers under the bus and expect them to pay for this,” said Mark Stutrud, founder and CEO of St. Paul’s Summit Brewing. “I’m terribly uncomfortable.”
Minnesota charges brewers and wholesalers that sell their products in the state a different excise tax rate based on the type of alcohol. Currently, brewers including Summit pay the state $4.60 for every 31-gallon barrel they brew. Liquors and other spirits are currently charged $1.33 for each liter bottle. For bottles of wine, it varies based on alcoholic content.
Those rates haven’t changed since 1987. The House tax bill looks to bump up all of those taxes, by as much as $27.75 for each barrel of beer.
Summit expects to brew about 120,000 barrels of beer this year, Stutrud said. Even after a $1.4 million tax credit, the proposed increase would
increase Summit’s tax bill to the state from about $550,000 last year to about $1.9 million. Ted Marti, president of August Schell Brewing Co., said he expects a similar figure for his brewery in New Ulm, Minn.
Stutrud and other opponents of that increase said it would compound as a barrel travels to the consumer: Brewers will hike their prices to distributors to cover the cost of the tax increase, then distributors will do the same before selling to retailers. Eventually, the trickledown results in higher prices on bar menus and liquor store shelves.
“It’s not 7 cents a drink anymore. It’s terrible spin. It’s a lie,” Stutrud said.
House Tax Committee Chairwoman Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, said she doesn’t buy that argument.
Lenczewski said the projected revenue from the excise tax increase would do little to tackle an estimated $3 billion in costs for alcohol abuse.
“We’re trying to get the high users of alcohol to help the state recoup some of its costs,” she said.
Lenczewski said the bill deliberately provides extra help to Minnesota brewers small and large. It includes a tax credit that wipes out the excise tax for up to 50,000 barrels a year, so microbreweries would be off the hook. Brewers and wholesalers who sell more than 200,000 barrels a year aren’t eligible.
“They don’t feel that way because it’s a tax increase, but they’re getting special, preferential tax treatment,” she said.
Stutrud said Summit is on track to pass that 200,000-barrel threshold in the next five to six years, and August Schell may do the same. That means both companies could lose that tax credit.
Even at that point, Marti said: “You’re by no means a large brewer.”
Mississippi: Governor vetoes bill allowing transport of liquor through dry counties
Source: Associated Press
Gov. Phil Bryant has vetoed a bill that would have allowed Mississippians to transport a limited amount of unopened alcohol through dry counties.
Senate Bill 2526 was passed during the waning days of the 2013 session. The bill would let a person buy the liquor in a wet county and drive through dry counties to another wet county. The bill also set limits on how much unopened liquor could be transported.
In his veto message, Bryant said the bill would undermine illegal liquor enforcement in Mississippi.
He said state law barring possession of alcohol in a dry county is straightforward.
“However, if the law is amended to permit the carrying of alcohol through such jurisdictions, then officers will be required to question every person they encounter who is in possession of alcohol to determine whether the person is merely passing through on his or her way to a wet jurisdiction.
“Further, such a person could create an issue of fact, and probably require a full-blown trial, simply by claiming that he or she was on his way to a wet county. Consequently, the prohibitions applicable in dry counties would be much more difficult to enforce,” Bryant said.
Mississippi in 1966 became the last state in the nation to legalize liquor sales, but only in counties that agreed to exempt themselves from the state’s prohibition. Mississippi has a patchwork of “wet” and “dry” counties.
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