Targeting the 4-pack market

Target stores in 19 states have gotten into the wine-selling business.

The variety store chain is selling Wine to Go, four-packs of wine in single-serving sizes of pinot grigio, cabernet sauvignon/shiraz, merlot and chardonnay.

However, in a nation of varying and often conflicting laws about sales of alcoholic beverages, availability is limited. Target does provide a map showing which states allow wine sales in its stores.

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Miracle of the vines

Sagrantino, a venerable wine from the Umbria region of Italy, has long been known for its deep red color. It originally was produced in the Middle Ages by followers of St. Francis of Assissi for use in religious services

Now, after a decade of research and experimentation between the University of Milan and the Arnaldo Caprai estate, a white version of the wine has been produced.

After 10 years of researches, Marco Caprai told the AGI news service, "We have managed to obtain a species of vine which, although it is not naturally-occurring, was present in the genetic features of the Sagrantino that we used to know. This result has been achieved resorting to self-fertilization, that is one of the most frequently used methods of genetic improvement applied to create new varieties of vines."

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007 returns to his beery roots

The late Ian Fleming's super spy James Bond has taken on a patina of sophistication over the decades that makes most fans forget his humble origins.

In the first Bond novel, "Casino Royale," the character who became known for his knowledge and enjoyment of wines and spirits actually drank beer. (Pause here for startled gasps by those reading this sacrilege for the first time.)

The 21st and latest latest Bond flick, a version of "Casino Royale" that is true to Fleming's novel rather than being twisted into a serio-satirical comedic mess that went under that title in 1967, has a definite beer tie-in.

Producers not only have the latest Bond actor, Daniel Craig, drinking beer, they have a six-figure deal with beermaker Heineken for a promotional partnership that includes a TV commercial shot on the Bond set featuring Bond girl Eva Green.

Quite a change for Bond who is remembered for some of his haughtier pronouncements. In 1962's "Dr. No" he turned up his nose at a 1955 Dom Perignon champagne, snootily telling his villainous host, "I prefer the '53 myself." Then, in 1964's "Goldfinger," Bond says of a brandy he is served, "I'd say it was a 30 year old Fine indifferently blended, with an overdose of Bon Bois."

Bottoms up.

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Canadians prefer goblet to shot glass these days

Earlier this year, I spent some time with master distiller Harold Ferguson at the Canadian Mist operation in Collingwood, Ontario, learning the basics of blending Canadian whisky.

As it turns out, I probably should have been spending more time with some local winemakers or wine sellers to stay current with Canadian consumer preferences.

According to a new Statistics Canada report, wines sales have outpaced spirit sales in the country for the first time ever, by a slight $4.2 billion to $4 billion (Canadian). Beer sales, however, remain way out in front with $8.4 billion in sales for the same fiscal year, which ended March 31, 2005, and was just reported.

The growth in wine sales has been mostly in reds, with sales of that sector up 60% in the past five years. That is more than double the increase in sales of white wine and triple that of all spirits.

Although Canada's modest wine producing sector experienced slight growth, 71 percent of wine bought in the country during the fiscal year was imported from, in order, France, Italy, Australia, the United States and Chile.

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Pomegranate wine working in Israel

Pomegranate has been the fruit of the moment for several years, selling bigtime in its natural form as well as in juices and extracts. There even is a pomegranate liqueur.

According to Productscan, a product data service, 215 new pomegranate-flavored foods and beverages were brought to market in the first seven months of 2006, compared to just 19 for the whole of 2002. Pomegranate flavors are finding their way to everything from natural fruit juices to chewing gum and even sausages. Now, some enterprising folks in Israel have stepped up their use of the sweet/tart fruit for winemaking.

Father and son Gaby and Avi Nachmias, the third generation of a farming family who were founding members of Moshav Kerem Ben Zimra in Israel's Upper Galilee area near the border with Lebanon, began experimenting 10 years ago to create a new strain of the ancient fruit that would be richer in vitamins and antioxidants, sweeter and deeper in its red color than most pomegranate types, according to the Web site ISRAEL21C.

That led to more experimentation and, in 2003, the family produced 2,000 bottles of pomegranate dessert wine from their own fruit. In 2004, they founded the Rimon Winery, named after the Hebrew word for pomegranate.

"In general, pomegranates don't have enough natural sugar to ferment into alcohol on its own," Leo Open, Rimon's director of international marketing, told ISRAEL21c. "In the past, some people have added alcohol to pomegranate juice to create a form of liquor, but no one has successfully made wine. Our pomegranates are the only ones in the world that have enough sugar to do so naturally."

Starting this year, the company began featuring a product line that includes a dry wine, a dessert wine, a heavier port wine with 19% alcohol content, and a rosé wine. It also produces pomegranate vinegar and a line of cosmetics made with oils extracted from the fruit.

"Earlier this year, we started exporting to the Far East in Asia, and we are now in touch with people in U.S., Europe, and even South America," Open said.

Domestically, Rimon wines cost about $15 to $24 a bottle. The company will not speculate what distribution costs will do to pricing in the U.S.

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Chile makes full-court press in New York

Wines of Chile, the trade group representing about 90 Chilean wineries, is launching its first-ever "Salud! Chilean Wine Fest" in New York, beginning Monday, Sept. 18, which is Chile's Independence Day, and running through Saturday, Sept. 30.

The program pairs Chilean wines with various restaurants and retail wine shops to offer special samples and in-store tastings for consumers.

Participating restaurants will be pouring Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, or Bordeaux-style red blends by the glass as part of
the promotion.

They include, alphabetically:

• 2 West (Ritz-Carlton Battery Park)
• AJ Maxwell's Steakhouse
• Bar Americain
• Barca 18
• Beacon
• Ben & Jack's Steakhouse
• Churrascaria Plataforma
• Churrascaria Tribeca
• Devin Tavern
• Dos Caminos Park Avenue
• Dos Caminos Soho
• Dylan Prime
• Hearth
• Hell's Kitchen
• Ipanema
• Marseille
• Maya
• Nolita House
• Pampano
• Paris Commune
• Patroon Pomaire
• Porcao Churrascaria
• Riodizio Churrascaria
• Sapa
• Savoy
• Suenos
• Thalassa
• The Rainbow Room Grill
• Town

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One Aussie label fading away

If you're into collecting rare wines, grab a bottle of Broken Earth from Australia.

Tandou Limited, a southeastern Australian agriculture company, has decided to sell its winery at Monash as well as the Broken Earth name and get out of the wine business.

Chief executive Guy Kingwill said in an announcement that Tandou, founded in 1972, is facing significant challenges.

"We need to focus our resources and strategically have made the decision to focus our resources in the areas of the cotton farm and the orchard areas and had to make a decision to exit the wine business," he said.

Tandou began as a private company growing irrigated cereals and grazing merino sheep. It now is involved in producing both cotton and wool, owning and operating fruit orchards, and operating water management systems.

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Viet entrepreneur toasts coconuts -- with his wine

Ba Thanh, a farmer and entrepreneur in Vietnam's major coconut-growing area, hasn't taken a traditional route to success.

Whereas other coconut growers concentrate on the meat, milk and fiber of the plant, he decided he wanted to turn it into wine. His first successful experiment came late last year. Now, less than a year later, his wine plant in Ben Tre province is turning out 15,000 bottles a month.

Most of the wine is consumed in-country, but he does have customers in the United Kingdom, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

Of course, coconut wine is not new. It's just that the Ben Tre success is new to the Vietnamese economy.

In the Philippines, for example, lambanog is a popular drink. It is most commonly described as coconut wine or coconut vodka. It's distilled from the sap of the unopened coconut.

Vietnamese wines still are in the developmental stage. Grapes have mainly been grown in Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan provinces, with 6,000 acres currently under cultivation.

The climate and soil in Ninh Thuan are particularly suitable for the growth and development of vines. In this province, grapevines can be pruned at any time of the year, whuch results in 2.5 to 3 harvests per year. Cardinal is the most popular grape, a unique variety popularly grown in Vietnam with a high yield potential with vines propagated mainly by cuttings.

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NY's Trezise a man of integrity

Jim Trezise leads a hectic, complex professional life. The president of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation is continually on the go, continually juggling sometimes-conflicting priorities, often for people with conflicting personal agendas.

I speak here of simultaneously gladhanding people on behalf of the NYW&GF, schmoozing politicians to obtain favorable legislation and their personal support for the industry, traveling from vineyard to vineyard, wine competition to wine competition, trade show to trade show, viticulture educational session to ... well, I'm not typing that again. But, you get the point.

Through it all, and in an industry that often swallows the souls of lesser mortals, Trezise has earned and sustained a reputation as an upstanding, legitimate guy. That view now has been formalized with his selection as winner of the Wine Industry Integrity Award for 2006 as decided by the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission in California.

The award, created in 1998, honors individuals who have conducted their careers with integrity while making significant contributions to the wine industry. The award will be presented at a dinner in honor of Trezise at the Wine and Roses Hotel in Lodi, CA, on Friday, Nov. 3.

According to selection panel member John Ledbetter, "Jim works tirelessly promoting and educating the American public, regulators and elected officials not only about New York wines, but American wines as well. He is an extremely dedicated and effective voice for our industry, and woven through it all is his great personal integrity."

The award was no secret to a band of several dozen judges -- including yours truly -- who labored at the New York Wine & Food Classic competition in Canandaigua, NY, last month. It was mentioned by Peter Marks of COPIA, a selection panelist, at the Governor's Cup luncheon that concluded the annual event. However, I thought it better to await the formal announcement.

Trezise has headed the NYW&GF since its inception in 1985. The foundation is a private, not-for-profit organization that sponsors research and promotion programs in support of New York grapes, juice and wine.

He also is director general of the International Federation of Wines and Spirits, based in Paris, is on the executive committee of the American Vintners Association, and is co-founder of the American Wine Alliance for Research and Education. He holds a master's degree in international communications from American University in Washington, DC, and a bachelor's degree in psychology from Allegheny College.

The integrity award panel of judges this year was chaired by the wine writer Gerald D. Boyd and besides Marks included Steve Burns of O'Donnell Lane LLC, Linda Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle, John Ledbetter of Vino Farms, Norm Roby of Decanter Magazine, Zelma Long of Zelphi Wines, and last year's honoree, Robert Steinhauer of Beringer Wine Estates.

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