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Five Minute Read – April 2004

“standfirst”>Around the world this month looks at the latest acquisition forays of some of the US’ biggest wine and brewing companies, takes a peek at Chivas Brothers’ latest global results and has a chuckle at the continued calamity for Coca-Cola’s Dasani brand.

News is dominated by the Chancellor’s budget and what it means to the key movers and shakers across the drinks industry, alongside gin’s fall from grace and the first shot across the bows of irresponsible drinks marketeers in the government’s alcohol strategy paper.

Product news features the latest and greatest to hit the market this month, all the way from  Corky’s    new (and bright yellow) seasonal Easter vodka, through Stoli’s latest top-end offering, to a few new beers both  from here in the UK and Latvia.

In his regular column Dave Broom examines the almost farcical conclusion to the row over Cardhu, and wonders whether Diageo’s climbdown isn’t really just a very sharp and canny piece of long-term strategy that will see them turn out on top?

The big interview this month is with John Harley, CEO of Budweiser Budvar UK. From his childhood exploits as a Double Diamond impersonator to his work placing Budvar firmly on the map, as far as the UK’s on-trade is concerned, beer seems to have been a constant in his life. We find out what makes him tick, and why he believes there’s enough room for two brands bearing the Budweiser name.

In our finance focus, Joanne Hart examines the tricky business of forward buying. As the world economy continues to fluctuate and individual currencies ride a rollercoaster in value terms, what is the best course to take when it comes to securing major currencies at a favourable rate? Can forward buying add stability, or is it a gamble that requires nerves of steel and deep pockets?

In our update on Spain, Patrick Schmitt first takes a look at the country’s dominant region, Rioja. He speaks to the principal industry figures and finds out what they think is the future for this historical region, as the New World continues its onslaught in the off-trade and the on-trade finds itself in a state of flux. Can Rioja maintain the strong position it has had in the past, or will it cede to other more price-competitive regions? Some of the latter, of course, may in fact come from within Spain itself, as Susan Low illustrates in her review of what the main regions of Spain are doing to ensure that Rioja doesn’t always get the largest slice of the wine pie. Meanwhile, Charlotte Hey looks at Navarra, home to some of the country’s most interesting wines both in style and profit margin terms. And Patrick Schmitt casts an eye over developments in Cava, the fizz that remains a staple of the great British drinking public.

May is, of course, fast approaching, which means just one thing to the wine trade: time for the LIWSF again. Robyn Lewis previews this year’s affair picking out some of the most interesting seminars, product launches and marketing campaigns that will no doubt assault our senses over the course of the show’s three day run. Remember, you read it here first and saw it at the show last.

In marketing this month, Jon Rees ponders the latest threat to the French wine industry. The government is considering even stricter laws surrounding the advertising of alcohol. Enough is enough says the French wine industry, which recently did what any decent Frenchman would, and marched in protest. However, wonders Rees, will their complaints simply fall on deaf ears and the country’s wine sales take another slide downwards?

And Robyn Lewis talks to one of the noughties’ success stories, Innocent Drinks. These healthy fruit pulps have taken the UK by storm, and there’s more to follow says the clever and quirky team behind the brand. As ever, in the press brings you the latest from the pens and biros of Britain’s journalists and looks at who or what they’ve rated most often and most highly over the past month.

Next up, Giles Fallowfield probes the developments in Eastern Europe, examining the likes of Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, the relative powerhouses in wine terms of the region. Can they win back market share in the UK, or should they be concentrating on other, less crowded markets in which their cheerful and inexpensive products might excel? Even further east, Nicolas Faith gets to grips with gun-ridden tasting rooms and wineries in the wilds of Georgia, where French drinks giant Pernod-Ricard has partnered with a local winery to create an extraordinary and fascinating wine project.

In retail this month, we talk to that very Northern but ever so successful supermarket chain, Booths, and quiz its principal buyers on what makes their customers go berserk and what leaves them cold.

In our on-trade focus, Patrick Schmitt brings the latest news and views from the restaurant trade, and interviews Claire Smith, former champion cocktail supremo and now the woman driving the Belvedere vodka wedge into bars across the country. And Robyn Lewis examines South Africa’s performance on the restaurant scene. Are its wines seeing the same success as in retail, or does more work need to be done? Our brand builder this month is that rarity of all rarities – a successful French wine  brand, Blason de Bourgogne. And in Q&A we talk to Jane Hughes at Sainsbury’s about buying wine, keeping cats and being Wonder Woman. And, of course, we have the latest from Liv-ex on fine wine, and Canadean gives us the lowdown on Eastern Europe’s preferred tipples in the spirits sector. 

© db April 2004

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