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Wine In The News


Aussie wine by the numbers

 Wine In The NewsThe other day, while sorting through our stash of great Australian wines in search of something spring-like to sip, we realized that many of the wines were named Bin this number or Bin that number. No other country names wines according to bin. Just Aussie spin?
A little research revealed that bin numbers have been put on Australian wine labels since the 1930s. Contemporary Australian winemakers think that the numbers were historically the way winemakers in the past kept track of wines through blending and aging. Also, pre air conditioning, the numbers probably referred to the underground bin or place where a certain wine was typically stored.
Bin numbers are used by many top Australian wine companies. Penfolds, for example, makes three cabernet sauvignons—Bin 407 ($48), Bin 389 ($50), and Bin 707 ($200)–each of which is a different blend. Probably the most recognized bin number is Lindeman’s Bin 65 chardonnay (the 2011 is about $6), one of the biggest selling brands of chardonnay in the world.
Of the four bins just mentioned, our favorite wine is Bin 389, sometimes known as “baby Grange,” a reference to its sister wine Penfold’s Grange, one of the leading and most expensive wines in Australia. Here is Penfold’s chief winemaker Peter Gago talking about Bin 389 and our thoughts on the wine after tasting it recently.
PENFOLDS Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2008 (South Australia) $50
Here’s a cabernet with power yet grace. The exciting, savory, spicy, smoky notes lift the wine out of mere fruitiness (though the fruit is dramatic and powerful), and transform it into a flavor far more intriguing and complex. Best of all is the way this wine soars on the palate. Like it’s just broken free in every direction.



Drew Barrymore’s Italian Production
Hollywood’s darling dips into the wine biz

She helped “E.T.” phone home. She flashed David Letterman. And she’s one of “Charlie’s Angels.” Many of us feel as though we’ve grown up with actress Drew Barrymore. Maybe that’s why her new venture makes us proud.
Barrymore is the latest Hollywoodwine 400 Wine In The News A-lister to launch her own wine. BARRYMORE Pinot Grigio 2011 is a blend of grapes from the northern Italian regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trentino Alto Adige, and Veneto.
The wine, which retails for $20, is available in California and New York as well as online at www.klwine.com. It is said to have hints of fresh apricot, lively citrus flavors, and clocks in at 12 percent alcohol. Last month, the wine scored a gold medal at Le Challenge International du Vin, France’s largest international wine competition.
Barrymore was involved in every step of production, making numerous trips to Italy and, on the label design, teaming up with Los Angeles street artist Shepard Fairey of Disney and Google fame.






Total Wine Now Plans To Add 10 Stores In Washington, Seeks Further Expansion In Texas

Total Wine & More has now completed deals to open three stores in Washington state this year, Total Wine president and co-owner David Trone tells Shanken News Daily.  Washington’s first Total Wine unit will open in the former Larry’s Market in Bellevue (just east of Seattle) in late June. The two other locations have yet to be revealed. Trone says Total Wine is currently working on 10 deals for new stores throughout Washington state.

Looking ahead after the opening of Total Wine’s first Texas store in Dallas last week, Trone says the company is now scouting for other sites in the Dallas/Fort Worth market. He added that Total Wine will be seeking to open new stores statewide in Texas.




Exclusive: Bill Foley Sees More Acquisitions Ahead

In recent years, Bill Foley of Foley Family Wines has been one the most aggressive acquirers in the California wine business. A longtime financial industry executive—he’s currently chairman of Jacksonville, Florida-based Fidelity National Financial—Foley began his wine empire with the acquisition of Santa Barbara’s Lincourt Vineyards in 1996. Over the past five years, new additions to the Foley portfolio have come at a rapid pace—including Santa Barbara’s Firestone Vineyards and boutique Cabernet producer Merus in 2007, Napa’s Kuleto Estate in 2009 and Sonoma’s Sebastiani Winery and Chalk Hill Winery in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Foley has also expanded outside California, buying Washington’s Three Rivers Winery in 2008 and New Zealand Wine Fund in 2009. In recent weeks Foley has struck again, agreeing to purchase Napa’s Sawyer Cellars—from which he’ll launch a new upscale Foley Johnson label (Johnson is his wife’s maiden name)—and New Zealand Wine Company. Foley Family Wines expects to produce and sell 700,000 cases in the U.S. this year, and 650,000 cases in New Zealand (about 80,000 of which will be imported to the U.S.).

Washington state’s Supreme Court today upheld the constitutionality of last November’s voter-approved initiative to privatize liquor sales in the state. The initiative, I-1183, which allows stores larger than 10,000 square feet (as well as some smaller stores) to sell liquor, goes into effect tomorrow, June 1.



Coppola’s Revamped Sonoma Winery In High Gear, Prepares Launch Of New Blend, Eleanor

Francis Coppola Winery, the Sonoma operation formed through the famed director and vintner’s acquisition of the former Souverain winery in 2006, is coming off its first full year of operation after a comprehensive remodeling, reportedly costing $30 million. Coppola does not disclose volume numbers, but the Sonoma property’s current permits are for 10,000 tons of grapes (around 600,000 cases) and a 2-million-case bottling line. “We don’t exercise all of that, but we are growing,” says general manager and director of winemaking Corey Beck.

The remodeling, which began in 2008, turned Coppola’s Alexander Valley site into a tourist destination, replete with a restaurant, swimming pool, a museum housing movie memorabilia and other amenities. The facility welcomed 200,000 visitors last year.

The winery is now releasing a new upscale red blend named for Coppola’s wife, Eleanor. Set to launch at the end of this month at $48 a bottle, the 2009 Eleanor blend is composed of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon sourced both from Coppola’s vineyards in Sonoma and its Inglenook property in Napa. Eleanor Coppola’s own artwork graces the new entry’s label.

“I think Eleanor can fit into the red blend trend we’ve been seeing—at the higher end, of course,” says Beck. “We’ll play around with the blend according to what a given vintage lends us. 2010 might have some Zinfandel, and there’s also Petite Sirah planted at Inglenook, so we have some flexibility.” Beck adds that a white counterpart under the Eleanor brand may follow. Production will stay small, at around 1,000 cases.

Coppola’s Sonoma operation now turns out eight different labels and over 40 wines, including the Diamond Collection ($18-$20), Director’s Cut ($21-$32) and Sofia ($19) lines. The group opted not to lower prices over the last few years as some competitors did, which slowed volume growth relative to those who did drop price, Beck admits. Moving forward, though, he expects the tightening California grape supply to force competing brands back up to Coppola’s price level. “Ninety-nine percent of the grapes in California right now are under contract,” he says, “and that’s driving up prices.”

Beck points to the example of Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, which have typically been priced around $1,400 a ton in recent years but are now at about $2,500 a ton. “I say to the growers, show me a Lake County Cabernet that’s $26 on the shelf,” he says. “At some point grape prices will need to realign with what wineries can charge at wholesale.”

The wider emergence of retailers with private label wines across the U.S. has added a new wrinkle to the equation. “Retailers now have the flexibility to tell suppliers that if they raise prices, the retailers have their own private labels and supply chain. That’s made wineries reluctant to increase prices even as grape costs spike. But it’s inevitable, and we’re slowly starting to see it.”

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