Some interesting items flew past me in the past few months, and as I burrow through the press release pile, they've reemerged. In no particular order, here's three developments in the business worth more scrutiny, I think:
1. Geyser Peak Winery seals first wine under screwcap...
And not just a mega-production wine - this Geyser Peak is a $21 retail 2006 Sauvignon Blanc Block Collection, River Road Ranch, Russian River Valley wine, one with only 3,300 cases produced. So while this move is not likely to be a market changer, it is a sign of wider acceptance for screwcaps when a winery that sells at least 250,000 cases of juice (as of 2005) follows the New Zealanders in sealing an ultra-premium priced Sauvignon Blanc with screwcaps. In fact, Geyser Peak marketing director Limeng Stroh credits the Kiwis in a release, saying that "...consumers purchasing this wine are also likely to have taken a similar interest in premium aromatic varietals from New Zealand..."
Geyser, owned by Beam Wine Estates, is just acknowledging the obvious - Sauvignon Blanc drinkers want their wine fresh and fruity, and have embraced the screwcap revolution.
2. But if some samples I received recently are any indication, more Southern Hemisphere reds are getting the cork-free treatment as well. Two arrived from importer Epicurean Wines without cork - one, the well-received Black Chook Shiraz Viognier 2006, with a screwcap, and the other, Woop Woop Shiraz 2006, using the Zork an Aussie innovation already used by winemakers much appreciated in the U.S. like d'Areneberg. Expect more and more of these closures to come.
3. "Green" marketing - that is, connecting brands to growing consumer concern with environmental worries - has broken into beverage alcohol. It's hard to be heard over all the new launch buzz these days, and as more and more organic brands are available - Pearl Vodka springs to mind - other newcomers are launching with their environmental bona fides apparently all in order.
One, VeeV , is made with açai berries, prickly pear, ginseng and acerola cherry and "distilled base wheat spirit," meaning, I guess, neutral wheat spirit. For each bottle sold, brand owners donate $1 to the Rainforest Action Network and Sambazon Sustainable Açai Project. Additonally, each member of the VeeV sales force drives a Toyota Prius.
And then there's 360 Vodka from McCormick Distilling, made from local grain (to negate fossil fuel emissions in transportation), using a high percentage of recycled glass in their bottle, making all packaging 100 percent biodegradable, and also offering a $1 per bottle charitable hook-up. These are all good things, I suppose, but I wonder how interested the spirit consumer is in these issues? On the other hand, for 360, the vodka market is so big that there's room for everyone. But as someone who prefers, in general, pot still spirits to those from column stills, what am I to make of McCormick's claim that "column distillation consumes 200% less energy than the commonly used pot still method"? Guilt, I suppose, but I doubt there are many vodkas using pot stills these days, anyway