Wines & Vines

Worldbeat – Office of Champagne, Reserve Maison Nicolas, marketing German wine in United Kingdom, death of Alfredo Grajales – Brief Article

Worldbeat – Office of Champagne, Reserve Maison Nicolas, marketing German wine in United Kingdom, death of Alfredo Grajales – Brief Article – Statistical Data Included

Larry Walker

A new organization called The Office of Champagne, USA took its bubbly show on the road this summer. The series of tastings, which included San Francisco, seemed designed to involve a kind of public educational outreach for the trade and consumers.

Never one to pass up a chance to drink champagne, I went around to sample whatever was on offer. With all due respect, it was an odd tasting. The venue, the cellar of a place called The Bubble Lounge, was so dimly lit it was difficult to distinguish a rose bubbly from a blanc de blancs in the glass. (It was a little brighter in the upstairs lounge, but that was given over to a meeting of Young Republican Women, which was considerably better attended than the champagne affair.)

I chatted with Tommy Bruce, who is the director of the Office of Champagne, about the group’s mission. He said it was to meet people in the industry and talk to them about champagne, apparently just spreading the good news and making friends in California and elsewhere. Fair enough. Had a good talk about matching sparkling wine with food and the unfortunate marketing dead-end of being considered a drink only for “special occasions.” In discussing food and sparkling wine, I mentioned Jamie Davies, co-founder of Schramsberg in Napa, who has beavered away on that theme for decades and Bruce mentioned that he was meeting with her the next day.

I wonder how that meeting went? In the media kit that I carried away from the tasting there was a sheet with the heading: “Champagne comes from only one place: Champagne, France. However, the United States is one of the few countries in the world that does not protect the name Champagne…. As a result some local sparkling wine producers, who intentionally mislabel their products as Champagne, harm the success and recognition of all sparkling wines in the United States.”

Surely, the Office of Champagne USA must know that Schramsberg, without question one of the best sparkling wines in the world, was calling its product champagne up until the ’98 vintage.

Huge Gain in U.S. for French Brand

Reserve Maison Nicolas has announced a 218% increase in sales for the brand from January through May 2002, compared to the same period in 2001. With total sales of 129,750 cases, Reserve Maison Nicolas is now the fourth largest French wine brand in the U.S.

Michel Haury, the president of Reserve Maison Nicolas said the growth and success of the brand depended on quality control and tailoring the wine to fit the American taste. The wines are also priced to sell at about $6.99 per bottle. The wines are sourced from vineyards in the south of France. Luneau USA, Inc. is the U.S. importer.

German Ad Campaign in the UK

A campaign has been launched in the UK for German wines. The program is aimed at persuading wine drinkers that Germany produces more than just cheap Liebfraumilch. The German Wine Institute in the UK is paying for the new series of ads carrying the message, “If you think you know German wine, drink again.”

The advertising push follows an announcement by Black Tower of a [pounds]1 million ($1.58 million) marketing campaign aimed at younger drinkers. Thirty years ago Black Tower helped introduce wine as a mass market drink, aided by fellow German tipple Blue Nun and Portugal’s Mateus Rose.

“The campaign is designed to tackle head-on the prejudice that all German wine is sweet and cheap,” said Nicky Forrest, director of Wines of Germany.

The campaign, the biggest to be run in the UK by Wines of Germany, is aimed at consumers aged 18 to 34 and so-called sophisticated wine drinkers. The advertisements will be appearing in various publications and on the London Underground. (See Page 36 for a report on a German advertising campaign in the U.S.)

Colombia Wine Producer Slain

Luis Alfredo Grajales, the founder and owner of Colombia’s largest winery, was killed in mid-July, apparently by leftist rebels. reported that the attack took place in the town of La Union, where Grajales S.A. has its headquarters. Grajales founded the company 50 years ago and it has since become Colombia’s largest wine producer.

Grajales’ son, Luis Alfredo Jr. and the driver Fulvio Rangel were also killed. Police say the Grajales family had not received any threats, but they believe the murders may have been political. Luis Alfredo Grajales Sr. was a conservative councilor for La Union and Colombia’s leftist rebels have recently carried out a number of attacks against local politicians.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Hiaring Company

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group