Cause for Celebration
Two major acquisitions, a port fit for a queen and a new Chinese wine holiday make James Suckling’s monthly news round-up
Buy, Buy, Buy
Publicly listed Hong Kong wine merchant Madison Wine, owned by Raymond Ting, announced its plans in April to buy a 45 per cent share of Acker Merrall & Condit, one of the oldest wine auction houses in the world. The proposed acquisition would help ensure a sufficient supply of wines and expand distribution channels.
Port wine producer Graham’s has released a special bottle to mark Queen Elizabeth II’S 90th birthday in April. Graham’s 90 is a unique blend of three legendary tawnies— the 1912, 1924 and 1935. The first two are declared vintages, while the last was not declared; rather, it was set aside by the winery to honour King George V’s silver jubilee. This celebratory port is available through Berry Bros & Rudd for £700 a bottle.
One of the world’s biggest alcoholic beverage companies, Constellation Brands, bought Napa Valley wine brand The Prisoner in April for US$285 million, just a year after buying up another Napa-based brand, Meiomi—consistent with its expansion strategy of acquiring brands rather than buying up vineyards and wineries. This is the second sale of The Prisoner, following the 2010 sale to Huneeus Vintners for US$40 million. The wine was created by Orin Swift’s Dave Phinney in 1998 and began as a Zinfandel-based slightly sweet blend with a high alcohol content and low tannins.
Alibaba aims to boost mainland China sales of Italian wines on its e-commerce platform tenfold, driving up Italy’s share of bottles sold from the current 6 per cent to 60 per cent, its founder, Jack Ma, said at a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at this year’s Vinitaly trade show. The push is expected to give a boost to Italian wines in a market dominated by French producers. To introduce more international wines to Chinese consumers, the company also announced the launch of Wine Day on September 9; the date was chosen because “nine” in Putonghua sounds very similar to the word for “wine.” Wine Day is modelled on Alibaba’s famous Singles’ Day promotion on November 11, which has been heralded as an unofficial holiday in China and brought in a whopping US$14.3 billion in online sales last year alone.