11 September 2001
Beringer Blass continues push into US market
Continuing its bolt-on acquisition strategy, Beringer Blass Wine Estates (BBWE), the world’s leading premium wine group and a major division of Foster’s Group, today announced the purchase of Etude Wines (Etude), an ultra-premium Napa Valley producer of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Targeting the growing U.S. market for high-end niche varietal wines, the acquisition is expected to deliver strong revenue growth and capital returns. Etude’s revenue has almost doubled since fiscal 1999, on the strength of market growth and the higher prices achieved for the brand.
Etude wines and the company’s founding owner and winemaker, Mr Tony Soter, enjoy a strong reputation in the US wine press. Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator have consistently rated Etude wines highly. Jim Laube of Wine Spectator has awarded Etude his "five-star" rating – reserved for wines he considers the finest California has to offer. Fine wine customers also give Etude high marks, evidenced by a very strong showing in the Wine & Spirits Sixth Annual Restaurant Poll and by the high percentage of distribution in restaurants.
"In the last 20 years Tony has built Etude into one of the most highly respected wineries in California," said Mr Walt Klenz, Managing Director elect of BBWE. "Etude’s focus on ultra-premium Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon is an ideal complement to our existing portfolio of California wines. We’re especially pleased that Tony has agreed to continue his role at the winery. Throughout his career he’s had an enormous influence on the California wine industry. With an outstanding reputation among wine and food aficionados in the US, the Etude Pinot Noir range will give us a distinctive edge in an increasingly attractive category."
Only a handful of coastal wineries focus on the luxury segment of the Pinot Noir market, where high prices and allocations are the rule. Competition is limited to Burgundy, California and top Oregon wines.
Retailing from US$38 to $80 per bottle, the Etude Pinot Noir range will complement BBWE’s existing California Pinot Noir portfolio, which retails between $US11 and $US38 per bottle.
This existing Pinor Noir portfolio (including Beringer Vineyards, Beringer Founders’ Estate, Meridian and Chateau St. Jean) sold more than 85,000 cases in fiscal 2001, up from 47,600 cases in the prior year.
While continuing to work closely with its current portfolio of grower partners, Etude will collaborate with BBWE vineyard manager Bob Steinhauer to identify high quality Pinot Noir blocks within Beringer’s newly developed Benoist (pronounced “ben-wah”) Vineyard development in Sonoma Carneros.
Consisting of 243 hectares (600 acres), this cool-climate vineyard developed by BBWE starting in 1999 provides the ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir among its numerous and varying soil deposits and microclimates. The first grapes will be harvested in 2002; at full production, Benoist is expected to yield over 1,500 tons of Pinot Noir a year.
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