Wine: Robert Parker, Primeur 2OO9 and eRobertParker.com

(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr). WINE: From today, you will have to pay to get access to Robert Parker's wine discussion forum. Some of you may have received this e-mail: "On April 27, the entire Mark Squires' Bulletin Board on eRobertParker.com will become a subscriber-only forum, open only to subscribers of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate or eRobertParker.com."
eRobertParker.com decided to make it that way instead of continuing and developping a two-tier system with, on one side, a free subscription forum and, on the other side, a paid subscription to a forum with complementary offers and informations. Some kind of offers we find in Bordeaux with a Premier Grand Vin and a second wine, not free but much more affordable, which gives consumers an opportunity to get a feeling of what happens there. In fact, by making this announcement, Robert Parker creates a members-only club of wine lovers who pay to get a place (here a virtual place on erobertparker.com) and where people can meet and discuss with other club members. Building a club membership business rather than a community or, in other words, building a luxury community. A club where people will exchange about the best wines in the world. A bit like sharing a discussion between members at the bar of the select Saint Andrews Golf Club in Scotland or at the Kee Club restaurant in Shanghai. I have to admit I love these places.
As mentioned in the e-mail, the amount of work required to supervise "the huge volume of posts has become increasingly time consuming and expensive". In fact, since November 2001 when it was launched, "the board became rapidly the Internet's premier forum for wine discussion". This position of international leading forum on wine topics gives erobertparker.com the opportunity to ask for a subscription. People will have to take the full package: they subscribe to Wine Advocate or to eRobertParker.com and they are allowed to get in the discussion forum. The internet media business showed the way in this paid subscription model. Wall Street Journal decided to do so quite early but they also decided to keep some information free (a very limited amount in fact) to attract some internet users' eyeballs who may in the future decide to get a subscription.
Robert Parker is Robert Parker. The internet is full of pages filled with wine critics but Robert Parker became a reference in that field. In that sense, very early, people agreed to pay for articles. Now eRobertParker.com has enough credibility to be the first to announce a paid subscription forum access. It may give others the idea to follow that business model.
Moreover, Robert Parker is not Robert Parker only. In fact eRobertparker.com is not only about Robert Parker but also about Antonio Galloni, Neal Martin, Jay Miller, Lisa Perrotti Brown, David Schildknecht, Mark Squire and others. They all give their point of view and this created a sphere of wine critics whose opinion is today highly regarded. Paying to get access to their articles is now relevant for most wine lovers and for any person working in the international wine business. The Wine hub is creating its own luxury environment with expensive wines, glamour and now a paid subscription forum access. Some privileged like us are lucky enough to get access to the best wines and to taste the most expensive ones. Some may get access to eRobertParker's wine forum, exchange with wine lovers about their passion and comment on their recent tasting experience of a spectacular 1840 Chateau Gruaud Larose. Some may not. Twenty years ago, it would have been difficult for wine lovers to understand such a change. But the global demand has dramatically changed the wine sphere and has expanded its "luxury part" up to a point where now even wine discussion forums are not free anymore. Times change so quickly...(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr).


Singapore, a great place in Asia for Luxury Wines

(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr). In Singapore, the 11th edition of WSA (Wine & Spirits Asia) may deliver this week a positive message to luxury wine estates: The Lion City offers great opportunities for expensive wines.
In fact, when the subject comes to Asia and luxury wines, some estate owners only think about China and Hong Kong. Asia has other interesting markets for expensive wines including South Korea and Singapore. Wine drinkers in Singapore are definitely getting increasingly sophisticated, and wine consumption is going up. People in Singapore have a mature palette in general and wine lovers have been collecting wine for over a decade. The importance people place on wines is increasing and it is not rare to find wine cellars in their home. And Singapore's expatriate population (about 150,000 Westerners) is just a contributing factor for growth in this market. Studies show that Singaporean wine consumers are mainly in the middle to upper income bracket and that they tend to be mostly Chinese, aged between 25 to 50 years old. Add to this, 10 million tourists a year, wine cellars, boutiques and duty free shops at Changi Airport, and estate owners may understand the great opportunities of this market for luxury wines.
With Hong Kong's tax being zero, will Singapore lose the game to be a luxury wines' hub in Asia in the future? Competition is strong and China is a hugely attractive market. But Singapore's central location, high degree of organisation and convenience still make the country an important re-export centre regionally. In fact, year after year, Singapore continues to develop its re-export business of luxury wines with Malaysia (where the Chinese population forms the wealthiest group of consumers), Indonesia and Thailand (markets mainly constituted by expatriate business people and tourists) or Vietnam (where the overall wine consumption is still very small). In the Lion City, the current tax system does not make a huge impact on luxury wines (tax stands at US$48.2 per 100 bottles, multiplied by the alcohol percentage, with on top of this a regular 7% Goods and Services Tax). With this system, the most expensive wines are much less impacted than cheap wines and the result has been that many visitors from around the region fly to Singapore to pick up premium wines. Some businesses in Southeast Asian countries also prefer to get their wines stored in Singapore and have small quantities re-exported from time to time. A Thai importer, for example, who will have to pay a 400% tax if he imports directly from France, will prefer to import from Singapore and pay a fraction of this. So Singapore's strength in logistics is key to develop further opportunities with these countries. Singapore shows a fine infrastructure, with bonded temperature controlled warehouses just next to the docks. This means that the precious wine doesn't sit on the docks in the heat for hours but is safely stored at optimum temperature in a warehouse. And this last point becomes a real advantage for wine merchants when you consider the current prices of luxury wines in the international markets...(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr).


Vinitaly 2010: Interview with Vito Catania, owner of Azienda Gulfi, about the 4 Crus in Sicily

(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr). Special Vinitaly 2010 - With 95 points to Nerosanlore 2005, Robert Parker showed to the world that some of the best wines in the world could also come from Sicily. Planted with autochtonuous grapes (including Carjcantj, Nero d'Avola, Nerello Mascalese), Azienda Gulfi's vineyards are famous for a limited production of 4 Crus (Nerobufaleffj, Neromaccarj, Nerosanlorè, Nerobaronj) created by Vito Catania. Taking part to Vinitaly 2010, Vito Catania answered our questions before heading to Verona.
How would you define your wines?
It is extremely difficult to answer this question as we have a large range of wines with different traditional grapes. I would say that some have a vibrant fruit with delicate tannins and a nice acidity: these wines can be drunk very young. And some, like our 4 Crus and Reseca, a red wine from Etna, need a long ageing. Our Crus could be compared to some great chateauneuf du pape that I enjoy drinking when they are young but which are extraordinary after a long ageing. For example, we are having now, at home, some Nerobufaleffj or Neromaccarj 2001. Delicate, elegant with a long finish, they develop beautiful aromas that you can not get at an early stage.
How do you explain this long ageing potential?
When I decided with Salvo Foti to isolate some parcels and make 4 different Crus, I already knew that these places had different expressions. Call it terroir or whatever, these diverse environments had always produced different wines that were traditionnally not blended. So, a long time ago sicilian farmers already knew that these parcels had something special, including their ageing potential. Moreover, we also work our vines organically. In fact, having "organically grown" written on our labels is not as important as the daily work we make in our vineyard. But I find that, year after year, we got a better definition of the different soils and also gained in balance. It is incredible how fresh these wines are when you consider the high temperatures we have during the summer. Both, choosing specific terroirs and working naturally, helped Gulfi to make well balanced and long ageing wines. It is even more impressive on white wines, more particularly on Carjcantj. Year after year, these wines gained minerality and tasting 1999 now is a real pleasure.
And what about Reseca, your wine on the Etna Mount?
On Etna, we have very old vines planted in Nerello Mascalese. Some are more than 100 years old and give a low yield but with an extreme concentration. Etna is very particular and Gulfi always wanted to keep the traditional working habits in this vineyard. Sometimes it is really hard, we have to invest a lot of time on these small parcels but the outcome is unique. Full of tannins, with a black colour, Reseca could not be compared to a specific wine. The first time I walked in this parcel, I got a special feeling: everything was quite, relaxing and so natural.The production is very limited but we are very proud to show this wine to the world as Etna has something I would call magical.(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr).


Champagne Lanson and Luxury wines: when changing a name is more than a name change

(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr). Champagne has a long tradition on the luxury wines' market. Strategies may differ but, in a troubled economy, champagne producers like Champagne Lanson should prepare actively their companies for a successful future. Let's consider the example of Boizel Chanoine Champagne which recently reported a 2009 net income that decreased by 22 percent to 16.1 million euros, impacted by a drop in sales. On the day of this announcement, BCC also informed the market that they would ask shareholders to approve a name change to Lanson-BCC. This announcement is not only about telling the financial market that BCC may change its name but it is also about sending strong and positive messages externally and internally.
Announcing the name change to Lanson BCC sends some messages externally:
- As Lanson is a famous name, BCC wants to make the company more easily recognizable and more attractive to international fund managers. It may increase liquidity which is important for a listed company, as it may bring a better valuation of the BCC shares, which means a better valuation of the entire company. In fact, changing name adds stock market lustre.
- Changing name is not only about describing in a better way the new combined business but more about acquiring a new image and corporate identity. Changing name to Lanson BCC is a way to upgrade the overall image of a group which is competing in an environment where every single champagne brand puts strong efforts to gain new markets and increase margins.
- Changing name is a way for the management to enjoy a good reputation among investors for its ability to acquire and manage a big company. With this move, the management shows to the market that the first step of integrating Lanson into the group has been successfully done. In fact, at the time of the acquisition, in 2006, some wondered why Boizel Chanoine Champagne, with brands such as Philipponnat, Alexandre Bonnet, Chanoine, De Venoge and Boizel needed to acquire a big champagne producer. Now the management wants to tell the market that adding Lanson - a champagne house founded in 1760 by François Delamotte - was a great achievement. It was not only about increasing the total group production by 6 million bottles per year, this acquisition was also about gaining in terms of image thanks to the quality of the Lanson champagnes and particularly its prestigious "Noble Cuvée" Vintage.
- Changing name sends a strong message for the future. The management shows how confident they are on capitalizing on Lanson brandname to improve shareholder value on medium and long-term. We can easily imagine that synergies have been found between Lanson and the rest of the group since this acquisition. But it now shows the management will be able to consider, in a better and faster way, every single synergy that could make their group stronger internationally.
And announcing a name change to Lanson BCC also sends some messages internally:
- With this name change, the message sent by the top management has a strong value. In fact, on the aspect of Human Resources, changing to Lanson BCC shows to Lanson employees that they are part of an entire group. Not only may it help the group to retain competent employees but it also may facilitate to attract new forces. All the employees of the group will consider being part of a strong, powerful and efficient company. With this new name, all group employees will really feel working for the N°2 champagne producer and may feel more involved into group's mission and future objectives.
- Changing name to Lanson BCC is also a way to more involve the Lanson management team on strategic goals. In fact, adding Lanson to the name shows a strong willingness from the top management to develop the image of Lanson globally, to manage Lanson brand reputation proactively and to get a positive impact on international sales and finally on the stock price. So, with this name change, the Lanson management team should understand their brand may be strongly marketed in the future.
Changing a name is definitely more than a name change. There are even some potential risks as increasing visibility of a strong commercial brand such as Lanson on the group level could indirectly affect the brand in the case of a group crisis or of an extremely bad share price evolution. But now this new name Lanson BCC still needs to be approved by shareholders. Then will come the time to celebrate. With Champagne, of course! (More news on www.vitabella.fr).