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Record sales for Absolut Vodka

>> Wednesday, March 02, 2005

For the ninth year in a row Absolut Vodka recorded growing sales. Total sales in 2004 was 76 million litres, up 5% from 2003. Absolut is produced by V&S Vin & Sprit that is owned by the Swedish government. One wonders how this excellent (?) sales performance can be reconciled with the government’s public health objectives of reducing alcohol consumption… Did anyone say schizophrenic?


BKWine Book Reviews

I have discretely opened up a book review section on the site too. The intention is to write about the books that we like and that we think are particularly useful for wine lovers as well as comment on some new books. You can find it here

For most of the books we have a link to Amazon so that you can easily buy the books that you find interesting. (And yes, if you buy a book at Amazon when you have clicked on a book link on you also support the site – provided you buy the book in the same “session”.) We don’t have an awful lot of book reviews at the moment but more will come!


BKWine Recommends, Producer: Domaine du Colombier, Crozes-Hermitage

Wines full of character, in particular the cuvée prestige called Gaby. Florent Viale is a master at making wines from the Syrah grape. Until 1992 Florent and his father sold all the wines to a négociant. But at that time they thought that the interest for Crozes-Hermitage had grown so much that they started to make their own wines. Which they do outstandingly well! More info here


BKWine Recommends, Producer: Château Puech-Haut, Coteaux du Languedoc

Twenty years ago there was nothing - not a vine - here at Château Puech-Haut in Saint-Drézery. Now it is one of the most successful wine estates in Languedoc, much thanks to the dynamic Gerard Bru and to the substantial investments he has done in wine making. More info here.


Stop wine fakes with new technology

A small Bordeaux company called Authenticwine has developed a clever system to prevent wine forgeries. It uses a complicated (and difficult to forge) label that is put on the bottle (in addition to the usual label) and a security code that can be verified over the internet. Undoubtedly interesting for more exclusive bottles. More info on their site:


Danish wine exported to France

”Nordlund” is a wine grown and produced in Denmark. The producer (Danskt Vin-Center) has now signed a contract with a French importer. We must of course add that Nordlund first came to France in February 2004 when it was shown at BKWine’s Scandinavian Wine Fair in Paris. Nordlund subsequently participated in the Danish wine fair in Paris in November. As a result they established good contacts with an importer who will now sell the Danish wine in France!


The new film Sideways leads to Boom in Santa Barbara

Sideways is the second film in a short time that has wine as a major theme. This time it is not so seriously intended though. It is more a comedy that takes place in Santa Barbara. The film has already won a Golden globe award and has been nominated for an Oscar. This has led to a boom in the tourism in Santa Barbara. Maybe an idea for the French wine industry: recruit Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve to make a film where they travel around French wine district and dine in nice country restaurants (with some serious story line behind it of course!). Maybe that could give an upswing in French wine sales?


Irrigation will be permitted in France?

Irrigation has long been prohibited in French vineyards. The reasoning being that with water the growers could inflate the grapes, increase production but lower the quality. There is currently a proposal on the table, likely to be accepted, to allow irrigation, but under strict conditions. The background is the extremely hot and dry summer 2003 where many vineyards suffered great damage from the heat and lack of water.


Napa Wine Confusion goes to Supreme Court

In earlier Briefs we have talked about the conflict between Bronco Wine Co. and the Napa Valley Vintners. Bronco is selling a wine that is labelled “Napa” but does not contain any grapes from Napa. Bronco can do this because of a legal “loop hole”. Napa Vintners wants to stop this, arguing that a “Napa wine” should be made from Napa grapes. This conflict is now going to the Supreme Court after having been won by Napa Vintners in the California Supreme court. We can only hope that Napa Vintners is successful. It must be a bit confusing for consumers that Napa wine is not really Napa wine… Read more in e.g. The Press Democrat


Chateauonline sold to CL Financial

Chateauonline, probably the most successful European internet wine shop, has been bought by CL Financial. The value of the transaction has not been made public. They control today eg. Hine and Monier cognac and Angostura Bitter. According to our information Chateauonline achieved break even for the first time in 2004 and had a turn over of around 10€ M.,


The Swedish monopoly fires 50 employees suspected for bribery

The Swedish alcohol retail monopoly Systembolaget AB fires the 50 employees who are suspected of bribery and who are still employed by the company. We do not quite understand how this works. How can they be fired before the court has made a verdict? Suppose that the verdict is “not guilty”. We believed that you were assumed not guilty until the verdict was give. Maybe the Systembolaget knows better than the courts?

Read more: Forbes and again Forbes, and The Local


”If the monopoly disappears the range of wines on offer will decrease dramatically” – Monopoly to market economy, the Alberta example

An often heard argument to keep the monopoly is that if it disappears (in Sweden or in other monopoly markets) the range of wines on offer will decrease dramatically. We at BKWine find that hard to believe. Is the wine selection that poor in markets that have an open market: Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom…? If we look at our own local selection at the corner grocery store (Monoprix) it is quite decent (we don't live in Sweden but in France so we don't have a controlled monopoly market here). We can even find the odd bottle of Yquem or Petrus and it starts with wines for just a few euros.

It is interesting to look at an example in Canada. Most of Canada is a monopoly market (like Sweden, Norway and Finland). Some fifteen years ago, in the province of Alberta, they decided to change the monopoly to an open market. There were, of course, fears that the number of wines available would shrink. What happened was that the number of items grew from 5000 to 16,000. The regulators also stipulated that grocers were not allowed to sell wines in the same shop as food – so as to make the playing field more level with new and independent wine shops. This led to many new wine shops and new employment opportunities. All according to Wayne Henuset, one of the new independent merchants in Alberta, Canada, to whom we are grateful for the info.


Swedish importers prefer the monopoly? It gives them more profit?

We participated recently in a conference organised by Skalli & Rein, a wine consulting company ( One of the presenters was a representative from one of the major Scandinavian importers, who was there to talk about the situation of the market in the Nordic countries. We were stunned by some of the things we heard. Without claiming to have the words exactly accurate, here are two examples: “If the monopolies disappear the pressure on margins for the importers will increase.” Well, of course, more competition will require more professionalism. Or this one: “It is better both for consumers and producers to keep the monopoly.” Well, it is probably better for those producers who are already established as suppliers to the monopolies with a cosy relationship, but for all the rest who find these markets impenetrable? Maybe it has to do with a fear for increasing competition. But above all it is bizarre to hear a senior manager at a commercial company, presumably believing in some kind of market economy, to advocate a monopoly.


Finnish Retailers demand the end of the alcohol monopoly

>> Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Päivittäistavarakauppa ry, an organisation representing Finnish retailers, has requested that the EU investigate the Finnish monopoly (Alko). They want that the monopoly should be disbanded since it no longer serves it purpose for “public health”. They say that less than a third of the alcohol consumed in Finland is now bought at the Alko monopoly (the rest being imported directly by consumers, which is legal.) Read more: Helsingin Sanomat


Unique new book about Calvados

Henrik Matsson is a Swedish writer who has spent 2 years working on an ambitious venture. He has single handed written, typeset and designed what is in effect the first real book (as far as we know) about Calvados. It is elegantly designed and covers all important subjects, such as: the history of Calvados, how to make it and how to drink it, the producers, and things to see and do when you go there. Unfortunately it could have been better checked for typos and linguistically. But it is nevertheless a very interesting book to read for those of you who like a glass of calvados every now and then. Buy the book from the publisher: . You can now find this and other book reviews in our new book section on the site:

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