Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.


Published:  23 July, 2008

The year 2001 was a bumper one for new drinks products. Targeted wines and brands came in bright colours with bold labels, while women drinkers were a more desirable market than ever. But which newcomers made the biggest impact? James Aufenast and David Williams round up the best product launches of the year

Stonehaven and Varietal Range Like someone with a mad Polyfilla fetish, BRL Hardy has been pushing wines into nearly every gap in the market. The Stonehaven Range filled in the Hardy brand between Stamp and Eileen Hardy, from 6.99 to 15. Stonehaven brought new wines - Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet/Merlot at around 7 - to the Hardy label, as well as the Stonehaven Limestone Coast range. Named after the region between Adelaide and Melbourne, it consists of a 2000 Chardonnay, a 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 1998 Shiraz. Hardy also brought out the Varietal Range to take advantage of consumer liking for just the one grape - most Hardy wines are blended. Price: 4.49 (Varietal Range); 6.99 (Stonehaven Chardonnay); 7.99 (Stonehaven Shiraz, Cabernet/Merlot); 9.99 (Stonehaven Limestone Coast Chardonnay); 11.99 (Stonehaven Limestone Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz) Stockists: First Quench (Stonehaven) Contact BRL Hardy: 01372 473 023

Strongbow Spice Bulmer's wants a piece of the FAB (Flavoured Alcoholic Beverages) market, currently growing around 50%. Who can blame it? Morgan's and other rums have done it. Here was an attempt to spice up the cider category with a new Strongbow variant, in a 275ml bottle. The new drink mixed ginger, cinnamon, juniper, orange and lemon to give an unusual twist to the fermented apple drink. Cider needs a push, having declined in value in multiples over the last four years, and Bulmer's, with its financial muscle, might be right on cue. Price: 1.49 (2 in the on-trade) Stockists: NUS, Springwood Leisure, Fat Cat Caf chain, Sainsbury's, Safeway, Tesco, Kwik Save Contact Bulmer's: 01432 352 000

Montezuma Blue Tequila brands are facing serious limits on supply, and this was Malcolm Cowen's way around it: make a spirit with only 25% tequila, but give it a Latin American-sounding name and a reasonable price, plus a sexy blue label. The words imported' and tequila-based spirit' on the label will be enough to get any barman going and, when you start mixing, it's the 38% abv, rather than any loss of agave flavour, that kicks in. Price: 12.50-13.50 Stockists: Fenwick, Binns, independents Contact Malcolm Cowen: 020 8965 1937

Garnet Point (Australia) Ernest & Julio Gallo took a major step with this new wine, both in recognising the burgeoning Australian market and creating an international brand. The Californian winemakers added Shiraz/Cabernet and Semillon/Chardonnay from Southeastern Australia to the Garnet Point range. Blends are 70:30 in favour of Shiraz and 55:45 in favour of Semillon. Australia and California are the driving forces behind the growth in New World wines,' said Ian Belcher, UK marketing controller at Gallo, commenting at the time of the launch. Prices: 4.99 Stockists: Asda, Budgens Contact Ernest & Julio Gallo: 01895 813 444

Infierno Infierno has to win Most On Heat Brand Launch of the year. A website dedicated to the brand, called, has gone live and a promotion last month saw six men draped in red chiffon offering lucky women passers-by an orally satisfying experience', according to owners Ehrmanns. The press release continued: Puckering up for the ladies, they will carry "Kiss Me" banners and red balloons tied with red chiffon.' Blimey, take a cold shower. Ehrmanns went on to say: This is not the launch of a new porn website, nor an initiation test for the International Federation of Oral Sex, but the launch of a new red wine, Infierno.' Thanks for making that clear. Infierno is another wine taking fruit from a lesser-known Spanish region, Yecla, courtesy of Bodegas Castano. Price: 4.99 Stockists: Safeway, Tesco, Somerfield Contact Ehrmanns: 020 7418 1800

Delicato At last, a rival to Gallo in the UK, with Ehrmanns taking on the listing of this large Californian brand. Like Gallo, the family originally comes from Italy, arriving in California in 1924, though tales of yore don't have too much relevance to a modern-day, 900,000hl-producing concern owning 5,000ha. Two main brands have been brought in: Delicato Family Vineyards, with a varietal range comprising Shiraz, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay; and the premium brand, Monterra, which comprises Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. Price: 5.99 Stockists: Sainsbury's, First Quench, Unwins Contact Ehrmanns: 020 7418 1800

Marc Xero Ros IWS sources this wine from Campo de Borja, in Northern Spain. The 100% Grenache ros is unexpectedly dry, not overly fruity, and it comes from the innovative, welcoming Santo Cristo winery. The ros completes the Marc Xero triumvirate, with a Californian Merlot and an Italian Chardonnay already on the shelves. The bottle is metallic in style, with a shiny label and club-flyer lettering. Price: 4.99 Stockists: Sainsbury's Contact IWS: 01494 680 857

Not too dry Consumers might say they want a dry wine, but experts point to the success of Oaked Chardonnay, with its buckets of residual sugar, for evidence of our still-sweet tooth. This Chardonnay is a nice idea - you can almost hear people asking for something that is not too dry' - and South Africa yet again gets the nod for fruit for a major brand, thanks to Western Wines' already significant presence at the foot of Africa. Price: 3.99 Stockists: Sainsbury's Contact Western Wines: 01746 789 411

False Bay Another South African brand, but this time the owners Boutinot are not afraid to say where it came from - the country's Coastal Region. Company research found that a bit of provenance wouldn't go amiss with the consumer, and they weren't afraid to use those sometimes-maligned indigenous South African grapes: the range comprises Chenin Blanc, Pinotage Blanc De Noir and Pinotage Shiraz, all from 2000. This year, Boutinot has also launched a new French wine, Fruits of France; a Californian, Big Mamma's Italian Red; and a Californian range, Winston Hill. Price: 4.99 Stockists: Independents and on-trade Contact Boutinot: 0161 908 1360

Altai With the UK the fastest-growing vodka market in the world, at 11% year on year (source: AC Nielsen Spirits model 2000), and the premium vodka category enjoying 65% growth since 1995, you can see why new brands continue to arrive. It's clear, too, why a large marketing department such as Pernod's likes Altai, a Siberian vodka. Cold is good in the world of vodka, and you can't get much colder than the image of Siberia: made exclusively from the pure spring water from the Altai mountains, rich in silver particles,' says the publicity. Sounds good, doesn't it? Needless to say, there's mountain imagery on the bottle. PR Brands UK, the spirit subsidiary of international drinks group Pernod Ricard, is handling it. Price: 13.99 Stockists: Oddbins, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols Contact Pernod Ricard: 020 8538 4484

Image A late summer launch by Cranswick, Image puts the latest twist on what can be done with labels and a glass container. Though not quite in alcopop territory, the metallic-painted pink, mauve and green flutes were directed at 25- to 35-year-old women who are modern in their approach'. Cranswick's research divided women into two types - modern' and romantic'. If only life was that easy. Modern women don't take life too seriously, while romantics assume traditional roles' and are concerned with wine and food matching for example. It's good to know some people recognise their limitations. Price: 4.99 Stockists: Tesco (Cabernet/Merlot, Chardonnay), Sainsbury's (Verdelho) Contact Australian Wineries: 01780 755 810

Bacardi Limn It doesn't take the brains of an archbishop, as someone in the army once said, to work out what Bacardi was up to with the launch of this new lemon-flavoured brand. Rum wants a piece of the vodka action and, as rum can come as a white spirit too, it's apeing Absolut's move into the flavoured arena. Absolut Bacardi won't call the drink Lemon'; instead, it goes for the more exotic-sounding Limn' (ie, Absolut Citron'). It won't even tell you it's rum-based, the words on the label reading only Citrus Flavour Spirit'. It's 32% abv, and aimed at 18- to 32-year-olds, the dream age group for any aspiring brand manager. Price: 11.99 Stockists: Safeway, Sandhar & Kang, Amathus Wines, Coe of Ilford Contact Bacardi-Martini: 02380 318 000

Le Piat d'Or relaunch Along with 1970s brands Black Tower and Blue Nun, Le Piat d'Or has also been relaunched. The tenth-best seller in the UK, Le Piat d'Or was given more fruit and less sugar. Poor old Ugni Blanc was downsized, taken out of the dry Colombard blend and reduced in the medium-dry blend. The red (45% Carignan, 25% Syrah, 25% Grenache and 5% Merlot) became fruitier in style, with alcohol up from 11% to 12%, and a new ros was added to the range (50% Cinsault, 25% Grenache and 25% Syrah). The wine that few French drinkers have heard of - though adverts in times past would have us think otherwise - went native, at least in terms of reducing the residual sugar that the British used to love. Price: 3.99 Stockists: Multiples and multiple specialists Contact Percy Fox: 01279 633 542

Papagayo Distiller London & Scottish added this rum of unusual provenance to its organic section, which already includes the well-known Juniper Green gin. Priced the same as Bacardi, deliberately to engender comparisons, it comes from an estate in Paraguay. The rum uses neither synthetic pesticides nor fungicides and is registered by Swiss company IMO (Institut fr Marktokologie). Ten to 15 years ago, a co-op of 100 farmers took the decision to raise income levels, and it seems to have worked. Price: 12 Stockists: Vintage Roots, Sainsbury's Contact London & Scottish: 01483 894 650

Swaying Willow Diet Chardonnay IWS decided to ignore the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) club and concentrate instead on the DOMBLIT (Does My Bum Look Big in This?) posse with its June release, the diet' Chardonnay, Swaying Willow. Aimed at weight-conscious Bridget Joneses, this slimming Australian apparently contains a third fewer calories (29 per glass) than other Chardonnays. With an alcohol content of just 1% abv, however, it might also contain less potential for good times and fun. Price: 3.49 Stockists: Tesco, Sainsbury's Contact IWS: 01494 680 857

Bruichladdich In a time of consolidation for the whisky industry, one of 2001's most heartening stories was the re-activation of the Bruichladdich distillery by the malt bottlers Murray McDavid for 6.5 million. The deal rescued Islay's lost' distillery, after years of inactivity under the ownership of Jim Beam Brands (itself the subject of a takeover this year). In a further romantic twist, most of the cash for the deal came from Scottish investors, and a third of it from Illeachs (Islay residents), which meant, according to Murray McDavid's Simon Coughlin, that the project was Islay-based, featuring the only independent distillery on the island'. The production manager Jim McEwan, -a star-signing' from Bowmore - started distilling new stocks in May, but to fill in time while whisky lovers wait for those distillates to mature, the company began releasing some of the 1.5 million litres of stock acquired along with the distillery in the shape of the innovatively packaged 10-, 15- and 20-year-old single malt whiskies. Price: 10-Year-Old, 25; 15-Year-Old, 33; 20-Year-Old, 55 Stockists: Oddbins, La Rserve, Loch Fyne Whiskies, Royal Mile Whisky Contact Murray McDavid: 020 7823 7717

The Famous Grouse Cask Finish; Grant's Cask Reserve More innovation in the blended whisky category, with the release of the Grant's Cask Reserve range and The Famous Grouse Cask Finish range at the end of the summer. The results of marketing departments' desperate attempts to reinvigorate the blends category by apeing the hipper malts, both ranges take the parent brand's standard blend and finish it in different woods. In the case of Grant's Cask Reserve, Sherry and ale casks; for The Famous Grouse, Port pipes and Islay whisky casks. The Famous Grouse Cask Finish Price: 15.99 Stockists: Sainsbury's, Tesco, Safeway Contact Maxxium UK: 01786 430 500

Grant's Cask Reserve Prices: 12.99 Stockists: Matthew Clark Wholesale, Tesco (selected stores), Sainsbury's (selected stores), Daniel Thwaites, Oddbins, together with Landmark, TSG, Nisa Today and Booker Cash & Carry, independents. Contact First Drinks Brands: 020 7331 2000

Deep Purple A wine named after a heavy-metal band, and packaged in a heavy-metal bottle, Deep Purple was the fruit of an IWS Argentinian project that hit the shelves in April. A full-bodied 100% Shiraz, grown in the heat of San Juan, outside Mendoza, and made by flying winemaker Alastair Maling MW, Deep Purple offered a new and attractive style of packaging yet, being a premium-quality wine, traditional wine values are far from sacrificed.' Price: 4.79 Stockist: Tesco Contact IWS

Jacob's Creek Reserve Though the appeal of Jacob's Creek's has never waned for the 85% of wine drinkers who are loath to break the 5 barrier, the rest of the country has been resistant to the charms of Australia's Top Drop. The launch of Jacob's Creek Reserve range, made up of a Shiraz and a Chardonnay, was Caxton's attempt to rectify that situation. As the publicity pointed out at the time of the launch in February, the new wines should appeal to confident wine drinkers', while raising the price tag by a couple of notches. Price: 7.99 (Chardonnay); 8.99 (Shiraz) Stockists: Oddbins, Safeway, (Reserve Shiraz/Reserve Chardonnay), Sainsbury's, Asda (Reserve Shiraz) Contact Caxton Wines: 020 8538 4500