U.S. Drinks Conference/U.S. Beverage Alcohol Forum Plays to Packed House at WSWA

The third annual U.S. Beverage Alcohol Forum was held at the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America convention. The USBAF is a partnership between the WSWA and the U.S. Drinks Conference, in collaboration with Brand Action Team, Next Level Marketing and MHW, Ltd.

U.S. Beverage Alcohol Forum

USDC Organizers l. to r. Mike Ginley, Jeff Grindrod, John Beaudette, Steve Raye

The Forum, held on Tuesday, April 30, was led by top opinion makers in the industry who covered topics such as trends, technology, digital marketing and distribution of wine and spirits brands in America. Over 200 delegates attended the event representing importers, suppliers, wholesalers and on – and off-premise accounts from all over the world. “We were pleased with the turnout and response from attendees,” said Steve Raye, Managing Partner of the marketing consulting company, Brand Action Team. “We received great feedback on both the session topics and speakers alike, most particularly in regard to the usefulness and practicality of the information presented.”

The conference began with an in-depth look at how brands can avoid the common mistakes made by wine and spirit brands entering the U.S. market for the first time. John Beaudette opened with a presentation on the distribution challenges new brands face when launching in the U.S., and identified current and developing solutions for successful market penetration. Beaudette was joined by TTB headquarters executive Gail Davis and United Distributors President Doug Hertz. Gail provided the audience with insight on current and potential changes impacting product labeling, and Doug identified approaches brand owners could use to maximize their chances for distribution.

The second session was moderated by Mike Ginley, Founder and Partner of Next Level Marketing, who gave a detailed overview of the structure, volume and trends of the U.S. beverage alcohol market, supported by a candid panel session led by noted mixologist, Tony Abou-Ganim.  The following session was presented by Jeff Grindrod, Managing Partner of Brand Action Team, and gave a detailed overview of emerging digital tools suppliers are using to monitor and manage growth.  The concluding session, “Digital Retail Marketing” was led by Steve Raye and provided an in-depth look at new digital and social media tools that are available to assist on- and off-premise accounts to drive customer loyalty and leverage word of mouth.  Mike Ginley of Next Level Marketing noted that the turnout was significantly increased from last year, “and we’re quite pleased with the positive feedback we received.”

Conference sponsors included Western Carriers, JF Hillebrand, Overton, Mast Capital Partners and Nixon Peabody, as well as media partners Beverage Media Group, Beverage Information Group (Cheers, Stateways, Beverage Dynamics), Tasting Panel Magazine, Bar Business Magazine.  For more information on the U.S. Beverage Alcohol Forum, contact Steve Raye at Brand Action Team or visit www.USDrinksConference.com


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

BAT Adds Consumer PR Services, Opens Office in New York

We’ve just announced that we’re opening a new Consumer PR practice and plan to open an office in New York City to house it.  Amber Gallaty will head up the project.  She joins us from the Thomas Collective with a boatload of experience in wine and beer Consumer PR, event management, trade tastings and other key areas.   Location for the office is still pending, but we’ll keep you posted.

Amber Gallaty



Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Meininger’s International Wine Conference

Christoph Meininger

Christoph Meininger, Publisher of Meininger’s Wine Business International

I attended the 2013 Meininger’s International Wine Conference in Düsseldorf last week and came away very impressed.  The conference takes place on the Saturday before the Sunday opening of ProWein and is a full day deep-dive into three current topics of high interest.

This year’s focus was on the China market, E-commerce and the German market.  Stevie Kim, GM of Vinitaly

Stevie Kim, MD Vinitaly

Stevie Kim, Managing Director of Vinitaly

made an energetic presentation distilled from her visits there.  Others speaking included Alberto Fernandes of Torres, Li Demei, Professor at University of Beijing, Michael Thurner of Austria’s Fine Brands,  and the irrepressible and globe-trotting Robert Joseph, editor-at-large for Meininger’s whose insightful questions and deep experience in the market helped guide the dialog. Each presentation contributed to a view of the China market which reminded me of the blind men and an elephant story…but in a good way.  The only way to understand the market is in pieces, and then putting those pieces together to understand the whole.

The China market is  huge, complicated and stratified…and rapidly morphing. The clear message from all was, don’t look at the market as “China”, but rather the many different states, regions and cities. Personal relationships, trust and “face” are at the heart of the business, and trying to force western ways is a one-way ticket to disaster.

A second highlight was a fascinating presentation by superstar winemaker Angelo Gaja translated by Willi Klinger of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board.

Willi Klinger of Austrian Wine Marketing Board, Angelo Gaja of Gaja wines

Willi Klinger and Angelo Gaja

Willi used to be the Export Director for Gaja wines so it was fun watching two old friends talk.  It was real treat to meet Angelo and his daughter Gaia.

     And speaking of legends, one of the recipients of the Meininger’s Awards at the evening function was Margrit Biever Mondavi,

Margrit Biever Mondavi receives award at Meininger's ntl. Wine Conf;

Margrit Biever Mondavi

widow of Robert Mondavi whose presence and presentation brought the house to its feet.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Chile Sweeps the Field

Chile sweeps the continent in Most Admired Brands

Kudos to Chilean wineries Concha y Toro, Undurraga, Leyda, Santa Rita, and Cono Sur for being named the top five “Most Admired Wine Brands” in South America by Drinks International Magazine.

It’s a clean sweep of the the South American Category for the five.  And the cherry on top was that  Concha picked up the #1 Most Admired Wine Brand in the world award…for the THIRD TIME!

I’ve always gotten a smile from the Cono Sur brand.  It’s a pun in Spanish and English…Cono Sur means Southern Cone in Spanish but is a homonym for connoisseur in English.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Brand Action Team Meeting: The Company is Growing

Brand Action Team is growing and we had to move the meeting to a neighbor’s conference room to fit everyone in.

BAT team meeting 3 5 13

Front l to r:  Alix Furer, Sue Ritter, Kiersten Peterson, Anthony King, Michelle Marshall.  Back row l to r:  Cort Kinker Michael Moscowitz, Jeff Grindrod, Kayla Joyce, Liz Benyon, Steve Raye.  Missing is Constance Chamberlain who was at an Austrian event in NYC and Meg Casey who is skiing in Spain this week.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Comments Off

BAT Client on Live National Business News

SmarteRita a new ready to drink margarita brand will be featured on Fox Business News tomorrow.  Founder Kelly Shuman will be interviewed on why she developed the brand.  Check it out live or on demand at http://live.foxnews.comSMMslsF01p

Watch Live or on demand at http://live.foxnews.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

The Most Amazing Wine Bar in the World: Getting There is half the fun.

That’s right, my first…and only…pick for a wine bar that will blow your mind.  The real estate folks say “location, location, location.”  Well, Faust Wine Bar in Budapest not only has the most fabulous location, but getting there is half the fun.  It’s tucked away at end of a labyrinthine pathway in the cellars of the remains of a 16th Century Franciscan church that also happens to be part of a modern Hilton Hotel in the Castle District on the Buda side of Budapest.  We’ll get back to the wine bar itself shortly, but it’s the path you have to follow to get to this place that is equally as fascinating as the wines on the list.


My pictures don’t do the journey justice, but they do give you inkling.  Take a hard left at the lobby of the new part of the hotel and head past the ruins of the “new” part of the church. P1010968 There’s a small sign on a stand and an arch and doorway that seems pretty normal, but definitely downstairs.  You’re wondering if it’s open when you arrive at another sign in front of a wall built of bottles, and some gold leaf lettering on a window reading “Faust Wine Bar”.     But this isn’t it; it’s just the sign telling you to keep walking.  P1010973This leads you through a winding hallway with remnants of the church on display, including the red marble traditionally used for gravestones.  P1010976We’re at the church’s foundation level, but we continue down some more stairs.






Wondering if the place is open, we come to a very old door P1010993with some modern signage; enter and walk down another flight of steps and it starts to feel like the “Faust” name might be a harbinger…you feel like you’re walking into the bowels of the earth with stonework that is getting older and rougher in appearance.


Down another flight of stairs decorated with plastic grapevine and you’re greeted with a tableaux of a desk with wine bottle and glass and a  straw dummy…from the top of the stairs, you could swear it’s a real person until you get closer and see that it’s just a set. P1020010 Feeling a bit more confident that the place might be open you see another archway and think, I must be there.


But no.  Take another hard left through a very, very, very old wooden door with old iron hinges and there’s another hallway and the stonework becomes much older and rougher.  Old looking wall sconces through off a dim light evocative of what this must have looked like pre-electricity.  And there’s another hallway, and another flight of steps….going down.  At the end you see a few white Christmas lights and you think, well this must be it.P1020016

Nope!  Down a spiral staircase, to an entranceway that would do Edgar Allen Poe proud.  Two display cases frame a doorway that is up about 5 steps and lit justP1020032 dimly enough to frame a tantalizing glimpse into the tasting room.  Whew!  It feels like you walked about a quarter of a mile, and about 100 feet down.  Enter the tasting room and you are in a small (50 x 20 feet or so) cellar reminiscent of the Canava caves in Santorini, only this one is has an arched ceiling carved out of the very bedrock of Castle Hill.  Eroded wall niches P1020052are richly lit with candles giving the room a warm, but moody ambience.  Against the far wall are some built-in racks to store the wine, and a small service table to the left of the entrance.  No running water, no internet, the only inkling of modernity are the small electric lights on the racks and the mandatory sprinkler piping for the fire suppressant system. As you walk in you hear “szívesen látott”  Welcome! In Magyar (a language which is said to be related to Finnish, but there are a couple of of Finns in the wine bar who tell me that’s what they heard to, but it’s unrecognizable to them) and you’re greeted by the bright smile of Gabor NagyP1020070, the proprietor who leases the space from the Hilton.  He explains the place has been open only two years, and yes, it’s a bit of a challenge to get to (think how hard it is to get inventory down here!)   but pretty nice when you do arrive.

Check it out next time you’re in Budapest…www.gbwine.eu

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Upcoming Wine and Spirit Tastings and Competitions, 2013

Here is a comprehensive list of the most important spirits and wine trade events and tasting competitions for 2013 in (sort of) chronological order.

Spirits of the Americas
Florida,  entry deadline Jan. 18, 2013
IWSC purchased Whiskies of the World Show (formerly in SF)  and Spirits of Mexico (formerly in San Diego and NY)
Vinitaly Tour: USA
Jan 28, 2013, NY, Jan. 30, 2013 Miami
Fancy Food Show
Winter show: San Francisco, Jan 20-22, 2013, San Francisco
Summer show Washington DC, June 30-July 2, 2013.
Boston Wine Expo
Feb. 16-17, 2013, Boston, MA
South Beach Wine and Food Festival   (SWS)
 Feb. 21-24, 2013, Miami, FL
Miami Wine and Spirits Expo
 Feb. 21-24, 2013, Miami, FL
NY Wine Expo
Mar. 1-3, 2013 at the Jacob Javits center, New York. Fr/Sat consumer, Sun. trade only
 March 24-26, 2013, Dusseldorf, Germany
Nightclub & Bar Show:
 Las Vegas, March 19-21, 2013
 April 7-10, 2013, Verona Italy
Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) and US Beverage Alcohol Forum
 April 28-30, 2013 Orlando, FL
American Craft Distilling Conference
 April 1-4, 2013, Denver, CO
NRA (National Restaurant Association)
May 5-8, 2013, Chicago
http://www.restaurant.org/show/Manhattan Cocktail Classic:
May 17-21, 2013 in New York.
London International Wine Fair
 May 20-22, 2013, London Excel Center
 June 16-20, 2013, Bordeaux
Aspen Food and Wine Classic
June 14-16, 2013, Aspen, CO
North American Wine Bloggers Conference
June. 6-8, 2013 Penticton, BC
Tales of the Cocktail:
 Ap. 28-30, 2013, Buenos Aires
San Diego Spirits Festival
 Aug. 24-25, 2013, San Diego, CA
New York World Wine and Spirits Competition
2013 TBD
Indy Spirits Expo
2013 TBD
FHC/Wine and Spirits China
Nov.13-15, 2013, Shanghai
Wine Riot US Tour
Consumer event targeting Millennials
 Boston Ap. 5,6 and Oct. 25, 26; Chicago May 3,4;San Francisco Jun 7,8; New York Sept. 20,21; DC TBD,  LA Nov. 9.
Digital Wine Communications Conference (formerly European Wine Bloggers Conference
2013 TBD, usually in autumn
2013 Holiday Buying Show
Sept 9/10, 2013, NY
Tasting Competitions and Awards
San Francisco World Spirits Competition
Entries due Mar 1, 2013
San Francisco Wine Competition
 Entries due May 24, 2013
Ultimate Beverage Challenge:
Ultimate Spirit Challenge
Mar 11-15, 2013
Ultimate Wine Challenge
June 3-7, 2013
Decanter Asia Awards
2013 TBD
Decanter World Wine Awards
Entry deadline Mar. 1 2013
Beverage Testing Institute:
 BTI conducts a series of tastings of both wine and spirits by category throughout the year. They also run a value wine competition and  packaging competitions for spirits and wine. Rum category deadline May 1, 2012
IWSC (International Wine and Spirits Competition)
 Multiple competitions and deadlines by region
International Spirits Challenge:
 Put on by Drinks International Magazine. Entry deadlines vary by category
Spirit Masters
 Run by Drinks Business/Spirits Business Magazine.
SIP Awards (Spirits International Prestige)
Deadlines by category vary throughout the year.
Mundus Vini: ISW International Spirits Award
2013 dates TBD
Micro Liquor Spirit Awards
Eligibility: Product sells less than 50,000 9-liter cases annually in USA.
2013 TBD
New York International Wine Competition
New York, May 18-19, 2013
Hong Kong International Wine and Spirit Competition
Run by International Wine & Spirit Competition, sponsored by Cathay Pacific
Hong Kong, entry deadline Sept. 7, 2012
Results presented at Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair, Nov 8-10, 2012
China Wine Awards
Hong Kong , 2013 TBD
New York International Spirits Competition
New York, Oct. 21, 2013, entry deadline Oct. 13
Indie Spirits Competition
2013 TBD
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

This Ain’t Yo’ Mama’s Soup!

An absolutely hilarious riff on marketing to millennials, yo.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Comments Off

BAT Tagged for ProWein Promo

We’re proud to announce that Brand Action Team has been hired for trade marketing services for ProWein, International Trade Fair Wine and Spirits.  I had the chance to attend last year’s show and was blown away by several things I saw there.

1)  ProWein is focused on the business of the business.  Unlike some other international shows, there’s no consumer component…on purpose.  People attend for two reasons…to see what’s out there, and to make deals.

2.  It’s huge and getting huge-r…40,000 visitors, 4,000 exhibitors and a waiting list for booths.  This year they’re opening two new halls to accommodate demand.

3.  “Wein” may be in the name, but spirits are in the heart, there’s an entire hall dedicated to spirits.

4.  More Americans need to know about it and go.   ProWein has definitively become the most important international wine and spirits trade show, but few Americans are aware of it, or have attended.

So if you’re a supplier, importer, wholesaler, retailer or on premise account with an interest in new products and wine and spirit trends happening around the world…you’ve got to be there.

ProWein will take place Mar. 24-26, 2013 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off