Musty Bunches - Tales from the Spit Bucket
By Musty Bunches | 10 January 2001
- The great Seagram carve-up begins in a truly democratic fashion. Diageo takes all the wines and three-quarters of the spirit portfolio. Pernod Ricard is left with Glen Scrotum scotch - giving them access to the highly competitive Madagascan market, and Martell, giving them access to dead horses and silly hats at Aintree every year.
- Allied Domecq claims the "Captain Morgan coup" was the "real surprise of the year". The city agrees and shaves 10% off the company's share price.
- Four of the board of Interbrew do the honourable thing and drown themselves in a vat of lukewarm Bass.
- Bacardi's finance director, who has been missing for several months, is found floating in the Gulf of Mexico with a bottle of Absolut stuffed in his throat. Bacardi claim that he was murdered by Pernod Ricard. A group of specially bribed High Court judges agree, and there is a ceremonial tipping of all the pastis in Florida into the sea. Both bottles. The Pernod Ricard board respond aggressively by going out for a 12-course lunch in Paris which lasts a full week.
- Market research proves that wine consumers are trading up and are no longer interested in big brands. Coincidentally, two weeks later, Southcorp and BRL Hardy each release a 300,000 case single vineyard wine onto the market for the highly competitive price of £5.99.
- A 'well placed source' in UDV is quoted in just-drinks.com as saying that the company is 'ready to clean up'. The news wipes 10% off Allied Domecq's share price. Bowman and his team retaliate by buying a Taiwanese lychee liqueur for £15 million to prove their competitiveness. Shares fall another 10%.
- In an attempt to revive the dormant Scotch category, Highland Distillers launches a whisky and red bull pre-mix aimed at 20-something clubbers called Grouse in the House. A group of obscure rappers are paid to record a song called 'Who let the Grouse out?' It reaches number 32 in the Italian disco chart.
- The 'source' in UDV turns out to have been a cleaner, who is subsequently taken out and shot. The news puts the city in a playful mood, and it knocks 10% off Allied's share price for no reason at all.
- In Burgundy there is a scandal when a winemaker is found to be using grapes that come entirely from within the appellation. His wines are promptly declassified by the BIVB, which says the man was 'disrespecting the terroir and the tradition' of the region.
- A dozen hapless Uruguayans are stuck on a Thameslink commuter train for 48 hours on their way to the London International Wine Trade Fair. They open their sample cases anyway and several hundred disgruntled commuters are instantly converted to the delights of Tannat.
- Sales of Cognac in Japan show a dramatic 50% rise, from six bottles to 12. "All those years of careful brand building have paid off," says one Cognacais. "Now I can double my prices again."
- The biggest Vinexpo ever. According to figures released by the organisers, half of the world's population have passed through the doors of the Salon des Expositions, including the entire population of Belgium.
- In the UK, Tannat fever continues to grow as commuters take bottles of Uruguayan wine on the train with them every morning. The newly-elected prime minister says he's always been a big fan of Uruguayan wine and The Sun dubs him 'Tannat Blair'.
- William Hague counters that drinking foreign wine inevitably leads to hard-drug use and a doubling in the number of immigrants. Fifteen members of the shadow cabinet admit that they have 'tried wine' at some time or another.
- A tiny American spirits company is taken to court for selling a gin called 'Gordon's is Toss'. The MD turns out to have been a former UDV brand manager who was sacked for not having a copy of Chairman Walsh's Little Red Book.
- Italy's drinks companies shut down for the summer.
- The vodka craze comes to an abrupt end when a respected scientist discovers that it has the same organoleptic qualities as benzine.
- The rest of Europe joins Italy and goes on holiday. Except for Britain. During one week of hot weather, sales of Tannat fall off. The newly founded Tannat Wine Appreciation Trust recommends drinking the wine chilled over ice. They are subsequently taken to court by regulatory bodies representing Cognac, Scotch, Gin, Vodka, Bourbon and Taiwanese lychee liqueur, all of whom claim that the TWAT has stolen their advertising slogan.
- Bacardi's plans to launch a 'super ultra mega premium gin' called Bombay 16 are shelved at the last minute when it is discovered that the bottle has 17 sides. The brand manager disappears in mysterious circumstances.
- A 'well placed source' at UDV is quoted in just-drinks.com as saying the company is 'ready to make some major purchases'. The shock makes Allied's shareholders nervous and £5m slips off the company's share price. The board of Pernod Ricard, recently returned from their holiday villas on the Riviera, meet for an emergency 12-course lunch at a top Paris restaurant. The mussels are particularly good.
- A series of unexplained deaths among Scandinavian alcoholics is blamed on cork taint and fears of Mad Cork Disease sweep the globe. The head of Amorim appears on television chewing on a twin-top to inspire public confidence.
- The UDV mole is found to be a caterer who was ordering supplies for the company Christmas party. She is baked into one of her own pies and fed to shareholders at the AGM.
- Glen Scrotum shows double digit growth in Madagascar in its first six months. Pernod Ricard launches it in France with the slogan 'Put a Scrotum in your glass tonight'.
- Italy's drinks companies return to work refreshed and ready for action.
- Public figures pay their respects to the recently deceased head of Amorim.
- Despite the worst summer in living memory, Bordeaux announces the vintage of the millennium, claiming the year was rescued from disaster by one day of sun in September. Prices double overnight, but the locals are unrepentant. "You have to remember, this is the first ever 2001 Bordeaux vintage," says one negociant. "People will always pay for that."
- Exhausted after an intensive three-week burst, the Italians break up for their annual two month ski-ing holiday.
- For the first time in three months, not one internet wine retailing company goes bust.
- The last bottles of Champagne bought for the millennium two years ago are finally sold. "The important thing is that we never panicked," says one Champenois. "We never lost sight of the heritage that makes us special." In fact, so successful is the whole "Buy one bottle, get one case free" promotion that many producers say they will repeat it next year.
- Diageo surprises the City with the sudden purchase of Russia. "Of course, we're principally interested in the vodka," says the CEO. "But the army will be handy too."
- A schoolboy who has been saving his pocket money for two years buys a majority share in Allied Domecq. The share price doubles overnight.
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