BRL Hardy is talking to US wine companies about producing a 'super-premium icon Australian' wine for the US market.

Managing director, Stephen Millar, said today that Robert Mondavi Wines was one of the companies with which the super-premium plan was being discussed.

Mondavi managing director, Michael Mondavi, was in Australia several weeks ago and is understood to have spent considerable time at BRL Hardy's Reynella, South Australia, headquarters, and at its McLaren Vale, Wrattonbully and Padthaway wineries and vineyards.

Millar said that BRL was also considering producing it own commercial wines for the US market. He expected the plans to be implemented within the next six months.

Millar said that BRL Hardy, which had now acquired more than 92% of shares in New Zealand's Nobilo Wines, was planning to spend about $NZ20m to expand vineyards and production capacity.

Production is expected to increase from 5,000 tonnes at present to 10,000 tonnes within five years.

BRL Hardy was also examining the information memorandum from Corbans, NZ's second largest winery, which has been put on the market by the DB Group, NZ's second largest brewer.

BRL Hardy is also poised to enter the brewing industry in a joint venture with an Australian brewer, which has yet to named.

Millar said that samples of a premium lager - destined for the fastest growing segment of the market - were due to be tasted within the next ten days.

The brand is expected to be launched early in 2001. Initially, about 50,000 cases would be produced with plans for 1m cases "over time".

Chris Snow