Beringer Blass has had a challenging last two months of 2003 in the US, according to press reports. The Australian Financial Review (AFR) cites the wine company's managing director Walt Klenz as saying that sales growth in the group's more commercial, lower price-pointed wine brands in the US had been flat in November and December.

Klenz told the AFR; "We didn't see the year-on-year growth in the more commercial categories in November and December that we'd hoped to see." He did say, however, that the signs were more positive for some of the higher-priced categories sold in restaurants.

Foster's Group, owners of the Beringer Blass wine unit, had warned in October last year that shrinking margins in the US wine market would hit overall profits for the first half of 2003-2004.

Beringer Blass yesterday announced a shake-up of its senior management.