The Foster's Group wine division, Beringer Blass, has acquired the RMS wine facility in the Napa Valley, California from Remy Cointreau for an undisclosed sum.

Beringer Blass made the acquisition through its Etude Wines operation. The 12-hectare site in the Carneros region of the Napa includes 3,720 sq m of French-style stone buildings, which are currently being re-developed into a winery, and a 4-hectare vineyard planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The RMS facility is expected to become operational as a winery no later than the fourth quarter of 2004. The deal is expected to be finalised in August.

Beringer Blass has made the acquisition of what is viewed as a premium, showcase facility to boost its presence in the expanding Pinot Noir market in the US. US retail sales figures indicate that sales of domestically-produced Pinot Noir increased by 10% in the 52 weeks to May.

"It is in a very good location on a key highway into the Napa region with a lot of traffic, so part of the benefit for us is to be able to increase cellar door sales," a company spokesman said. "We expect that to be a significant part of the growth of Etude going forward."

The Etude Wines operation is a premium-orientated business, acquired by Beringer Blass in September 2001, which mainly supplies restaurants. The Etude wines retail for between US$38 and US$70 a bottle.