Sparkling wine makers counting down to 2001

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Makers of sparkling wines are preparing their holiday advertising in a run-up to the real start of the new millennium.

Korbel Champagne Cellars next month launches a $4 million campaign centered on a spy thriller style TV spot produced by in-house shop Korbel Media, Guerneville, Calif. The commercial is airing on CBS' NFL programming and on NBC, as well as 13 cable channels ranging from the Food Network and Lifetime Television to MSNBC and Comedy Central.

The "Secret Service" spot opens with TV news reports of an international agreement about to be announced. As a waiter brings up a tray of four glasses of champagne to toast the hard-won deal, a Secret Service team scrambles into action to handle the "situation." An agency rappels down a staircase and kicks away the glasses. When a President Clinton lookalike asks what happened, he's told the champagne was not Korbel. The tag: "Korbel. For people who know champagne."

BRAND OF ROMANCE

Meanwhile, Perrier-Jouet, the pricier champagne with flowers painted on its bottle, moves to strengthen its position as the brand of romance in two new print ads from agency Jordan McGrath Case & Partners, New York. In one ad, headlined "Unforgettable," a naked woman is shown with a tattoo on her shoulder that matches the flowers on the bottle. A second ad displays flowers and is headlined "You ordered flowers by the bunch. And now by the bottle."

The images are running in November publications such as Esquire, Wallpaper and Harpers & Queen.

The producers of bubbly also are making moves on the Web. Chandon Estates this month adds a little sparkle to its Web site, adding an online community targeting enthusiasts with information on collecting, as well as a wine purchasing club.

Record volumes of sparkling wine were sold last year amid the millennial fanfare. Overall, sparkling wine sales grew 26% last year, up 3.3 million cases to 16 million cases, said Jon Fredrikson, president, Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates, a wine industry analyst.

French champagnes and those on the high end did especially well, up 48%, followed by imports from Spain and Italy. Up 30% were premium California sparkling wines, led by Korbel, which signed a deal as the official sponsor of Times Square festivities and promoted the millennium with a large bottle of champagne trucked around the nation on a trailer.

"There was an awful lot of hype and many establishments bought in heavily," said Mr. Fredrikson. Enough, in fact, that after the hoopla was over, wine stores and restaurants had excess champagne inventory early this year. As a result, overall sparkling wine sales were down 23% for the first seven months of 2000 vs. the same period in 1999. For all California sparkling wines, sales were down 26%, with Korbel taking the biggest hit, down 47%.

THE REAL MILLENNIUM

While many celebrated the turn of the century at midnight when 1999 turned into 2000, purists note the actual new century begins at midnight 2000 when the year turns to 2001.

"There was such a hangover from last year," said Mr. Fredrickson, "but you'll still be getting some hype for the real millennium that's coming. They can't possibly build it up like they did last year, but there is some mileage," he said.

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