While overall imported table wine depletions were flat at 67 million cases in the U.S. last year, according to Impact Databank, the category’s premium end is painting a much brighter picture. In 2016, the U.S. market’s top 10 premium plus imports—defined as being at least $10 a 750ml., on average—collectively posted a 12.6% gain to nearly 8.3 million cases. A bevy of upscale Italian offerings, as well as several super premium New Zealand brands, have helped drive the segment’s rapid progress.
Riboli Family Wine Estates’ Stella Rosa brand—the market leader among premiumplus imports—surpassed 1.3 million cases last year. The Italian range, best known for its sweet and semisweet taste profiles, has averaged about 28% annual growth since 2010. Also hailing from Italy is Constellation’s Ruffino, which is fast closing in on the million-case mark (excluding its Prosecco, which accounts for another 300,000 cases). The brand’s success has been built on its Chianti business, which comprises about a 20% share of the Chianti category and nearly half the luxury Chianti segment.
Other leading premiumplus Italian players include E.&J. Gallo’s Ecco Domani and Santa Margherita USA’s namesake range, both of which were flat last year. On the other hand, Palm Bay’s Roscato and Zonin USA’s Castello del Poggio are both clearly in expansion mode, with each carving out well over 20% growth in 2016. “We’re pretty confident Roscato is going to be our next million-case brand,” says Palm Bay president and CEO Marc Taub.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand category continues to thrive stateside, with segment leader Kim Crawford eclipsing the million-case mark last year. “We see great growth opportunity for Kim Crawford in the on premise by the glass segment,” says Julie Rossman, marketing director, imports at Constellation. Currently, Kim Crawford does more than 80% of its business off premise. Fellow Kiwi player Oyster Bay also continues to rise by double digits, and Kim Crawford portfolio mate Nobilo is likewise benefiting from the buzz around New Zealand, surpassing 600,000 cases on nearly 10% growth last year.
While Italy and New Zealand clearly dominate the premium top 10, by the end of the year Australia’s 19 Crimes could also potentially join the fold. The Treasury Wine Estates label doubled in size to more than a half-million cases in the U.S. last year, and TWE CEO Michael Clarke recently told SND that further extensions to the upscale Aussie brand are on the way.
- Heaven Hill Brands has named Denny Potter as vice president of operations and master distiller. Potter, who previously served as master distiller and plant manager at Louisville’s Bernheim Distillery, will now have a leadership role in all Heaven Hill production operations, which include Bardstown bottling operations, Bernheim Distillery and Deep Eddy Vodka’s Austin, Texas, distillery and production facility. Additionally, Potter will continue performing his current distilling responsibilities.
- Sazerac is reportedly lining up some changes to Southern Comfort, which it acqui red from Brown Forman along with Tuaca early last year for $544 million. Southern Comfort will be rolling out new packaging in July, and is changing its recipe to include whiskey rather than grain neutral spirit, the New York Times reports. The brand will also debut a whiskey forward 80-proof version alongside its existing 70- and 100-proof offerings, and will phase out flavored editions like Lime and Caramel Comfort. According to Impact Databank, Southern Comfort was down 4% to 1 million cases in the U.S. last year.
- Destilería Serrallés has released the second iteration of its Single Barrel rum collection, the limited edition Don Q Signature Release Single Barrel 2007. Aged for nine years in American white oak and bottled directly from the barrel without blending, the 40% abv Single Barrel 2007 retails at $39.99 a 750ml. and is available at select off premise
- accounts across the country. Only 4,000 cases of Don Q Signature Release Single Barrel 2007 were released.
- Breakthru Beverage has named Peter Lijewski as vice president, supply chain, reporting directly to Art Wirtz, executive vice president, corporate operations and IT. Lijewski has nearly 20 years’ experience in the beverage alcohol industry, and held a series of supply chain roles with Constellation from 1997-2015.
Craft Brewing and Distilling News:
- Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) officials have accused an AB InBev-owned wholesaler of providing nearly $1 million of illegal incentives to Boston-area bars to promote Budweiser and other AB products over the competition. The charges, filed Tuesday, allege that AB gave branded draft towers (worth up to $3,500) and refrigerators (worth anywhere from $500 to $5,700) to 441 licensees. The Boston Globe reports that the ABCC has set a June 20 hearing date. AB maintains that the company followed all laws and regulations for distributing branded merchandise.
- Seattle-based premium soda producer Jones Soda Co. has unveiled Spiked Jones, billed as a hard cider-soda. Created in partnership with Washington state cider maker Spire Mountain, Spiked Jones is a 6%-abv blend of hard cider and Washington apples, and also features the same natural flavors used in Jones’ Green Apple Soda. The launch marks Jones Soda’s first beverage alcohol extension. Spiked Jones will be available throughout the Pacific Northwest region starting this summer, handled by C olumbia Distributing.
- Dogfish Head Craft Brewery has announced the opening of its new Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, replacing the flagship Dogfish brewpub in downtown Rehoboth, Delaware, on May 19. The new 6,300 square-foot space will celebrate punk rock, hip-hop and craft beer, with seating for 180 guests and an elevated stage for live music. The menu includes classic pub fare, local seasonal seafood and beer-infused ingredients. The bar, made of repurposed metal from the Dogfish brewery in Milton, Delaware, features 24 taps pouring Dogfish beer and offers a handful of Brewpub Exclusives, such as cask-conditioned beers and a cocktail program using spirits made from Dogfish Head Distilling Co.