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Winesellers Ltd. Targets 1-Million-Case Mark

May 18, 2018

Illinois-based importer and marketer Winesellers Ltd. has seen growth across much of its 700,000-case portfolio lately, spurred on by labels falling within the $10-$15 tier. Among the brands leading the charge is Zuccardi, an Argentine label that saw its depletions grow by 21.4% last year and now sits at around 44,000 cases. While the Zuccardi lineup features a number of offerings retailing at $20 and above, its premium $15 range—which includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda, Malbec, and Torrontés varietals—is performing especially well, according to Winesellers vice president Adam Sager.

Winesellers is also enjoying growth in the French category with its Mont Gravet ($9 a 750-ml.) and Le Charmel labels ($13), up 49% to 45,500 cases and 42% to 34,200 cases last year, respectively. “Entry-level wines from the South of France are now highly appealing to consumers,” Sager notes. “They’re affordable, yet unique.” Last year, the company made a play at the higher end with its acquisition of Burgundian label Prosper Maufoux ($19-$27), which Sager says will help diversify the portfolio and appeal to top restaurant and fine wine retail accounts.

Elsewhere, organic Italian brand Tiamo ($11-$15 a 750-ml.) saw depletions rise 20% last year, boosted by the launch of 375-ml. cans ($5) for its Rosato, Pinot Grigio, and red wines. Sager says that alternative packaging will play a larger role going forward, as the company plans to introduce cans for Australia-based Hope Estate’s Hunter Valley Chardonnay and Shiraz-Cabernet wines later this year.

Among Winesellers’ key challenges are entry-level, Riesling-focused German brands like Schäfer ($13 a 750-ml.) and Paul Anheuser ($13-$14). “We do well with German estate wines and premium, single-vineyard wines, but the $12-and-under level is slowly declining,” Sager observes. “It’s not a category that younger consumers are focused on at this point, so we’re trying to find ways to engage them with Riesling.”

Looking ahead, Winesellers plans to boost its focus on domestic labels, paying special attention to the Pacific Northwest, where it’s not currently represented. Growing its existing California-based brands—including Lafond Winery, Vinum Cellars, and Tortoise Creek, among others—is also a priority. To that end, Winesellers recently created a regional chain manager, West Coast, position to oversee development of retail and restaurant accounts, and will add similar positions in the East and Midwest later this year. While founder and owner Yale Sager remains active in the business, sons Adam and Jordan—also a vice president—now oversee Winesellers’ day-to-day operations, and have set the goal of getting the company to 1 million cases.—Julia Higgins

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