Dreyfus, Ashby Boosts Burgundy Portfolio With Array Of International Wine BrandsSeptember 23, 2011
Wine importer Dreyfus, Ashby & Co. was founded in London in the early 1940s by Swiss emigré Michel Dreyfus, who soon moved the company to New York City, where it remains today. The company is more than 90%-owned by Burgundy producer Robert Drouhin, who acquired the stake in 1985. Miguel Torres owns the remaining 9.9% of the company. Led by president and CEO Chris Ryan and vice president John Caruso, Dreyfus, Ashby has a portfolio of more than 60 Drouhin labels as well as Spanish and Chilean wines from Miguel Torres—in addition to wines from Italy, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand and Switzerland. With a portfolio of roughly 500 SKUs, Dreyfus, Ashby is projected to sell 500,000 cases and achieve total sales of $50 million this year.
“We’re unique in that we’re Burgundy-dominated, and Burgundy is far more sensitive to vintage than any other place in the world,” Caruso says. “We’re very fortunate to be selling the 2009 vintage, which is spectacular across the board, and obviously Drouhin is highly regarded from entry level through grand cru.” The Drouhin portfolio also includes Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Domaine Drouhin Oregon (DDO), which retails for $42 a 750-ml. bottle. Dreyfus, Ashby has its own Oregon wine called Cloudline ($20), whose winemaking is overseen by Robert Drouhin’s daughter Veronique Drouhin-Boss, who runs DDO.
Prominent Torres labels include Sangre de Toro from Penedès ($16.99 a 750-ml.), Ibéricos from Rioja ($19), Celeste Blue from Ribera del Duero ($24) and Salmos from the Priorat ($28). Torres also has a property in Chile’s Central Valley, and produces several wines, including the main line Santa Digna ($9.99). “The Chilean category is dominated by huge brands, and Miguel Torres Chile is not one of those brands,” says Ryan. “The production method and vineyard practices just do not allow us to compete at the $5.99 level.” But Caruso notes that while Drouhin generates the most revenue, Torres is often largest by overall volume.
The portfolio beyond Drouhin and Torres remains vitally important, Ryan notes. One area the company has nurtured is Italy, having built an Italian portfolio led by Tuscany’s Barone Ricasoli, Barolo’s Renato Ratti and Amarone producer Tedeschi. The Italian portfolio is booming: in 2009 Dreyfus, Ashby was the only company with two labels in the top 10 of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines—the 2006 Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Castello di Brolio (No. 5) and the 2005 Renato Ratti Barolo Marcenasco (No. 7).
Dreyfus, Ashby says its other French business is healthy, led by wines from Christian Moueix, including Petrús, Belair-Monange and Chateau Trotanoy. “Demand is relatively stable—small volume, but significant dollars,” Ryan says. “We’re also selling a huge amount of rosé from Chateau de Campuget in Costières de Nimes, and that success has led to other wines.” Dreyfus, Ashby recently introduced Le Campuget Rosé ($12 a 750-ml.), and the brand’s Prestige Viognier ($10.99) is performing well.
Elsewhere, Dreyfus, Ashby looks for prominent regional varietals such as its New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough-based Giesen ($10). Dreyfus, Ashby’s main Argentine wine producer, Mendoza-based Enrique Foster, focuses solely on Malbec, including the Ique ($10) and Reserva ($25) labels. The company also imports Sula ($9.99 to $24), India’s top fine wine. The brand is relatively small in the United States at around 5,000 cases annually.
Dreyfus, Ashby carries sakes from Kobe, Japan-based brewery Hakutsuru, which sells close to 50,000 cases in the United States. It also handles the eaux de vie and liqueurs range from G.E. Massenez in Alsace, France. But the company has no interest in expanding its spirits business. “We’re a fine wine company, and we would like to stay there,” Ryan says.
Interestingly, Dreyfus, Ashby doesn’t carry wines from California or Australia. “A California wine that needs us isn’t necessarily one that we would want to take on, and a great wine already has its own road to market,” Ryan explains. “Australia is dominated by a few brands which have had trouble differentiating themselves or raising the bar price-wise. Unless it’s an extraordinary proposition, we’ll stay out of that business.”Subscribe to Shanken News Daily’s Email Newsletter, delivered to your inbox each morning.
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