Portugal’s Esporão Wines Expanding Briskly In U.S. MarketJune 21, 2012
In a small but growing Portuguese wine category, Esporão Wines saw its U.S. sales rise 11% to 50,000 cases in 2011, and the group says growth has accelerated markedly this year, with sales up 64% in the first quarter.
Esporão is part of a Portuguese wine category that surpassed 1 million cases in the U.S. in 2011 for the first time in about 25 years, according to Impact Databank. Total category growth was just 1.4%, but trade group ViniPortugal says faster progress is occurring at the premium end, with shipments of containers of two liters or less up 19% to 611,000 cases. ViniPortugal expects the Portuguese wine category to grow 40% in the U.S. by 2014.
Based in southern Portugal’s Alentejo region, Esporão offers a product line that includes Reserve, Herdade DO Esporão, Vinha Defesa, Monte Velho and Alandra tiers, which range from $8 to $20-and-above. Monte Velho, featuring red and white blends, is Esporão’s biggest label in the U.S., but Alandra, at the portfolio’s lower end, has performed well in New York, New Jersey and Texas—both off-premise and by the glass in restaurants. Aidil Wines imports Esporão’s wines in the East, while Vinum Importing handles the portfolio in the West.
On the new product front, Alandra recently expanded into the three-liter box segment with red and white blends priced at $16 a box. Another new release is a rosé under the Defesa label that sells for $15 a bottle. In addition to its core Alentejo business, Esporão also entered Portugal’s Douro region with the €16 million ($20m) acquisition of premium producer Quinta Dos Murçias in 2009 (Murçias’s wines were introduced stateside last year).
Esporão CEO João Roquette says Portugal has been wrestling with how to convey its diverse offerings (which include over 250 indigenous varietals like Touriga Nacional, Aragones and Trincadeira) without alienating less adventurous consumers focused on more familiar grape types. Lately, Roquette sees producers coalescing around a strategy of playing up Portugal’s wealth of unique varieties. Esporão, which produces 1.3 million cases annually (Brazil is its largest market), is moving to provide the specific varietal makeup of its wines on its labels.
Other key Portuguese players in the market include Palm Bay with its Lancers brand and Sogrape, which markets the Gazela, Mateus and Grao Vasco brands through Connecticut-based subsidiary Evaton Inc. Mateus was a 1.3-million-case brand in the early 1980s but has slid ever since and is now at around 23,000 cases.Subscribe to Shanken News Daily’s Email Newsletter, delivered to your inbox each morning.
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