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Sweet Blends Propel Indiana’s Oliver Winery To 340,000 Cases

August 27, 2013

Established in the early 1970s, Indiana-based Oliver Winery has become one of the top wine producers in the Midwest, fueled by the success of sweet blends Soft Red and Soft White. First launched in the 1980s, those labels are now tapping into the market’s recent craze for sweet wines. In fact, Soft Red is currently the biggest-selling sweet wine at the 50-unit Indiana retail chain Big Red Liquors.

At more than 30,000 nine-liter cases each, the blends are the biggest players within Oliver Winery’s 340,000-case portfolio. For 2013, Oliver Winery president Bill Oliver tells SND he expects company volume to grow by around 10%.

“What we did with Soft Red and Soft White was take those wines seriously in terms of fruit sourcing and quality control,” says Oliver. “We presented a sweet wine that people were proud to serve.”

In addition to its 60-acre vineyard—which supplies about 3% of the winery’s total volume—Oliver Winery also purchases fruit from a variety of states, including California. Distributed across 22 markets, the Oliver range includes nearly 60 different labels, with prices ranging from $8 for Soft Red and White to around $70 for an Estate Cabernet. The portfolio also includes classic varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, as well as sparkling wine, ice wine, mead and hard cider, among other specialty offerings.

“What’s different now compared with 10 years ago is the blurring of category lines,” says Oliver, citing the popularity of products like flavored malt beverages and flavored spirits. “There’s more of a rainbow of adult beverages instead of just three distinct categories of wine, spirits and beer. So we now have to view our competition more broadly.” Other heartland wineries following a similar model include Missouri’s St. James Winery, North Carolina’s Duplin Winery and Michigan’s St. Julian Winery.

The Oliver brand is currently in the process of a major overhaul, which will include a redesign of its labeling and logo, set to launch next year. Oliver says the company will continue developing its existing markets before expanding geographically. “It’s tempting to add new states right now,” he says, “but the smartest thing for us to do is focus on our current markets.”

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