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Barton & Guestier Rebounds With Upmarket Shift

September 4, 2015

After a difficult period of ownership and importer changes, one of French wine’s best recognized brands is back on the upswing, benefiting from better category conditions and a new focus on higher price points. Formerly part of the Diageo Chateau & Estate portfolio, Barton & Guestier was acquired by French wine giant Castel in 2010, and subsequently set up its own U.S. operation, Barton & Guestier USA, based in Miami. Industry veteran Hubert Surville, who runs the U.S. business as COO, tells SND that sales are up about 30% this year, with annual volume rising to nearly 150,000 cases.

“Previously our varietal wines (around $9.99) made up 90% of the business. Now they make up only about 40%, and our AOC wines ($10-$40) have exploded,” Surville says. Within its AOC range, B&G has seen rapid growth from its Côtes du Provence rosé ($15), as well as its Loire wines like Rosé d’Anjou and Vouvray ($12). Surville observes that the stronger U.S. dollar has helped imported wines lately. With depletions accelerating and Castel continuing to invest in the business, he sees the B&G portfolio reaching 250,000-300,000 cases in the next three years.

This spring, B&G launched a new La Villa Barton rosé at $20, and it’s currently introducing Syrah-Grenache blend Héritage ($20), sourced from the Duché d’Uzès AOC in the Southern Rhône and debuting in conjunction with the company’s 290th anniversary. Surville sees Héritage as a way to “show what we can do in terms of quality at that price point.” In the coming weeks it will follow with new “special cuvées” from Bordeaux, which will retail at around the $15 mark.

As B&G intensifies its focus on higher-priced wines, it’s also eyeing a bigger on-premise presence. “Historically we’ve been about 90% off-premise. We’re now targeting about one-third on-premise,” with by-the-glass listings a priority, Surville notes.

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