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Interview, Part 2: Palm Bay International’s Marc Taub

February 1, 2016

The second part of our interview with Palm Bay International president and CEO Marc Taub focuses on the company’s activities in both imported and domestic wine, as well as its efforts to build a formidable spirits portfolio.

SND: Beyond Cavit, how are your other key European offerings positioned?

Taub: From France, Jean Luc Colombo Cape Bleue rosé has had fantastic growth. We hit 27,000 cases last year, up nearly 30%. The rosé trend is transcending the French category now. Italian restaurants are pouring it, and we’re seeing things like Bertani and Planeta rosés hit the market and do very well. Colombo is also growing strongly at the high end with his Cornas. In Alsace, we’ve had consistent growth in rebuilding that category—which had been having a tough time—with Trimbach, which could be our most prolific restaurant item.

SND: How is progress within your Southern Hemisphere portfolio?

Taub: Chile had currency issues for a while that made it very difficult to compete. Now, with the currencies back in balance, we’re reinvesting in that business. In a category down 1%, Santa Rita finished 2015 up 20%, led by the 120 range (priced below $10). You’re getting twice the value out of Chile for Cabernet that you would from California. In Argentina, we have a great producer in Salentein, which has three different brands: Callia at $7.99, Portillo at $9.99, and then Salentein itself retails from $20 up through $50 a bottle. Malbec is the growth driver. We also launched Peter Yealands from New Zealand last year, and for the first year we’ll be at around 25,000 cases, riding the coattails of a hot category.

SND: You’ve also gotten into the California business lately.

Taub: Yes. We launched Au Contraire two years ago with a Russian River Chardonnay ($19.99) and Sonoma Coast Pinot ($29.99). The name is an homage to my father, David, who liked to use the expression. We’re adding two new single-vineyard Pinots as part of the line, a Dutton Ranch and a Lawler Vineyard. In Napa we have a Cabernet-focused brand called Heritance ($34.99), under which we’re now launching a Rutherford bottling and a Beckstoffer George III single-vineyard, retailing at about $150. We’re also in production on a new Zinfandel range called the Angry Bunch, priced in the mid-teens, and we’ve seen tremendous growth in Sangria. We’ve developed a bold, muscular version called Ay Carumba, positioned at $9.99. It’s at 12% abv, while most Sangrias are at around 8% abv.

SND: How is your spirits portfolio evolving?

Taub: Initially we had a totally separate, independent spirits division, but found that we were delivering a mixed message to distributors. Now we’ve put spirits within our regular divisions, with specialists managing them. The message from the top is succinct, clear and on-target, and execution in the field is handled by people specializing in spirits. In Irish whiskey, we’ve partnered with Bernard Walsh, who’s built a new distillery in Carlow, south of Dublin. He’s purchased stocks from Midleton for the last 10 years that have set the tone for the whiskey’s profile as he transitions to his own stocks. From the U.K., we have Chase potato vodka, which is developing interesting flavors for mixologists, like smoke vodka and marmalade vodka. In Tequila, we have a brand called Chamucos (retailing in the mid-$40s), which we’re launching nationally. Last year, we partnered with William Wemyss, who’s started a new Scotch distillery called Kingsbarns right by the golf course at St. Andrews. In rum, we have Dos Maderas, a French island rum aged in Pedro Ximenez casks. We’re also going to launch another vodka and a Tequila that’s more of a fighting premium pour. And in addition, we’ve just made some purchases of whiskey, and we’ll use it to relaunch a brand that my grandfather and his brothers started just after Prohibition, called Baltimore Club.

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