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Interview, Part 2: The Winebow Group’s David Townsend

May 20, 2016

In the second part of our interview with David Townsend, the Winebow Group president and CEO talks trends and new products within the company’s imported wine and craft spirits lineups.

SND: Impact Databank estimates The Winebow Group’s wine volume at around 1.4 million cases. How has the portfolio evolved recently, and what trends are you seeing?

Townsend: When the Vintner Group and Winebow merged in 2014, I refocused our import business and developed three different divisions: Leonardo LoCascio Selections, the historic Italian portfolio; Mundo Vino, a portfolio of estates from Argentina, Chile, Spain and Portugal; and Craft + Estate, representing iconic wineries and craft spirits from around the world. The three divisions all have separate sales forces and brand management. For Craft + Estate, we’re seeing strong growth in our French portfolio with volumes up in the low teens. Rosé continues to be a strong driver, up 39%, while sparkling is also doing very well, up 15%. We’ve seen lower growth in Australia under the $10 retail level, but good progress in the premium Australian wines priced $15 and above. Within Mundo Vino, Argentina and Spain are the main drivers. Argentina remains a healthy business despite the category cooling at the lower end. Our Spanish portfolio is growing at double-digit rates across almost all producers. Our premium Cava producer, Juvé & Camps (around $16), is up 40% year-over-year. Leonardo LoCascio Selections is seeing strong growth in Pinot Grigio, which represents four of its top six SKUs. The higher-priced Pinot Grigios are the most dynamic area. Italian traditional whites are also performing very well, as is Brunello. We’ve seen lower growth in Italian red blends, but more recently there’s been an upswing in that business as well.

SND: Any new products coming down the pike on the wine side?

Townsend: For Craft + Estate, the petits chateaux offer a great opportunity, so you’ll see us bring in a number of new offerings in that area and really showcase lower-priced Bordeaux. We also have a new Extra Brut and Brut Rosé from Loimer ($20-$35), an Austrian producer, coming later this year, as well as a range of cool-climate wines from Burch Family in Western Australia, including Howard Park, MadFish and Marchand & Burch ($17-$90). At Mundo Vino we’ll mainly focus on growing the existing portfolio, but we’ll probably expand our Chilean offering with more terroir-specific wines in the $20-plus category.

SND: What about craft spirits?

Townsend: Our craft spirits continue to grow really well, up 20%. We’re seeing very strong growth rates in our Rough Rider Bourbon, Kinahan’s Irish whiskey, Boyd & Blair vodka and Boomsma gin. And we’re continuing to look for new suppliers, both domestic and imported.

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