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DFV Doubles Down On Dark Red Blends

August 15, 2016

Delicato Family Vineyards (DFV) is the ninth-largest wine marketer in the U.S., with a brand stable that rose 14.5% to 6.6 million cases last year, according to Impact Databank. The Napa-based company, led by Impact “Hot Brands” like Bota Box (+28% to 3.9 million cases) and Noble Vines (+14% to 530,000 cases) has expanded markedly in recent years, showing total portfolio growth of more than 50% since 2012. SND recently interviewed DFV president and CEO Chris Indelicato to get an update.

SND: How are you leveraging current consumption trends in California wine?

Indelicato: The popularity of red blends continues to grow across the U.S. market, especially richer, more lush wines with concentrated, darker fruit profiles. We’ve seen this style take off in Pinot Noir, and we’re now in the midst of a major trend across the entire red wine category. Specifically within our portfolio, last fall we launched Gnarly Head 1924 Double Black, a Prohibition-style Zinfandel-based dark red blend ($11.99). That followed the 2014 launch of Gnarly Head Authentic Black, a Petite Sirah-based dark red, which is currently the fastest-growing Top-15 red blend, according to Nielsen. We also added Diora “La Petite Grace” Pinot Noir, a full-bodied luxury Pinot, and a Diora “Three Crowns” Single Vineyard offering (both $29.99), from our vineyards in Monterey. Bota Box Nighthawk Black was also in response to demand for dark red blends. Nighthawk has held firm as the top-selling new premium three-liter boxed wine since launching last year, and this year it’s on pace to ship a quarter-million cases. Also, in January we launched a new brand, Z. Alexander Brown, with recording artist Zac Brown. It includes a North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon and Proprietary Red Blend ($19.99). Z. Alexander Brown is currently the top new wine brand of 2016 in Nielsen channels, contributing 47% of all new dollar sales.

SND: Two newer brands, Belle Ambiance and Handcraft, slowed down last year after fast starts, while Irony and Black Stallion declined. How are you addressing those labels this year?

Indelicato: Both Handcraft and Belle Ambiance are introducing proprietary dark red blend extensions this year, while Irony is launching a Black Pinot Noir. On the white side, Black Stallion introduced a Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc this spring ($19). And Gnarly Head will be adding a Sauvignon Blanc this fall, as well as debuting an elevated new look. With the $9-$12 Pinot Grigio category continuing to post double-digit growth, we’re launching a Noble Vines 152 Pinot Grigio sourced from our San Bernabe Vineyard in Monterey this summer.

SND: Many of these new launches are squarely in super-premium territory. Is that now the main area of opportunity for DFV?

Indelicato: The super-premium segment is one of the hottest categories in wine right now. Consumers are driving demand for sophisticated, classic varietals, such as Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc at premium price points as they become more knowledgeable and confident in their wine selections. Bold, concentrated and fruit-forward is the name of the game.

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