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Interview: Bruce Hunter, Managing Director, Shaw-Ross International Importers

May 25, 2017

Florida-based Shaw-Ross International has caught fire in recent years as the importer of Chateau d’Esclans, whose Whispering Angel brand has spearheaded the Provence rosé boom in the U.S. market. But Shaw-Ross’s recent gains haven’t been limited to rosé. In fact, the company has a number of wine and spirits brands carving out solid growth, including Spanish wines Marques de Riscal (+22% to 172,000 cases last year) and Real Sangria (+4% to 611,000 cases), rums Ron Barcelo (+5% to 61,000 cases) and Pusser’s (+10% to 32,000 cases), and single malt Scotch Glengoyne (+13% to 9,000 cases). SND managing editor Daniel Marsteller recently spoke with Shaw-Ross managing director Bruce Hunter to get an update.

SND: What is the sweet spot in terms of pricing within your imported wine portfolio currently?

Hunter: The $15-$20 tier is doing very well for us. Whispering Angel is at $20-$22, and this year we’ll probably do about 300,000 cases, growing almost 100,000 cases from last year. The next level for premium rosé will be in the $30-$35 range. In the case of Château d’Esclans, it will be Rock Angel rosé. From Spain, we have Marques de Riscal Reserva. That’s in the $20 range and is very healthy, growing at 10%-12%. Both d’Esclans and Riscal are doing well on-premise as well as off-premise. We’re also finding that Chile is having success at higher price points, around the $18-$20 a bottle mark. Our Viña San Pedro 1865 ($18) was among Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines last year.

SND: Are you looking to fill any holes in your wine portfolio?

Hunter: We want to get more into the action in sparkling wine. Prosecco and Cava are seeing exceptional growth, so we’re scouting those categories.

SND: At the start of last year, you took on Gekkeikan sake. How is that brand doing?

Hunter: It’s been phenomenal. We’ll do over half a million cases with Gekkeikan this year. It’s the number-one sake brand in the U.S., and it has a great on-premise footprint. We’re championing the idea of drinking premium sake chilled and in a wine glass, as you would a white wine. We think sake is nowhere near its peak in the U.S. market.

SND: Which brands are most exciting on the spirits side?

Hunter: We took on Barcelo rum (from the Dominican Republic) about six years ago, starting from close to nothing, and this year we’ll approach 70,000 cases, averaging about $25 a bottle. Pusser’s rum (from Barbados) is around the same price point, and is also doing very well. It’s been growing at about 10% a year, and could approach 50,000 cases this year. There’s the core brand, which is at 84 proof, as well as a Gunpowder Proof version, at 109 proof. We also have one of the last family-owned single malt Scotch whiskies in Glengoyne. They have everything from a 10-year-old to a 35-year-old, and the brand is taking off. Mezcal is another hot category that we feel is going to have an impact in the market. We have Zignum Mezcal, which is getting traction in higher-end restaurants and bars. The mixologists love it.

SND: Do you expect to enter any new spirits categories looking ahead?

Hunter: Looking down the road we might add a vodka. But the vodka category is so crowded that it will need to be a very differentiated product, with potential for some longevity. We’re looking for something special that will be able to cut through the crowded market.

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