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Exclusive: Wilson Daniels Tapped To Import Italy’s Biondi-Santi

September 19, 2017

After being without a U.S. importer for the past few years, Montalcino icon Biondi-Santi has appointed Wilson Daniels as its exclusive U.S. agent, effective October 1.The Wilson Daniels partnership marks a new chapter for the prestigious Brunello producer, in which French luxury group EPI took a significant stake late last year. SND managing editor Daniel Marsteller spoke with Wilson Daniels president Rocco Lombardo to get the details on the Biondi-Santi tie-up and other developments within the importer and distributor’s luxury portfolio.

SND: What does Biondi-Santi bring to the Wilson Daniels portfolio?

Lombardo: Biondi-Santi furthers our cause of representing the greatest European wineries— including properties like Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Domaine Leflaive from France, as well as Dal Forno from Italy. The wines have been produced since the 15th century, and the Sangiovese Grosso clone itself is the Biondi-Santi clone. The family represents and embodies Montalcino, and was making Brunello before the category even existed. I think Biondi-Santi should be considered along with the most prestigious wines the world, such as Gaja, Ornellaia, first-growths from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the top producers from the Western U.S.

SND: What’s the go-to-market plan for the Biondi-Santi wines in the U.S.?

Lombardo: We’ll be targeting the on-premise and fine wine shops, focusing on the connoisseur segment. The absence from the market the past few years has created scarcity, although the wines have been making their way to the U.S. through the gray market, so you do see today the 2010 Riserva and 2011 Annata on wine lists. We’ll be resetting the market and making sure the wines are priced appropriately. We’ll be selling in six-pack cases, with an initial release of roughly 500 six-packs of the 2011 Riserva ($475 a 750-ml.) and 1,300 six-packs of the 2012 Annata ($200 a 750-ml.). We’ll also have access to some of richest library wines that exist from Montalcino.

SND: How does EPI’s ownership stake in Biondi-Santi change the dynamic for the brand?

Lombardo: Having Jacopo Biondi Santi (the company’s chairman) and his son Tancredi involved is critical, giving the wines a personal attachment to the family as we take them to market. To have EPI Group involved gives the brand the stability that we need to succeed in the U.S.

SND: Wilson Daniels opened its East Coast wholesale operation just under two years ago. What’s the update?

Lombardo: We now have 28 salespeople between New York and New Jersey and plan to grow that to 32 people by year-end. We’ll be launching Rombauer in New York state on October 1, another great wine family that we’re honored to represent. We also launched Grgich on July 1. We have some additional agreements scheduled to take effect January 1 as well. We’ll be north of $26 million in wholesale revenues in New York and New Jersey for 2017, up from $20 million in 2016. With our new brand additions, we expect our wholesale business to increase by nearly 50% next year.

SND: How’s the Wilson Daniels import portfolio doing on the East Coast?

Lombardo: It’s up 400% since we opened the wholesale business. But it’s not just our own wines. Our credibility as a wholesaler is due to the fact that we’re performing for every property in the portfolio. On the import side, Wilson Daniels is now on a path to reassuming its position as a preeminent fine wine importer in the U.S., and we couldn’t be more pleased with what’s transpired over the past two years.

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