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With Several New Additions, Importer Pacific Highway Builds A Varied Portfolio

January 31, 2020

Founded in 2008 as the U.S. import operation of Australia’s Oatley family, Pacific Highway Wines has steadily expanded its business with a portfolio spanning California, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Spain. Pacific Highway president Mark Giordano tells SND the company is aiming to hit the 500,000-case mark within about 18 months, up from its current 360,000 cases.

Among the brands driving gains for Pacific Highway is New Zealand-based Giesen, whose family owners are also now partners in the U.S. import business, along with Australia’s Oatley family. Giesen jumped 23% to 120,000 cases in the U.S. last year. The Robert Oatley brand is currently at about 10,000 cases, distributed mainly to the on-premise. The Robert Oatley label has gained momentum lately with the release of a lighter-bodied, “Joven”-style Grenache from McLaren Vale retailing at $20, Giordano notes.

Pacific Highway also handles several wines from the Alejandro Bulgheroni portfolio, including Uruguay’s Garzon, Argentina’s Argento, and California’s Renwood. Garzón (retailing from $20-$120 a 750-ml.) has been growing rapidly from a small base, with annual volume expected to reach 30,000 cases by mid-year. “For Garzón, we’re just at the tip of the iceberg,” Giordano says. “I think the next 18 months will be big for the brand.” Meanwhile, Argento is slated to introduce a reserve-level organic tier later this year, while Renwood is preparing to launch a luxury, block-select Zinfandel.

Over the past year, Pacific Highway has expanded with a number of new wines, among them Merryvale from Napa Valley, Faustino from Spain, and Santa Ema from Chile. Starmont, part of the Merryvale range, is at about 45,000 cases and in the process of repositioning its Chardonnay—which accounts for about 45% of volume—to around $23 a bottle at retail, after a period of uneven pricing, Giordano says.

Faustino, at about 40,000 cases, is also reorienting, putting the focus on its Faustino I Gran Reserva ($35) rather than its entry-level Faustino VII. Santa Ema is the newest member of the portfolio, with its Maipo Valley-sourced wines positioned in Chile’s $11-$30 range.

With Pacific Highway in expansion mode, Giordano sees potential to continue building its portfolio moving forward. Adding labels from such regions as Paso Robles, Washington, and Oregon are all possibilities if the right opportunity arises, he notes.—Daniel Marsteller

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