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Wine Spectator Panel Talks Brand-Building At Vinexpo New York

March 10, 2020

With the wine market going through a period of turbulent times—from California oversupply to tariffs—Wine Spectator convened a panel of wine industry heavyweights at last week’s Vinexpo New York to hear their perspectives on the current market and what the future holds.

Moderated by Wine Spectator executive editor Thomas Matthews, the panel included Jackson Family Wines CEO Rick Tigner, Terlato Wine Group CEO Bill Terlato, and Sherry-Lehmann Wine and Spirits CEO Chris Adams.

With a portfolio offering top labels like Kendall-Jackson and La Crema, Tigner has played a role in building numerous successful brands over the years. He kickstarted the discussion by talking about what attributes consistently make consumers return to a specific brand. While quality wine and a strong story—whether of a family, place, or style of winemaking—remain the starting points, Tigner asserted that winemakers can’t overlook the importance of supporting the brand once it hits the market. “If you try to build a market and just put your brand into a distributor without putting effort behind it,” he cautioned, “that brand will not get built.” Rather, he said, the process must involve continuous attention through the system from the producer through the retailer in order to harness a brand’s potential.

Taking the conversation a step further, Terlato laid out his take on what makes a brand attractive for acquisition or partnership, from his perspective as the importer of prominent labels like Chapoutier and Piper-Heidsieck, among others. Having a distinct product is essential, either to attract a partner or to stand on your own, he observed. “All the great wines and the highly-prized wines from around the world are able to offer something that’s distinctive,” Terlato said. “Nobody mistakes Gaja Barbaresco for another Barbaresco.”

For high-end retailers like Sherry-Lehmann, the key words are artisanal and limited, said CEO Chris Adams. “People are becoming more invested in what’s behind this gin, or this whiskey,” he explained. Customers at Sherry-Lehmann are increasingly eager to learn the stories behind the brands and the history of the regions they’re shopping, whether in the wine or spirits category, Adams added.

Turning to the future of the wine market, Tigner pointed to the ongoing ascendance of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, as well as the growth potential of Oregon Chardonnay. Terlato highlighted indigenous Italian varietals like Friulano as an area to watch, as well as expansion opportunities for French, Kiwi, and Australian wines moving forward. Adams, meanwhile, pointed out that the current 25% tariffs on French wines could offer Italian winemakers an opening to gain market share, especially at the luxury end.—Shane English

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