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Wine Spectator: Straight Talk With Bill Terlato

June 19, 2020

Bill Terlato, CEO of Illinois-based Terlato Wine Group, is part of the third generation to run the family-owned company, whose portfolio includes illustrious import labels such as Piper-Heidsieck, M. Chapoutier, Gaja, and Ca’Marcanda as well as a growing stable of California brands like Impact “Hot Brand” The Federalist, Rutherford Hill, and Chimney Rock. Altogether, sales stand at approximately $356 million on volume of 1.9 million cases. Terlato joined Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson earlier this week on Instagram Live series Straight Talk with Wine Spectator, sponsored by Wine Access.

The chat kicked off with a simple question: what is the state of the wine industry in America, yesterday, today, and in the future? Despite the difficult current climate, Terlato takes the long view. “I’ve had about a 40-year career and we go in 10 year cycles,” he said. “In that 10-year cycle, there’s usually two or three great years. There’s three or four years that are kind of average, and there’s two or three challenging years.” He added that it’s often difficult to believe that the good times will return at moments when the industry is struggling—but they always have.

Roughly 50% of the company’s business is in the on-premise, and they’ve seen a 95% decline in that area due to the Covid-19 shutdowns. Retail, however, is offering significant upside, jumping by roughly 30%. Terlato shifted on-premise employees to retail-focused positions to adapt to the new marketplace, in lieu of layoffs or pay cuts. “All of our team, our salespeople, even our marketing team and our events team, they were out in retail stores,” he said. “They were helping restock shelves at all hours of the day and night.”—Shane English

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