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Interview: Fetzer Vineyards CEO Giancarlo Bianchetti

August 6, 2020

Chile-based Viña Concha y Toro recently reported consolidated sales up 16% to $442 million for its fiscal first half ended in June, with volume for its priority brands rising 13%.EBITDA was also up sharply, increasing 53% to $82 million. The U.S. and Canada enjoyed growth during the first half despite the pandemic, with the U.K., Brazil, Mexico, and Western Europe also performing well. According to Impact Databank, Concha y Toro’s namesake brand slipped 3.6% to 2.1 million cases in the U.S. last year, while Fetzer (+3.6% to 527,000 cases), Bonterra (+3.1% to 439,000 cases), and 1000 Stories (+3.9% to 112,000 cases) all grew. SND associate editor Shane English caught up with Giancarlo Bianchetti, CEO of U.S. subsidiary Fetzer Vineyards, for an update on progress.

SND: How did Fetzer’s U.S. portfolio fare in the first half?

Bianchetti: U.S. sales of Fetzer Vineyards’ California portfolio and our imported wines from Chile and Argentina increased more than 20% in value in the first half, an effect amplified by a favorable exchange rate. Depletions were up 3.3% for our imported wines, led by gains in Casillero del Diablo (+15%), Trivento Reserve, and other brands in national distribution that performed well in the strong off-premise space. Another bright spot for us is the Frontera 1.5-liter business, which swung to double-digit growth in the second quarter.

SND: How about the Fetzer and Bonterra labels?

Bianchetti: Consumers have been returning to familiar brands in 2020, and that has certainly helped heritage label Fetzer, where we see fans gravitating to the core varietals. Bonterra is doing really well and growing more than 10% in depletions, driven by high double-digit growth in Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé, and continued emphasis on Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

SND: What’s the update on 1000 Stories?

Bianchetti: Our Bourbon barrel-aged 1000 Stories continues to build momentum, with ongoing distribution expansion for 2019 launches Gold Rush Red and Cabernet Sauvignon. Overall, depletions were up 26% in the first half, with continued leadership in super-premium Zinfandel and the kickoff of an exciting partnership with the Academy of Country Music (ACM). Recently, 1000 Stories has featured prominently in the popular ACM Wine Down Wednesday series, featuring live streams with leading country artists. This partnership benefits the ACM Lifting Lives Covid-19 Response Fund and has generated over 29 million media impressions to date and new connections for our wines with music lovers of all genres, as more fans head online to “meet up” with their favorite musicians during the pandemic.

SND: What role has e-commerce played this year?

Bianchetti: The e-commerce channel is a focus area for us, and we’re devoting additional resources to it. Partnerships in this space with the likes of Drizly and Thirstie have helped strengthen our presence in the very healthy online channel, where we’re growing by double digits. Ultimately, consumers are creating new and lasting habits during the pandemic, many of which will stick—including buying wine online.

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