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Interview, Part 2: Gregory Doody, President and CEO of Vineyard Brands

August 18, 2020

In the second part of our interview with Vineyard Brands president and CEO Gregory Doody, we discuss new areas for the portfolio, the on-premise shutdowns, and the impact of the tariff situation.

SND: Where would you like to bolster your portfolio, in terms of countries of origin and specific wine types?

Doody: I’d like to continue growing our Italian portfolio. When I started with Vineyard Brands (in 2013), we represented only one Italian producer—Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini, owner of Caparzo and Borgo Scopeto. She encouraged us to add to our Italian portfolio, seeing the benefit of having a solid Italian lineup rather than just a single producer. We didn’t need much encouragement—we knew the importance of Italy’s wines in the United States.

SND: Amid Covid-19, how has the closing of the on-premise impacted your business?

Doody: Our portfolio includes large volume brands, boutique brands, and lots of wines in between—from all the key wine regions in the world. With very few exceptions, our salespeople are responsible for both on- and off-premise sales in their territories. While it’s been difficult for them not to have the freedom to call on accounts as they were accustomed, our adaptation to Covid-19 has been more of a refocus than a pivot. Like everyone else, we’ve seen a huge spike in our off-premise sales, but that hasn’t quite made up for the loss in the on-premise business.

SND: What’s the distributor alignment for Vineyard Brands? Are you with just a few big players, or do you partner with many smaller ones? What’s the overall strategy?

Doody: We’re not aligned with any one distributor, which is another example of our diverse approach. Because we try to give our regional managers and sales reps as much autonomy as possible, we simply choose distributors in each market that offer the best fit, and no two markets are the same. We work with the big players in some markets, and with independents elsewhere.

SND: How have you coped with the tariff situation?

Doody: I’m not a fan of trade wars, as they never end well for anyone, and I’m particularly opposed to the tariffs on wines from France, Germany, and Spain. As I’ve said in letters to the U.S. Trade Representative and my elected representatives in Washington, punishing the wine business for a dispute involving large, civil aircraft doesn’t seem appropriate. And, with the food and beverage industry among the hardest hit by the Covid-19 shutdowns, it seems particularly inappropriate to continue them. All that said, we are where we are. When the tariffs were first announced, our goal was to maintain as many of the placements we had worked so hard over so many years to obtain. We worked with our winery partners and distributor partners to adjust our pricing so that accounts would be impacted as little as possible. So far, we’ve been successful.

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