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Impact’s “Hot Prospects”: The Next Wave of California Wine Players

October 20, 2020

Impact recently unveiled its latest list of “Hot Prospects,” recognizing the most promising smaller brands in the industry. In the domestic wine category, California dominates, with 29 out of the 34 total award winners coming from the Golden State. Some 14 labels out of the 17 new Hot Prospect entrants also hail from California, with Washington accounting for the remaining three.

The largest domestic wine Hot Prospect is The Wine Group’s Ava Grace, which has grown from 3,000 cases in 2016 to 225,000 cases last year. The brand features a broad portfolio of California wines, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, rosé, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and a red blend. The Wine Group debuted 375-ml. cans for Ava Grace’s Pinot Grigio and rosé offerings in 2018, both of which have further bolstered growth. The Wine Group is also represented with Imagery, which offers super-premium and predominantly Italian- and Rhône-varietal wines, among them Barbera, Sangiovese, Grenache, and Viognier.

Spirits barrel-aged wines have been a growth area for several California labels lately, including Deutsch Family’s Josh Cellars Reserve, which reached 174,000 cases last year after skyrocketing 41%. In June, the brand introduced a new Cabernet Sauvignon, aged primarily in Bourbon barrels taken from Redemption—also part of the Deutsch portfolio. “This new wine features a similar base to our standard Cabernet, but since it’s aged in Bourbon barrels it actually pulls some alcohol out of those, making the alcohol content a bit higher and bringing some of that Bourbon character into the wine,” says Deutsch Family president Tom Steffanci.

In 2018, Treasury Wine Estates debuted Beringer Bros., which launched with a Bourbon barrel-aged Cabernet Sauvignon and has since expanded to include Bourbon barrel-aged Chardonnay and red blend wines, as well as a Tequila barrel-aged Sauvignon Blanc (all $17 a 750-ml.). The label nearly doubled to 108,000 cases last year. Constellation, too, is active in spirits barrel-aged wine with its Cooper & Thief brand, which returned to the Hot Prospects list after posting growth of 19.2% to 93,000 cases. The Cooper & Thief lineup includes a red blend aged in Bourbon barrels ($30 a 750-ml.), a Sauvignon Blanc aged in Tequila barrels ($30), a Pinot Noir aged in brandy barrels ($30), and a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon aged in High West whiskey barrels ($60). Constellation’s Crafters Union, focused on canned wines, also made the list, jumping to 106,000 cases last year.

Delicato Family Wines added spirits-barrel expressions to its 1924 label—a returning Hot Prospect—this past May. “We’re taking advantage of the real consumer trend in that hot category of barrel-aged wines, as we truly believe that’s where the most opportunity lies,” says Delicato vice president of brand marketing Kathy Pyrce. 1924 introduced a Scotch barrel-aged Chardonnay in May. The brand leapt 30.8% last year to 140,000 cases. Delicato’s Z. Alexander Brown also returned to the Hot Prospects list this year after posting 17.1% growth to 185,000 cases. Click here to subscribe to Impact.—Julia Higgins

Impact “Hot Prospects”—Domestic Wines Above 100,000 Cases
(thousands of 9-liter case depletions)
Rank Brand Company 2018 2019 Percent
1 Ava Grace The Wine Group 180 225 25.0%
2 Gruet Precept Wines 140 190 35.3%
3 7 Moons Constellation Brands 149 188 26.2%
4 Z. Alexander Brown Delicato Family Wines 158 185 17.1%
5 Proverb E.&J. Gallo Winery 48 180 +
6 Josh Cellars Reserve Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits 123 174 40.9%
7 Imagery Estates The Wine Group 90 160 77.8%
8 1924 Delicato Family Wines 107 140 30.8%
9 Sutter Home Rosé Trinchero Family Wines 65 140 +
10 Beringer Bros. Treasury Wine Estates Americas 60 108 79.6%
11 Crafters Union Constellation Brands 7 106 +
12 Raeburn Purple Wine + Spirits 69 104 50.7%
Total 1,196 1,901 58.9%
(1) depletions of at least 50,000 cases but not over 250,000 in 2019
(2) at least 15% depletions’ growth in 2019 and consistent growth in 2017 and 2018

Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2020

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