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Interview, Part 2: The Wine Group CMO Jeff Dubiel

July 6, 2021

Last month, SND exclusively reported the launch of Franzia’s new Refreshers line of better-for-you wines, a key initiative for The Wine Group this year. In the second part of our interview with The Wine Group CMO Jeff Dubiel, the veteran executive discusses conditions across the company’s full portfolio, which totaled 42 million cases on 4.2% growth last year, according to Impact Databank, second only to E.&J. Gallo in the U.S. market.

SND: Like Franzia, Cupcake is active in the better-for-you wine category, last year debuting Cupcake LightHearted. How is that effort progressing?

Dubiel: LightHearted is doing super well. We were the first major national brand into the wellness space. Certainly we’ve had a bunch of competition come in since then, but trial remains very good, and repeat purchase rates are fantastic. We now have five varietals: Chard, Pinot Grigio, Rosé, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. We’re testing an advertising campaign in a couple of markets and we’re considering going broader. It’s all about educating consumers that you can get great-tasting wine at a lower calorie level. Overall, Cupcake continues to do very well as what we call America’s favorite $8-$11 brand. Last year we also added a Prosecco Rosé to the range.

SND: What other brands are you excited about across the portfolio?

Dubiel: We’ve got Imagery winery up in Sonoma, which is connected to the Benzigers, but it’s certainly its own brand. We launched it two years ago on-premise and then moved to retail. It has become a top-20 ultra-premium table wine, and it’s showing pretty strong performance. We’re very interested in building out our portfolio in the premium and super-premium space, and Imagery is one of our biggest efforts over the past few years. Seven Deadly, which we acquired a couple years ago, is also part of that. It remains the No.-1 Zinfandel at any price point and the No.-8 super-premium domestic red brand, which has filled a gap in our portfolio for Zinfandel. Chloe was one of our first forays into super-premium way back in 2014. It’s now north of 450,000 cases. It’s probably skewing to be a little bit more of a white versus red brand. Tribute ($15) is a brand that has evolved from the Benziger winery world and was launched on-premise right before Covid, unfortunately. It was doing terrific until the on-premise shutdown, but we’ve now started to move into retail.

SND: Earlier this year, Treasury Wine Estates licensed about 4.2 million cases in annual volume across a number of brands to The Wine Group. How are the prospects there?

Dubiel: You know, it’s still pretty new. Beringer Main & Vine is certainly the biggest of the brands, the others being Coastal Estates, Meridian, and then Beringer Founders Estate. We’re just now getting sorted through the system and making sure that we’ve got distribution in hand, but we’re actively setting plans for that portfolio and we’re bullish on what those brands can do.

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