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Interview: Bruce Hunter, Managing Director, Shaw-Ross International

September 16, 2021

Florida-based Shaw-Ross International is credited with largely sparking the Provence rosé trend in the U.S. through its long-term partnership with Sacha Lichine of Chateau d’Esclans and Whispering Angel rosé. In late 2019, Moët Hennessy acquired a majority stake in d’Esclans, and subsequently added it to its U.S. portfolio. Earlier this year, Shaw-Ross teamed up with Lichine again to launch The Pale ($17), a new Provence rosé, taking renewed aim at one of the wine market’s strongest categories. SND senior editor Shane English recently caught up with Bruce Hunter, managing director of Shaw-Ross, for an update on the rollout of The Pale as well as progress across the portfolio, which is expected to approach 2 million cases this year, also including brands like Gekkeikan sake and Frescobaldi.

SND: How has The Pale performed in the early going?

Hunter: Sacha Lichine and I have been good friends since we took on Whispering Angel around 16 years ago. We took a shot with that rosé and we’re lucky that we built Whispering Angel up to over half a million cases in the U.S. market. When Sacha came to me with another brand, The Pale, I immediately loved the packaging. It’s based on the cover of a New Yorker magazine from 1923. I think it’s very appealing to both male and female consumers. We will sell probably around 45,000 cases by the end of the year, and next year we’re looking to do between 100,000 and 125,000 cases. We were able to get into Albertsons/Safeway and Kroger and almost every major chain, basically sight unseen just based on the package. I think it shows you the strength of Sacha’s name and his history with rosé in the U.S. We’re able to parlay that. I see big numbers on this looking ahead.

SND: What are some other highlights for the last 18 months across the Shaw-Ross portfolio?

Hunter: During Covid we excelled with things like Gekkeikan sake. We’re over 500,000 cases with Gekkeikan in the U.S. market and continue to grow. In fact, year-to-date we’re up 12% in depletions. We broke some new ground in the off-premise, and the on-premise, as it comes back, is going to accelerate our sales.

SND: You also gained Italian wines from Frescobaldi in recent years. How are those brands progressing?

Hunter: For Frescobaldi, we actually finished up last year and, in the year-to-date through June, we’re up 17%. The great thing is that it’s wines like the Brunello and the Castiglioni, the higher marques that are doing really well. Nipozzano, too. It just shows you that we established a beachhead last year with brands like Frescobaldi and like La Scolca from Gavi, which was probably 60% on-premise pre-pandemic. We put all of our time, attention, focus, and power behind the off-premise to get a bigger footprint there. Now that the on-premise is coming back we’re reaping the rewards of that work, especially with La Scolca, which was up 5% last year and is up 39% year-to-date, with the return of restaurants accelerating its growth.

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