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Interview: Quintessential Wines Co-Owner Dennis Kreps

May 31, 2022

Napa-based importer and marketer Quintessential Wines has risen to become a million-case player in the U.S. wine market, focusing its portfolio on family-owned producers. Most recently, the company has upped its presence in French wines with additions from Champagne, Bordeaux, and the Rhone, with Italy and Spain also presenting opportunities moving forward. SND executive editor Daniel Marsteller spoke with Quintessential co-owner Dennis Kreps for an update.

SND: What have been your main objectives for the business lately?

Kreps: We’re beefing up the luxury side of our portfolio. We’ve always had a strong stable of brands from all over the world, and they’re all multi-generational family-owned and operated, but we’re starting to focus a little bit more on luxury, which is a strength of our salesforce and of our wholesale partners. So all of our growth is really in that luxury category right now, and it’s doing real well for us, with producers including Atlas Peak (Napa Valley), Matetic (Chile), Bel Colle and Attilio Ghisolfi (both Barolo), Cortonesi (Brunello de Montalcino), Conde de los Andes (Rioja), Kay Brothers (Australia), and Quinta do Vallado (Portugal).

SND: How has that manifested in terms of recent portfolio additions?

Kreps: We had some holes in the French category. We added André Brunel ($12-$250 at retail) from Châteauneuf-du-Pape in January, and we had a hole in Bordeaux, so we added Maison Bouey ($13-$40) from the Medoc as well. In Champagne, last year was our first full year with Champagne Palmer. It’s an elegant, finessed style. The core wines are the Brut Reserve ($60), the Rosé Solera ($80), and the Blanc de Blancs ($90), and they have a deep reserve of vintage Champagnes. Then there are other regions that are opportunistic for us. In Italy, there are opportunities in Chianti. We added a really nice Chianti Classico producer, Tenuta Carobbio, and we’re looking for more opportunities in Spain. In the next three or four months we’ll probably have some announcements regarding Spain as well.

SND: What are you seeing in your on-premise business lately?

Kreps: It’s coming more into balance. It depends on the product on-premise. Restaurants are keeping their selections a little more limited. They’re not getting as deep into the wine by the glass selections, or as deep into the wine list selections as they had previously. So it’s more on the recognized comfort brands when it comes to the volume restaurant business, but it’s all opening up nicely and they know and respect our brands. I think there’s also a shift toward trying to support more of those family owned producers versus corporate America. Where restaurants and retailers can, they prefer to support families.

SND: What trends are you seeing on the retail side?

Kreps: The pandemic really spurred grocery chains because it’s where people were shopping. So it was grocery chains, and then retailers that were efficient online, because there was so much online shopping that they developed those clients. Wine and spirits retail is coming back, but I think grocery in particular really dominated the last couple years and it’s created some habits with the consumer. That, and the online piece, which continues to be strong.

SND: Last year, Quintessential opened wholesale operations in New York and New Jersey. How has it gone so far?

Kreps: The first 17 months exceeded our expectations. We have a great team and the market has received us with open arms. There is a hunger for authentic wines of place produced by real families.

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