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Interview: Philana Bouvier, President, Demeine Estates

December 2, 2022

Napa Valley-based importer and marketer Demeine Estates, founded in 2020 by the Lawrence family and Carlton McCoy Jr., has quickly built a portfolio drawing from some of the most sought after wine regions in the world, including Napa Valley, Champagne, Sancerre, Chablis, Piedmont, and Tuscany.Demeine is led by Philana Bouvier as president, a veteran of Young’s Market Co. and RNDC. From California, Demeine markets the Lawrence family’s six estates across Napa—led by flagship Heitz Cellar—that have total production of about 75,000 cases. On the import side, its recent additions have included La Chablisienne, a leading player in Chablis that can supply 40,000-60,000 cases to the U.S. annually, as well as the flagship wines of Italy’s Mazzei family, including Castello di Fonterutoli. SND executive editor Daniel Marsteller recently spoke with Bouvier for an update.

SND: As a growing player in both luxury domestic wines and imports, how are conditions in the fine wine market from your point of view?

Bouvier: Fine wine continues to grow, and it’s thriving despite the overall wine category being flat to down. If you look at Cabernet Sauvignon, about three-fourths of producers have taken price over the last year. However, only the bottles selling at over $40 are seeing gains in both volume and in value. In Demeine’s case, our revenues are actually up over 22% in the last 12 months, and our depletion growth is up over 40% with our wholesale partners.

SND: How are the increased prices on Cabernet manifesting across the Demeine portfolio?

Bouvier: If you take the SRP for Napa Valley Cabernet, Heitz was at $54 in 2014. Today it’s $85 with our most recent 2018 release, and we still have continued depletion growth of over 30%. We’re really taking a stand on how we’re able to reposition price points, which is very important and a key part of our strategy. Then you look at Burgess, which has also been highly successful. We went from the high $30s on its price point to over $65 SRP. Each estate property has its own unique identity, and it’s these luxury-priced wines that are growing right now and adding value in the marketplace.

SND: How are opportunities on the import side?

Bouvier: La Chablisienne gives us critical positioning in the Chablis and white Burgundy categories. They’re the largest landholder in Chablis and represent 25% of total Chablis production. And while you see those categories in short supply, we are guaranteeing our customers that they will not run out of high quality white wine. We’re bullish on La Chablisienne. The Mazzei family has been producing Chianti for over 600 years. That makes us relevant overnight with Italy, as we go to market and enter the Chianti category. And in Champagne, Legras & Haas was one of our very first partners. They’ve done extremely well and we’re continuing to build and increase distribution.

SND: What areas of the market are especially attractive as you continue to build out the portfolio?

Bouvier: France and Italy will be our focus countries. We’re also going to be looking at how to continue growing in sparkling wine. We were founded during the pandemic, so our DNA is that we have adaptability, we’re innovative, and we’re prepared to handle a very evolved marketplace. Demeine Estates is not a company of maintainers. We are builders. We’re going to be meticulous about how we continue to grow the portfolio, but we’re definitely not slowing down.

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