Constellation Brands Sells Canadian Wines, Invests In Whiskey, Washington Wines

Constellation Brands announced a flurry of moves today reshaping their stake in wine and whiskey.

Canadian Wine

The global alcohol giant will sell off its Canadian wine business to Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, the largest single-profession pension plan in Canada.

The transaction — which includes Canadian wine brands such as Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin, wineries, vineyards, offices, facilities, and Wine Rack retail stores — is subject to regulatory approval. It is expected to close by the end of the calendar year.

Constellation Brands will continue ownership of Black Velvet Whisky and the related production facility in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.

“In April, we announced plans to explore an initial public offering for a portion of our Canadian wine business as part of our strategy to focus on premium, high margin and high growth brands,” says Rob Sands, president and chief executive officer, Constellation Brands, in a press release. “We seized the opportunity to sell the entire business in a value-enhancing transaction when it presented itself.”

The transaction is valued at approximately $780 million.

Charles Smith Wines

Constellation Brands also announced an agreement to acquire the Charles Smith Wines collection of five Washington State wine brands for approximately $120 million.The transaction, expected to close in October, includes Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Velvet Devil Merlot, Boom Boom! Syrah, Eve Chardonnay and Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are sourced from vineyards across Columbia Valley and are produced in several crush facilities in Washington. Sustainable practices are utilized in both the vineyards and in the winemaking process for all of these wines, the company says.

With this acquisition, Constellation Brands will “solidify its position as the second leading supplier of Washington State wines, gaining a collection of high quality wines that have strong consumer affinity and demand, and have shown double-digit volume growth over the last three years,” the company says in a press release

Charles Smith Wines founder, Charles Smith, will assist Constellation Brands under a consulting agreement as winemaker to maintain quality and consistency of the wines, the company says, and will work with Constellation Brands to help drive further innovation across its wine portfolio.

“Charles Smith is a visionary in the wine business and we are excited to welcome him to Constellation Brands and bring these wines to a larger audience,” says Bill Newlands, president, wine and spirits division, Constellation Brands.

The following wines are not included in this deal and will continue to be nurtured and developed by Charles Smith’s company: K Vintners, Wines of Substance, ViNO, Casa Smith, SIXTO, B. Leighton and Charles & Charles.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Bardstown Bourbon Co.

Lastly, Constellation Brands announced their purchase of a minority stake share in The Bardstown Bourbon Company (BBCo), a collaborative production facility for distilling American whiskey. BBCo is led by industry veteran and Maker’s Mark Master Distiller Steve Nally.

This strategic opportunity “provides BBCo with a strong platform to develop new brands and create a long-term supply of authentic, Kentucky whiskey, bourbon, and rye,” the company says in a press release.

“This is an exciting and unique investment for Constellation, and different than the venture activity we’ve explored to date,” says Ben Dollard, senior vice president and chief growth officer, Constellation Brands. “Investing in a state-of-the-art bourbon facility at Bardstown provides us access to knowledge and production capability to support our emerging premium spirits portfolio over time. At the same time, Bardstown will grow with our investment as well as our experience in the beverage alcohol space, our relationships within the industry and our people.”

BBCo began commercial production in September 2016 and recently announced that it was already preparing to expand its current 1.5-million proof gallon capacity based on the success of its Collaborative Distilling Program. Over time, capacity will be expanded to 6 million proof gallons within the current design.

The Bardstown Bourbon Company will continue to operate independently and announced that Peter Loftin, entrepreneur and investor, was named Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Bardstown Bourbon Company.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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