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Craft Beer Has Reached a New Phase of Maturity

Craft beer has entered uncharted waters.

What had been a booming business in recent time — with double-digit growth, year-over-year — has settled into the single digits in terms of increasing annual sales.

Last year the craft beer category grew just 4% in the United States, according to the Beverage Information Insights Group. It totaled 322 million 2.25-gallon cases. That was good for an 11.7% market share of the overall beer market in America.

You can look at those statistics in a number of ways.

In 2010, the craft beer category was only 146 million cases, meaning it has more than doubled in sales in eight years. The category’s market share that same year was merely 5.1%, which has also increased twofold, and then some, since 2010.

Those eye-popping gains would represent the pint-glass-half-full view, so to speak. Now onto the observation with the pint glass half drunk.

In 2014, case sales for the craft beer category were up 13%. Since then, annual growth has not topped 10%. Just one year later, in 2015, sales increases had slowed to a +8.5% performance.

Clearly, the rate of growth has decreased.

But back to that pint glass half full. Look at the larger beer category.

Beer in America was down 1.3% in 2018. That includes a 3.8% drop for domestic light lagers, down to 1.177 billion cases, and a 42.6% market share. (Light lager’s market share has recently shrunk about 1% annually.)

Beer has suffered sales losses to competition — wine and spirits — as well as the broader trend of consumers drinking better, but less. Despite these category headwinds, craft beer still grew in 2018. It was one of only two domestic styles of brewed alcohol to achieve gains last year. (The other was the red-hot flavored malt beverage category, led by the likes of White Claw and Spiked Seltzer, which was up 5.1% to 118 million cases and a 4.3% market share.)

So what can we expect from craft beer moving forwards?

A New Economic Reality

For years now we have awaited another craft beer bubble burst. After all, the industry also boomed in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, before suffering a precipitous drop. Will the same economic cycle play out again? And is this imminent, as the unprecedented number of U.S. breweries approaches 8,000, despite the slowing sales?

“When you dissect craft beer, there’s a little bit of concern, but you still see growth,” says Mike Stevens, co-founder of Founders Brewery.

“When you dissect craft beer, there’s a little bit of concern, but you still see growth,” says Mike Stevens, co-founder of Founders Brewery. “There’s still strength there. Yes, it’s been slowing from the good-old days of double-digit growth, but that’s the natural growth cycle of any business.”

Rather than a doom-and-gloom proclamation, Stevens sees maturity.

“Craft beer today is definitely an entity in its middle ages, which naturally slows down, ” he says. “Look at other beverage categories. Single-digit growth is the norm. So I remain bullish on craft beer as the beer beverage of choice for consumers for the foreseeable future.”

To Stevens’ point, American whiskey for all its raging popularity was up only 5.1% in 2018. Vodka grew 1.1%, and tequila 7.3%, while gin and rum were both down, -1.3% and -3%, respectively.

Sam Calagione, founder and president of Dogfish Head Brewery (which recently merged with Boston Beer), describes the current state of craft beer as “vibrant, accessible and tumultuous.”

“Five years ago, craft beer was still a niche community,” he adds. “Now it’s moved into mainstream acceptance. It’s a trend, not a fad. But we’ve hit a moment where beer overall is flat.”

As for why beer overall was down in America, he hastens to point out the consumption trends that threaten the entire category.

“It’s roughly true that 25% of today’s young LDA consumers are drinking 25% less than the same age group did 25 years ago,” Calagione says.

That may actually be the more troubling statistic for craft beer producers and retailers than the slowing sales, or escalating number of microbreweries.

“It’s a statement that we as an alcoholic beverage industry must do a better job of showing consumers that responsible intake of alcohol as a regular part of their lifestyle is still a beautiful and rewarding thing,” Calagione says. “Right now, I don’t think we’re doing that part of our job.”

And with consumers drinking less, one might assume that they automatically gravitate towards whatever products are the trendiest. But Clay Robinson, co-founder of Sun King Brewing — an Indianapolis business that opened in 2009, and now has a multistate footprint, several taprooms and a distillery — cautions against that line of thinking.

“We feel like what gets a lot of buzz and chasing consumers these days is whatever comes from the Instagram culture,” Robinson says. “We have to remind ourselves that while yes, there are hot trends that people are chasing, but when you look at who is actually chasing trends, it’s not everybody.”

Focusing On Core Brands

Instead of focusing on trends, many name-brand craft brewers have recently doubled down on core brands.

Which is not to say that innovation has gone out the window. Capturing consumer interest with comically named NEIPAs, or sours aged in foeder barrels with fruit, remains an important of a brewery’s overall character. But the bigger-picture economics now point towards smaller shelf sets.

To that end, Robinson says that Sunlight Cream Ale — an original Sun King beer from 2009, and hardly the hazy IPA or barrel-aged stout so common to Instagram — still comprises 40% of the brewery’s sales. Furthermore, Sunlight Cream Ale has experienced almost no decline in a decade.

“You look at the larger portion of what beer drinkers want, and that is good, well-made beer that they can count on for consistency,” Robinson says. “You have to balance the tightrope between those consumers who want consistency, and the consumer segment that always wants something new.”

“You look at the larger portion of what beer drinkers want, and that is good, well-made beer that they can count on for consistency,” says Clay Robinson, co-founder of Sun King Brewing.

In terms of core brands, Founders help set the standard for mass-scale craft beer with All Day IPA. The company aimed for another big-brand craft beer by launching Solid Gold — a light-bodied, easy-drinking, premium lager — in 2018 as a year-round offering.

It worked. One year later, Solid Gold is up 22% in sales, Stevens reports. It will soon reach the second-highest spot in annual sales in the Founders portfolio.

“The reality is that the majority of craft beer volume comes out of twenty or so breweries in the country, and they all have a couple core brands,” Stevens says. “That’s 60-to-80% of the volume, which speaks loudly to brand building.”

“If craft is to go to the next level, and become the consumer’s favored flavor of beer, then we larger breweries have to get behind two-to-three beers each, and brand to a larger volume,” he adds. “Otherwise, the category becomes too helter-skelter, and confused the audience.”

While nobody would question the world-class quality and variety of American craft beers, Stevens believes they currently fall short in terms of achieving the level of branding he foresees as necessary for the future of the category.

“I’d argue that craft beer has never done branding very well,” he says. “The category’s next move must me into the phase of maturity.”

Along those lines, Dogfish Head has begun consolidating its marketing and branding efforts behind a smaller set of mainstream beers.

“Five years ago, our top three beers would receive 50-60% of our marketing and advertising budget. In 2020, those beers will likely get 80-85%,” says Calagione.

Another example of a classic beer that continues to sell well, despite being anything but hazy or juicy, is Bell’s Two Hearted Ale.

“We like to innovate, but with some of these beers, there’s beauty in their simplicity,” says Matt Moberly, VP of sales and marketing at Bell’s.

Distribution Concerns

Craft beer already suffers from too many SKUs, as the number of producers increases to historic levels. Many new, smaller breweries, rather than fight for space on the already-overcrowded retail shelves, have instead focused on selling beers directly from taprooms. Basically these businesses become another form of the local pub or bar.

Should retailers worry about this extra competition? Robinson of Sun King argues no.

“We have three taprooms, and in the surrounding areas around those, our sales to retail accounts have actually increased,” he says. “Yes, there were some accounts in those areas that took us off their shelves because they thought we were competing with them. But we’re finding that people who are already on the Sun King train will keep buying our products, both from our taprooms and from those retail accounts.”

Calagione of Dogfish Head has a less-sunny outlook about local taprooms — especially when placed alongside the existing threat of corporate craft beer.

“I worry that the category is trapped in the smiling jaws of death, where the taproom model is the bottom jaw and the top jaw is the top-50 breweries,” he says. “Remember, well over half of the volume of these top breweries comes from producers outside of the craft trade associations. They’re former craft breweries that have been bought out by global companies.”

These corporate-backed breweries have more power to convince retailers to focus on their brands instead of authentic craft products, Calagione argues. If more consumers buying these corporate craft beers, or head out to taprooms and buy directly from smaller guys, what does that leave authentic, larger craft producers in the middle?

To fight for themselves, Calagione says. “It’s up to these breweries that can distinguish their brands on the retail level to outpunch their weight and go up against the national conglomerates.”

“It’s up to these breweries that can distinguish their brands on the retail level to outpunch their weight and go up against the national conglomerates,” says Sam Calagione, founder and president of Dogfish Head Brewery.

This is partly why Dogfish Head recently merged with Boston Beer. Together, the two name-brand breweries have more firepower to compete with the likes of AB InBev or Constellation Brands. It’s in line with a vision where craft beer spends less effort in-fighting and more time expanding beyond that 11.7% market share.

“Our portfolios are compatible, our IPAs and distilled spirits and sours with what Boston Beer has,” Calagione says. “Together we can be very thoughtful that the big bets we make are complimentary, and not competing with each other.”

Getting back to the taproom model, Stevens of Founders fears that this distribution strategy hurts the three-tier system because it effectively circumvents it. Though he does believe that taprooms “bring awareness to the craft space and then, hopefully, people go and buy more craft beer on the shelves.”

Taprooms are also a way for brewers to develop newer beers — testing them on guests while gathering invaluable consumer responses — before investing in larger batches. With those positives in mind, Stevens believes that the ideal laws for taprooms are those that allow only a certain amount of product sold onsite annually.

“Beer gets to the world in the U.S. through the three-tier system,” he says. “And nothing compares with the three-tier system.”

Low-Cal Takes Off

One trend we have covered a lot recently is low-cal craft beer. There appears no slowdown in sight for “healthier” craft options, which is part of the broader consumer interest nowadays in nutritional food and drink.

“Another topic we’ve been paying attention to is the health movement, where people are actively looking to reduce alcohol and calorie intake,” says David Graham, brand manager for Karbach in Houston, TX.

“Another topic we’ve been paying attention to is the health movement, where people are actively looking to reduce alcohol and calorie intake,” says David Graham, brand manager for Karbach in Houston, TX. “This resulted in the creation of Game Changer, which is our new low-ABV brew.”

Brewed with sea salt, acai berry, and turmeric, Game Changer is 2.8% ABV with 95 calories — and 20 IBUs.

Most major breweries by now have their own version. Dogfish Head’s low-cal IPA, Slightly Mighty, is only 95 calories per 12-oz., which is the same ratio as a Michelob Ultra. Slightly Mighty is 4% ABV.

“It has unique selling properties tied into the active-consumer lifestyle and wellness trends,” says Calagione.

U.S. Mexican Craft Beer

Another trend popping up in craft beer these days is Mexican styles.

Many craft breweries stateside have taken note of the rise of premium Mexican lagers, and have come out with their own versions of these cross-culturally popular brews.

Sun King Brewing has found success with their 4.5%-ABV, 120-calorie Pachanga Mexican-style lager.

Sun King Brewing has found success with their 4.5%-ABV, 120-calorie Pachanga Mexican-style lager. Sales of the beer are up 25%, month over month.

“Craft Mexican lagers are definitely something that’s been creeping up the past couple of years,” Robinson says. “You look at how beer overall is flat, but Mexican imports are really growing [imported beer was up 3.8% in 2018, driven largely by Mexican]. Beers like our Pachanga can help get people off of Mexican imports and onto U.S. craft.”

Craft Cider Settles

Craft cider sales were booming for a few years, as flavor-curious drinkers searched for non-beer alternatives. However, these consumers now seem more likely to reach for wine, whiskey or a cocktail to change up flavors than order a cider.

Moreover, part of the explosive growth in cider several years back was that the category catching up to modern demand for craft products. Sales in the category have since leveled off, as interest in cider had likely reached its natural peak with current consumers.

Altogether the result was a 0.7% decline for U.S. sales of cider in 2018, totaling 24 million cases.

Angry Orchard from Boston Beer Co. continues to dominate, with 11.93 million cases, but slipped 4% in sales. In second place was Woodchuck, down 5.1% to 1.68 million cases. Strongbow from Heineken was up 6.8% for 1.35 million cases, while Stella Artois Cidre grew 6.2% for 1.30 million cases.

One trend that most category-leading ciders have tapped into is rosé. All four of those aforementioned brands recently released rosé ciders, meant to attract crossover drinkers who enjoy the style currently dominating wine.

What’s Next For Craft Beer?

With all the concerns over this category’s future, the good news is that craft beer drinkers are likely not going anywhere.

“Keep in mind that many Millennials, and the generation behind them, did not grow up seeing only Big Brand beers in the fridge at home,” says Stevens of Founders. “And also keep in mind, as a whole, that the beer category is still a behemoth.”

“I’m bullish on craft as the choice for beer beverages for the foreseeable future,” he adds.

Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his piece What the 2019 Yakima Hop Harvest Says About Craft Beer.

The Macallan Appoints First-Ever Female Master Whisky Maker

In a precedent-setting promotion, The Macallan has appointed Kirsteen Campbell as Master Whisky Maker for its single malt whisky.

Campbell will lead the Whisky Mastery Team, which also includes Stuart MacPherson, Master of Wood; Sarah Burgess, Lead Whisky Maker; Polly Logan, Whisky Maker; Steven Bremner, Whisky Maker; and Russell Greig, Sample Room Assistant.

Originally from Thurso in the Highlands, Kirsteen is the first woman to become The Macallan Master Whisky Maker in the brand’s history spanning almost 200 years. She will transition to the position from her current role within the brand’s parent company Edrington.

Embarking on her journey into the industry in 2001 with a degree in Food Science, Kirsteen worked in a new make spirits laboratory, where she discovered her passion for Scotch whisky and her extraordinary sense of smell, the company says.

Kirsteen joined Edrington in 2007 as a Whisky Quality Technologist, and progressed her career to her most recent roles within for Cutty Sark, Naked Grouse, The Famous Grouse and The Glenrothes.

She holds a Diploma in Distilling and has also worked at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute.

Kirsteen’s appointment follows a landmark year in 2018, which saw the opening of The Macallan Distillery Experience on Speyside, and paves the way for the brand’s 200th anniversary in 2024, the company says.

“I feel a real sense of honor and pride to be entrusted as the custodian of The Macallan, charged with leading the Whisky Mastery Team in the creation of The Macallan’s remarkable single malt whiskies,” says Campbell. “Having been a part of the wider Edrington whisky making team for over a decade, I’m really looking forward to working more closely with the team at The Macallan.”

Yuengling Launches Beer Collab with Hershey’s Chocolate

If you enjoy beer and chocolate, you’re in for a treat.

D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. announced today its first-ever beer collaboration with Hershey’s — Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter.

This limited-edition brew will be available on draft only, in select markets, while supplies last, starting in mid-October.

“As the sixth generation of the Yuengling family, we have a 190-year history of listening to our fans and looking for new ways to deliver quality and memorable drinking experiences,” says Jennifer Yuengling, Vice President of Operations and 6th Generation Brewer, D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. “We saw a unique opportunity to partner with Hershey’s — a brand known worldwide for its iconic, delicious tasting chocolate — to deliver fans our first-ever beer collaboration.”

“We spent nearly a year developing our Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter, and are excited for the world to indulge in the classic taste of Yuengling Dark Brewed Porter blended with the unmistakable taste of Hershey’s chocolate,” she adds.

Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter is 4.7% ABV. It blends Hershey’s chocolate with caramel and dark roasted malts. The liquid pairs well with everything from barbecued and smoked meats, to cheeses and desserts, the company says.

Starting in mid-October of 2019, Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter will be available via draft only, in bars and restaurants throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington D.C., Delaware, Indiana and Kentucky, while supplies last. 

Fans can find the closest location that serves Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter by visiting the “Find Our Beer” link at yuengling.com

2020 Top 100 Retailers

In 2020, Beverage Dynamics will once again recognize retailers from throughout the country who demonstrate innovation, excellent customer service and superior beverage alcohol industry knowledge. Will your store make the list?

Nominations for the 2020 Top 100 Retailers awards are now open!

Retailer Entry Forms (for retailer use).

Nominate Someone Else (industry member use).

Winners will be honored at the Beverage Alcohol Retailers Conference in Austin, and featured in the July/August 2020 issue of Beverage Dynamics.

Twin Liquors (Austin, TX) was named 2019 Retailer of the Year!

Do You Have What It Takes?

Managing a retail location (or chain of stores) while satisfying customers and turning a profit is difficult, especially in today’s highly regulated industry. That’s why we’re looking for the best of the best – retailers who take pride in their business, care about their customers and employees and stay involved in their community and the industry at large.

If your business fits that criteria, we encourage you to nominate yourself as a Top 100 Retailer candidate. If you know of a retailer who should be honored, you can also nominate someone else.

Award Program Details

In the July/August issue, we’ll count down the top U.S. off-premise retailers.

The nomination form is detailed – asking questions about business practices, community involvement, product stocking, employee programs and plans for future success. Not all information is required, but retailers who provide more information increase their chances of winning. We will not publicly share any of the information on the nomination form – statistics included in the magazine will only be aggregate data collected from all winners.

Past Retailers of the Year winners ARE ELIGIBLE and encouraged to enter Top 100.

Awards Gala at BARC

In Austin (Date and location TBD), the Top 100 winners will be honored at a formal banquet on the last night of the Beverage Alcohol Retailers Conference. Each winner will receive 2 tickets to the gala (additional tickets available for purchase), and all winners are expected to attend and accept their award.

Additional Information

If you have any questions about the Top 100 Retailers program, contact Beverage Dynamics Editorial Director Jeremy Nedelka at jnedelka@epgmediallc.com or 763-383-4400 x2213.

Past Winners of our Retailers of the Year & Top 100 Retailers Awards

2019 Winners 

Retailer of the Year: Twin Liquors (Austin, TX)

#5: Applejack Wine & Spirits (Wheat Ridge, CO)
#4: Macadoodles (Pineville, MO)
#3: Liquor Barn (Louisville, KY)
#2: Gary’s Wine & Marketplace (North Wayne, NJ)

Full coverage available in the July/August issue of Beverage Dynamics!

2018 Winners

You can read about the 2018 winners here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

Acme Liquor Store
Applejack Wine & Spirits
Banks Wine & Spirits
Beards Hill LIquors
Boone’s Wine & Spirits
Cork & Barrel
Chilly’s Liquors
East Branch Organics
Fisher’s Liquor Barn
Garfield’s Beverage Warehouse
Gary’s Wine & Marketplace
Gourmet Liquors
Grapes the Wine Company
Hugo’s Wine and Spirits
Jimbo’s Liquors
Jubilation Wine & Spirits
Legacy Wine & Spirits
Liquor Hutch
Lizz’s Wine & Spirits
The Party Source
River Bend Liquor
Socialize Liquors & Wine Bar
The Fridge Wholesale Liquor
The Liquor Factory
The Wine Store
Timer’s Beverage Center
Tin Woodman’s Flask
Tri-State Liquors
Twin Liquors
Village Liquor
Wilbur’s Total Beverage

2017 Winners

Read about these retailers in Part 1 and Part 2 of our coverage:
Acme Liquor Store (CO)
Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits (MD)
Boise Co-Op Wine Shop (ID)
Fridge Wholesale Liquor (KS)
Jubilation Wine & Spirits (NM)
Lakeville Liquors (MN)
Mayfair Liquors (CO)
Mega-Bev (MI)
Mount Airy Liquors (MD)
Oliver T’s Market (MI)
Peco’s Liquors (DE)
Speakeasy Liquors (IL)
Timer’s Beverage Center (WI)
Twin Liquors (TX)
The Wine Store (RI)

From 1996-2016, Beverage Dynamics named a single Retailer of the Year (or co-winners). The list of retailers honored with this prestigious award include:

2016: Half Time Beverage (New York) and Cork Liquors (Indiana)2015: Trig’s Cellar 70 (Minnesota)
2014: Brown Derby (Missouri)
2013: Premier Wine & Spirits (New York)
2012: Gary’s Wine & Marketplace (New Jersey)
2011: The Party Source (Kentucky)
2010: Twin Liquors (Texas)
2009: Yankee Spirits (Massachusetts)
2008: Total Wine & More (Maryland)
2007: Spec’s Wines, Liquor, Finer Foods (Texas)
2006: Berbiglia’s (Missouri)
2005: Applejack Wine & Spirits (Colorado)
2004: Frugal MacDoogal (Tennessee)
2003: Haskell’s (Minnesota)
2002: Centennial Fine Wine & Spirits (Texas)
2001: Sherry-Lehmann (New York)
2000: Beverages & More (California)
1999: Prime Wines & Spirits (New York)
1998: Binny’s Beverage Depot (Illinois)
1997: Siegel’s (Texas)
1996: ABC Fine Wine & Spirits (Florida)

Bardstown Bourbon Company Unveils Three New Whiskey Collaborations

The Bardstown Bourbon Company has released three new products as part of its Collaborative Series.

This includes two bourbons aged in brandy barrels from Copper & Kings American Brandy Company, as well as a bourbon finished in beer barrels from Goodwood Brewing Company.

All products will be available this October in select markets. 

The latest collaboration between Bardstown Bourbon Company and Copper & Kings is an American apple brandy finish featuring an 11-year-old Indiana bourbon rested in apple brandy barrels for 20 months. The two companies previously released two collaborations, a Muscat Mistelle barrel-finished bourbon and an American brandy barrel-finished bourbon. 

“Apple brandy barrel aging creates a perfect pairing of fruit and vanilla,” says Bardstown Bourbon Company Master Distiller Steve Nally. “You really get this indulgent array of apple, caramel and baking spice in a rich, lightly dry, crisply complex pour.”

The two companies are also unveiling a limited release of a 10-year-old bourbon finished first for 18 months in Copper & Kings Muscat Mistelle barrels, and then re-barreled for an additional finish in new, freshly charred American oak casks for 19 months. This spirit will be available at the Bardstown Bourbon Company onsite gift shop only.

“This is ridiculous spirit,” says Copper & Kings Founder Joe Heron. “It is no hyperbole to call this a luxury bourbon. It fits the description like a hand in a very expensive calfskin leather glove. It’s very rich, very complex, with huge depth and totally unique. A bourbon like no other, again, without hyperbole. It is, simply put, exceptional.”

In addition to the Copper & Kings collaborations, Bardstown Bourbon Company teamed up with Louisville’s Goodwood Brewing Company for a limited, regional release. This 11-year-old bourbon is finished in Goodwood Brewing Brandy Barrel Honey Ale casks for 18 months, resulting in a bourbon with flavors honey, caramel, fig, malt and dried fruit, the company says.

“Goodwood’s award-winning portfolio of cask finished beers have a loyal following,” says Goodwood CEO Ted Mitzlaff. “We enjoy collaborations with other Kentucky breweries and distilleries and were honored when Bardstown Bourbon Company proposed this collaboration given their tremendous reputation in the industry.”

Bardstown Bourbon Company and Goodwood Brewing Company will resume their collaboration in early 2020, when a bourbon finished in Walnut Brown Ale casks is released. 

How a Mother-Daughter Partnership Formed Vintage Longbottom Wines

Kim Longbottom was pregnant with her daughter Margo in 1998 when Kim co-founded Australia’s Henry’s Drive Vignerons with her husband Mark.

Twenty-one years later, that daughter joins the company as her mother’s new business partner. It’s a celebration of family and skill, along with a moment of memory for Mark Longbottom. Kim’s husband tragically passed away a decade ago from leukemia, after which Kim single-handedly ran the family’s winery and brands.

A mother’s triumph has turned into a daughter’s legacy. As Margo joins Kim at the head of the family vineyards, the company has shifted into a new venture known as Vintage Longbottom.

Vintage Longbottom includes the redesigned branding of the ‘H’ Series.

“When I turned 50, I decided that I wanted to make wines that my daughter likes to drink,” Kim says. (The drinking age in Australia is 18.) “I knew it was time for the next generation, time to bring her in.”

This next chapter also moves the company’s focus from its traditional home in the South Australian Padthaway region to the trendy winemaking areas of McLaren Valley and Adelaide Hills.

The grapes will change, but the house style will not. Fans of Kim’s work will continue to recognize her family’s trademark flavors of mint and black olive.

The company’s Henry’s Drive series will maintain its ripe, rich style. But these are not the “fruit bombs” of price-driven Australian brands, of course, but complex wines that balance fruit-forward flavors with tannin and oak.

“A lot of Australian wines tend to be overripe,” Kim says. “We try to be fresh and lively on the palate.”

Working with her daughter Margo, Kim has launched a label redesign for her “H” Series Wines. They now have a patchwork look, contemporary and refined. That matches that label’s distinctive style.

“These are more elegant wines, more sophisticated,” Kim explains. “I always think that wine should look like how it will taste, both in color and in packaging.”

Margo and Kim Longbottom, daughter and mother, remember Mark Longbottom, father and husband.

Imported by Quintessential Wines, the latest vintages available in America include “H” Series 2019 Sauvignon Blanc ($29.99), “H” 2018 Chardonnay ($29.99), “H” 2017 Syrah ($29.99), Henry’s Drive 2017 Shiraz ($49.99), Henry’s Drive 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend ($49.99) and Henry’s Drive 2017 Magnus Shiraz ($79.99).

A number of these wines still contain fruit from Padthaway as the company transitions towards new vineyards.

Vintage Longbottom also marks their new venture with an expansion onto the shelves of Whole Foods. This is yet another indication of how far Australian wines have come in the U.S. market since the dominant days of Yellow Tail.

 “I’ve seen a lot of change with consumers here since Australian wine first broke into the U.S. market,” says Kim. “Six-or-eight years ago, you would walk into a store and overhear consumers say of Australian wine, ‘What do you have that’s under $15?’ That’s all U.S. consumers wanted from Australia. Now you see stores with sections that are 100% Australian, and we’re on the lists of the best steakhouses in Manhattan.”

“People are open to new Australian wines,” she adds. “They understand the elegance, the regions, and the subtleties.”

Subtlety is the ideal word to use when tasting through the latest releases from both the “H” Series and Henry’s Drive. There’s delicate art to balancing these bold aromas with elegant palates — blending a balanced complexity of floral and fruit. It’s a statement of excellence in Kim’s handiwork, now continued with the help of Margo.

“You have to have authentic wines with authentic stories,” Kim says. “You can’t have one or the other. You have to have both.”

With mother and daughter now side-by-side, Vintage Longbottom would seem well positioned for authentic wines and inspiring stories, long into the future.

Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his piece Previewing the 2019 Kim Crawford Vintage.

90+ Cellars 10th Anniversary Lot 10 Cabernet Sauvignon

Latitude Beverage will raise a glass to the tenth anniversary of its flagship brand, 90+ Cellars, with the release of a limited-edition from Napa’s Stags Leap District: 90+ Cellars Lot 10 Cabernet Sauvignon.

90+ Cellars launched in 2009, in the midst of the recession. The Boston-based startup began with Lots 1 through 7, selling 12,000 cases of wine the first year, the company reports. Through its modern take on the traditional wine business model, 90+ Cellars has sold more than three million cases of wine – 36 million bottles – in the last ten years, the company says, and is positioned to sell nearly 600,000 cases in 2019 alone.

“While it may have seemed ambitious to start a wine company in 2009, we recognized that even in tough economic times, people still wanted to enjoy great wine,” says Kevin Mehra, founder and CEO of Latitude Beverage. “We’ve spent the last decade forging relationships with amazing wineries and retailers so we can offer unmatched quality and price. Our ability to bring a Stags Leap Cabernet from one of Napa’s top producers to the market at $40 is a testament to our continued dedication to our mission.”

90+ Cellars’ has introduced wines from most of Napa Valley’s premier appellations — Rutherford, Oakville, St. Helena, Spring Mountain District — but this is the first wine from Stags Leap. 

“We’re proud of the nearly 200 wines we have selected from all over the world,” says Brett Vankoski, Wine Director of Latitude Beverage. “It’s nice to be able to celebrate our 10th anniversary with a special wine from California’s original AVA. Ten is the only lot number we never released, and now certainly seems like the right time. Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon is world famous, and deservingly so. It’s the perfect choice to commemorate our first decade.”

90+ Cellars Lot 10 Cabernet Sauvignon is available in all markets where 90+ Cellars wines are sold, for a suggested retail price of $40 per 750-ml. bottle.

Champagne Palmer & Co Grands Terroirs 2003

Champagne Palmer & Co has introduced Grands Terroirs 2003, a limited-edition cuvée produced from vineyards in the Montagne de Reims.

Bottled exclusively in magnum with individually numbered labels, the selection is set to be released on October 1 for sale online, and at select fine wine retailers and restaurants in the U.S.

The suggested retail price is $400 per bottle.

This release is the combination of the House’s Premier and Grand Cru vineyards on the Montagne de Reims.

“2003 was a very unusual year,” says Palmer & Co Cellar Master Xavier Berdin. “Champagne experienced a dry winter and spring with two severe frosts, an early flowering, and a heatwave in the summer. The care lavished on the pressing was, even more so than in a typical year, a deciding factor in achieving quality wines.”

The majority of the Palmer & Co vineyards are located on the north-facing slopes (the Grands Crus of Maillyand Verzenay) and the north-eastern slopes (Premiers Crus of Trépail and Villers-Marmery) of the Montagne de Reims.

“Grands Terroirs is an exceptional wine made from an exceptional vintage,” explains Winemaker and CEO Rémi Vervier explains. “We wanted to make a wine that demonstrated the power of fine workmanship coupled with the essence of our most noble terroirs and the patience required to make a great wine. After 12 years of aging on the lees, Grands Terroirs 2003 reveals the spirit of excellence of Champagne Palmer & Co.”

Produced from a blend of 54% pinot noir and 46% chardonnay, Grands Terroirs 2003 has a nose with aromas of citrus fruits, roasted coffee, candied apricot, acacia and brioche, the company says. It is silky on the palate.

Each of the 1,703 magnums produced is individually numbered and housed in a wooden keepsake box decorated with a map of the Montagne de Reims region.

Founders Brewing Harvest Ale 2019

Each fall, the Founders brewhouse looks like a greenhouse as thousands of pounds of wet hop cones arrive within hours of being picked by local hop growers. The result is an annual mainstay since the early-2000s: Harvest Ale.

Founders uses 100% locally grown Michigan wet hops in this year’s batch of Harvest Ale. Founders sources from a number of Michigan hop farms, including MI Local, Hop Head Farms and Pure Mitten.

Harvest Ale (7.6%) is an aromatic and bright IPA with fresh pine, melon and citrus notes, the company says.

The price will vary by market.

Harvest Ale is best enjoyed as fresh as possible and is available now. 

Starward Two-Fold Double Grain Australian Whisky

Starward Australian Whisky has announced the distribution of their double grain whisky in the U.S.

Starward Two-Fold Double Grain Whisky brings together wheat (60%) and malt (40%), which are distilled and fully matured separately in the distillery’s red wine barrels from Australian leading wineries.

Malted barley gives it depth, while wheat provides an aromatic and dry note, the company says. The red wine barrels provide fruit and spice flavors.

Suggested servings include a highball with soda for the aromatic spicy character to come through, a Boulevardier will bring out the baking spices, or a Two-Fold and Tonic.

Two-Fold originally launched in Australia in 2018.

Starward Two-Fold Double Grain Whisky has an ABV of 40% and is available nationally for the suggested retail price of $32.99 per 750-ml bottle.


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