NAPA -- Even as Treasury Wine Estates' Napa-based Beringer brand group prepares to launch a mass-market brand this spring targeted at Millennial generation female consumers, the Australian company's higher-end North Coast brands are enjoying a sales rebound.
Treasury earlier this month reported that sales volume for St. Helena-based Beringer Vineyards and Kenwood-based Chateau St. Jean in the second half of 2011 were key to stabilizing unit sales in the Americas after slumping in recent years. Yet, more expensive wines from Beringer are selling quickly, Chateau St. Jean enjoyed first-half unit sales growth of 30 percent, and volume at Stags' Leap Winery in Napa Valley and Etude in the Napa side of Los Carneros winegrowing district both enjoyed double-digit sales growth, according to Stephen Brauer, managing director of the Beringer Business Unit.
Examples of fast-selling luxury-tier wines are Beringer Vineyards Private Reserve ($115 a bottle suggested retail) and Knights Valley ($25) cabernet sauvignon wines. Thousands of cases of the former and 75,000 cases of the latter are made annually.
"We're selling everything we've made," Mr. Brauer said. "It's a real turnaround for the industry in the 2008-2010 time frame. Consumers are once again embracing luxury wines."
Key to Beringer's 0.4 percent year-over-year first half of the fiscal year volume bounce, after a 1.7 percent dip in the first half of 2011, was the success of $10- to $14-a-bottle wines, particularly "light and refreshing" wines such as chardonnay, pinot grigio and the launch red moscato, according to Mr. Brauer. Beringer red moscato -- a novel approach to the fast-selling sweeter wine -- was the fastest-growing new domestic brand in the price category in the 52 weeks ending Feb. 7.
Adding to the approachable-wine theme, Treasury in April plans a nationwide launch of the $10- to $13-a-bottle Be brand with Be Radiant riesling, Be Flirty pink moscato, Be Fresh chardonnay and Be Bright pinot grigio selections.
"Be is about inspiring Millennial women to open up to the exciting world of wine without taking it too seriously," Mr. Brauer said.
Volume sales for Treasury Wine Estates in the Americas dipped 1.5 percent in the second quarter to the equivalent of 8.2 million 9-liter cases, compared with a year before. Net revenue in the Americas at the end of 2011 of A$388 million ($394.8 million) decreased 10.0 percent from proforma sales at the end of 2010 but were off only by 2.4 percent on a constant-currency basis.
Treasury Wine Estates employs more than 500 in the North Coast wineries and cellars, visitors centers and Napa business unit offices. The organization overall has 1,100 employees.