With ever more beer and spirits in the mix, Winery Exchange is now simply called WX.
The Novato-based producer of national and exclusive beverage brands rebranded itself as of March 1 to reflect how its business model has changed since its founding 16 years ago.
“Since we created Winery Exchange, the industry has fundamentally changed, and we have changed too,” said Peter Byck, CEO and co-founder, in a statement. “We used to be a negociant wine company, and our customers were fine with that. But with retailers consolidating, and consumers wanting more choices, we evolved to become a full-service supplier of wine, beer and spirits. Our old name didn’t reflect that.”
The negociant model comes from France and describes a vintner without its own winery or vineyards.
A significant driver of consumer demand for greater variety in adult beverages has been the growth of millennials, Byck said. That generation, born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, will be influential on market trends because of a higher tendency to experiment and greater familiarity with digital marketing, according to recent Wall Street Journal and MarketWatch articles the company cited.
In 2015, millennials consumed 42 percent of the wine sold in the U.S., and they are fingered as a major contributor for imported wine sales’ doubling in the past 20 years. Especially benefiting from that have been New World countries such as Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia.
“Millennials are far more likely to try imported wines, different varietals and craft beers and spirits than older drinkers,” said Oren Lewin, WX senior vice president of marketing and strategy. “With consumers wanting more choices, and retailers wanting fewer vendors, there is a real need for suppliers who can deliver wine, beer and spirits that span multiple countries, price points and packaging formats. That’s what sets us apart.”
WX now sources wine, beer and spirits from 17 countries on five continents. It employs 100 in Novato and London, including seven full-time winemakers and 25-plus salespeople.
The company offers 80-plus exclusive retailer and national wine, beer and spirits brands sold throughout the U.S. and in 12 countries (wxbrands.com). National brands include Chronic Cellars and Our Daily Wines, and FLO Wines and Rebel Coast Winery are among WX’s strategic-partner brands. Retailers the company works with include Kroger, Whole Foods, Total Wine & More, Tesco, Sainsbury, Aldi and CVS.
In addition to in-house winemakers and experts on beer and spirits, WX has its own production group, WX Bottling (wxbottling.com). In late 2013, the company purchased a bottling line and leased production space at Carneros Vintners’ large custom winery at 4202 Stage Gulch Rd. on the Sonoma County side of the Carneros winegrowing region. The line opened April 2014, and last year WX secured an alternating proprietorship from Carneros Vintners to be bonded in facility as a crush-to-bottle business.
“[T]hat has given us greater quality control and flexibility,” Lewin said.
WX said it has about 300,000 gallons of dedicated stainless-steel capacity in 43 tanks at the winery. The operation is CCOF organic-certified. The bottling line runs at 100 a minute, or realistically 4,000 cases a day. Packaging capabilities include inkjet case-printing and laser bottle etching of date and time for traceability.
WX Bottling last year produced 700,000-plus 9-liter cases for national, partner and exclusive brands, and contract-bottling clients.