Constellation Brands buys Empathy Wines from Gary Vaynerchuk

Constellation Brands Inc. announced Wednesday that it has bought Empathy Wines, a small virtual winery founded by media personality Gary Vaynerchuk.

The Victor, New York, company said it was attracted to Empathy for its direct-to-consumer sales and digital marketing savvy. The brand, which sources locally from growers such as Clay Shannon in Lake County, has sold 15,000 cases since only launching a year ago, helped along by a strong social media presence.

“There is so much potential to scale Empathy,” Robert Hanson, president of Constellation’s wine and spirits division, said in a video statement.

Financial terms were not disclosed. The deal marks the latest shift for the country’s third-largest wine company, which expanded its portfolio by purchasing such legacy brands as Napa’s Robert Mondavi and Healdsburg’s Simi. Constellation is now focusing on premium brands with little to no assets — such as vineyards or production facilities — but appeal to younger consumers.

The transaction comes as Constellation attempts to complete the $1 billion sale of its low-price wine and spirits brands to E. & J. Gallo Winery.

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