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Accolade Wines CEO sets sights on US

Accolade CEO tells Decanter.com of the firm's ambition to 'get back in there' in the US.

Accolade Wines’ purchase of three Californian wine brands, including Geyser Peak, is part of a plan to raise the firm’s profile in the US, its CEO has told Decanter.com.

Accolade has acquired Geyser Peak, Atlas Peak and XYZin, together with related assets and inventory, from Ascentia Wine Estates for an undisclosed fee.

Having been spun-off from the Constellation Brands business in 2011, Accolade’s key Australian brands, Hardys and Banrock Station, have lost ground in the US. The firm, which is 80%-owned by private equity firm Champ and still 20% held by Constellation, has volumes of just 200,000 cases in the country.

Accolade’s CEO, Troy Christensen, said the situation was unsustainable longer-term. ‘The US is the largest and most profitable wine market in the world, so for us [effectively] not to be there is a very difficult proposition,’ he told Decanter.com. ‘It’s important for us to get back in there.’

He added that ‘90% of our sales are in the UK and Australia, which are pretty difficult markets. We don’t intend to shrink in the UK, but other regions are certainly an important part of our business.’

Accolade is keen to strike out on its own in the US. While it maintains a good relationship with Constellation, and there are mutual distribution deals in many countries around the world, the group feels that its new wines will get better attention in the US if handled independently of the Mondavi winemaker.

In terms of price, Christensen said the acquired brands are ‘right in the sweet spot’ of a US$9-$15 per bottle category that is seeing sales rise in double digits.

The group highlights that the addition of Alexander Valley-based Geyser Peak in particular gives it 38 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in one of California’s premier appellations.

Accolade also plans to launch the Californian wines in other markets, including the UK.    

Written by Chris Mercer

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