In the mid 20th century Inglenook was one of the wine producers that put California on the world map. But last week the biggest wine company in the world Constellation became a little bit smaller when it sold off Inglenook with Almaden, this once admired Napa Valley name’s having sunk to the level of a ‘jug wine’ brand. The labels went to The Wine Group, the increasingly powerful specialist in the American mass market for wine, so far best known for its Franzia boxed wines (no longer associated with Fred Franzia) and the Corbett Canyon brand. It was The Wine Group that swallowed up Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon’s mass market brands such as Big House Red and Cardinal Zin in 2006.
The Wine Group’s $134 million purchase also handily includes the Paul Masson winery in Madera in the San Joaquin Valley.
Constellation has been saying for some time that it wishes to concentrate on the more profitable upper end of the wine market, but this may be simply the first of a series of sell-offs for what it really wanted when it bought Beam Wine Estates from Fortune Brands was the hugely successful Clos du Bois brand. See Constellation’s New Year sale?