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US: Brown-Forman confirms wine business review

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  • Group confirms possible Fetzer sale
  • To keep Sonoma-Cutrer
  • Review to complete within six months 

Brown-Forman has confirmed that it is reviewing its wine business, which may lead to a sale of the Fetzer brand and assets.

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The review encompasses wine assets based in Hopland, California, including the Fetzer brand, winery, bottling facility and vineyards, Brown-Forman said today (22 December). The Jack Daniel whiskey producer said that it is "exploring strategic alternatives for its Hopland, California-based wine assets, including a possible sale".

Brown-Forman said that its super-premium Sonoma-Cutrer wine brand and its long-term agency relationship with Korbel California 'Champagnes' are not part of the review.

Brown-Forman's CEO, Paul Varga, said: "We are still amidst the review process. But given the recent media stories, we felt it was important to communicate with our employees and external stakeholders to set the record straight.”

The company declined to comment to just-drinks earlier this week, after the Wall Street Journal reported that the US-based company has hired Rothschild to run an auction process for the wine business.

A Brown-Forman spokesperson told just-drinks today that the group is "about in the middle" of the wine review process. He said that it may take another six months before a decision is made. He would not comment on why the company began the review.

In Brown-Forman's last fiscal year, to the end of April, Fetzer, the company's flagship wine brand, posted a 3% slide in net sales compared to a year earlier, with volumes dipping by 5% to 2.2m nine-litre cases. Two years ago, Brown-Forman offloaded its Italian wine brands - Bolla and Fontana Candida - to Gruppo Italiano Vini.

Brown-Forman is the second international drinks firm reported this week to be considering a sale of wine assets. Constellation Brands is also thought to be close to a deal to sell assets in Australia.


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