One of the most recognisable names in the drinks industry, Ernest Gallo, has died at the age of 97.

Gallo, who, along with his brother Julio, helped build the most successful family-run wine business in the world, was instrumental in introducing US consumers to wine. The brothers are widely credited for creating the modern American wine market.

"Our industry has been blessed to benefit from the remarkable life of Ernest Gallo," said Robert Koch, president of the Wine Institute. "The American wine industry, particularly the California wine industry, owes an enormous amount of gratitude to the Gallo brothers. Ernest and Julio were builders: they built their company from scratch, they helped build an industry and they helped build demand for wine few could have ever imagined when they started out more than 70 years ago."

E & J Gallo Winery, which started with three employees, Ernest, Julio, and Ernest's wife Amelia, today has more than 4,600 employees with products sold throughout the US and in more than 90 other countries. A number of years ago, Ernest turned over day-to-day operations to his son Joseph, who now serves as the company's chief executive officer.

"My father's passion for the wine industry was matched only by his passion for life and for his family," said Joseph Gallo. "He adored his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and he believed his family was his greatest legacy and success. My father died knowing that he had lived life to its fullest. More than anything, he believed the company's future is brighter than ever, particularly by remaining a family-owned business. In fact, one of his proudest achievements is that the company can remain family-owned and operated as a result of the estate planning steps he took during his lifetime."

Surviving Ernest are his son, Joseph, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Ernest's wife, Amelia, died in 1993. His first son, David, died in 1997.