Feature Coverage

Schramsberg’s Hugh Davies Looks To Vintage-Dated Sparklers And Still Wine

In recent years, the domestic sparkling wine category has taken off, with brands priced around $15 leading the charge. Now, as the category nears the 11-million-case mark in the U.S., California-based luxury sparkling wine producer Schramsberg is looking to turn consumers’ eyes to even higher price points. Altogether, Schramsberg produces around 85,000 cases of sparkling wine annually, with the flagship Blanc de Blancs ($35) its largest seller at 35,000 cases. Wilson Daniels handles Schramsberg’s distribution in the U.S.

“There aren’t many domestic producers of ultra-premium sparkling wines,” says Schramsberg president and CEO Hugh Davies. “We’re slowly building a fan base that’s really enthusiastic about high-quality sparklers made in the U.S.”

Last year, 28% of Schramsberg’s revenue came from sales of sparkling wine retail priced at $55-$175 a bottle, according to Davies. Among the high-end offerings making gains are the Chardonnay-focused J. Schram ($120), a Blanc de Blancs that sells around 2,500 cases each year. The current J. Schram release is vintage-dated 2009. “So much of the sparkling wine category is non-vintage; not many people think about aging sparklers at all,” Davies says. “We’re starting to age our wines and develop that segment more, and we’re seeing increased demand.” This fall, Schramsberg is set to release a 2000 vintage of J. Schram, aged in contact with yeast in the bottle for 17 years. Davies notes that the vintage-dated variants perform particularly well in the on-premise.

Sparkling rosés are also providing growth for Schramsberg, with vintage offerings from the winery’s primary tier ($46-$55 a 750-ml.) and a non-vintage variant from the Mirabelle label ($31) accounting for significant volume. A J. Schram rosé ($150) is also produced in limited quantities.

“Rosé used to account for 5% of total volume,” Davies says. “But it’s a category that’s grown a lot, and now rosé represents 30% of our production.”

Outside sparkling wines, Davies launched St. Helena-based Davies Vineyards in 2012. The winery, which opened a tasting facility last year, currently focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon ($55-$110 a 750-ml.) and Pinot Noir ($65) varietals through its JD, J. Davies Estate, and eponymous vineyard-designated labels, producing about 6,000 cases annually.

Julia Higgins, August 30, 2018
Schramsberg’s Hugh Davies Looks To Vintage-Dated Sparklers And Still Wine