Jackson family eyes international expansion

Jackson Family Vineyards is on the winery acquisition trail, with plans to add more high-end estates to its portfolio.

Barbara Banke, who has taken full ownership of the company following the death of her husband Jess Jackson earlier this year, was reluctant to comment on any specific details for the moment.

However, she did reveal that the business was currently eyeing up opportunities in Australia as well as the chance to gain its first foothold in South Africa.

“We’re trying to be at the high quality end of the wine spectrum,” clarified Banke. Having experimented previously with the negociant business, she has since come to the conclusion that “We’ll only do well if we’re estate-driven.”

The family business already sees it working across 14,000 acres in California with wineries in Sonoma, Napa, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Mendocino.

These 35 wineries include the Kendall-Jackson flagship, Cambria, Stonestreet and Edmeades, alongside a luxury collection of wines such as Matanzas Creek, La Crema, Hartford Family Winery and Vérité, the Bordeaux blend which this year saw its second consecutive vintage awarded 100 points by Robert Parker.

Although California represents 90% of its production, Jackson Family Wines also owns eight wine estates abroad. In 2003 the family bought Château Lassegue in St Emilion to add to the Tuscan property Tenuta di Arceno, which it has owned since 1994. Other highlights include Yangarra in Australia and Viña Calina in Chile.

In addition to the company’s growth plans at the supply end, on the sales side there also appears to be plenty of forward momentum.

In particular, Banke flagged up 50% year-on-year growth in the Far East, while in the less buoyant US where the company has the advantage of its own distribution firm, she picked out the $20-$25 bracket as being “very strong in the last two years.”

In the UK, the company’s strategy has seen a shift towards the upper end of the quality spectrum, focused primarily on the on-trade. “About three or four years ago we decided that what we really wanted in the UK market was to showcase the best of our wines,” remarked Banke.

Returning to the company’s growth plans, Banke held back from setting out a time frame, as she emphasised: “We’re not in a big hurry to grow for growth’s sake. It’s only worth doing something you can be proud of.”

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