DBR Lafite diversifies distribution in China

DBR Lafite has broken its exclusivity with ASC Fine Wines in order to work with more distributors including Pernod Ricard, which is rumoured to be taking on the French wine group’s two volume brands, ‘Légende’ and ‘Saga’.

Yoshi Shibuya in Chengdu giving a briefing on ASC’s performance in 2018

Rumours of a break-up between DBR Lafite and ASC Fine Wines have been swirling in the wine trade for a few months, but contrary to industry chatters it has become clear that ASC Fine Wines will still continue to work with DBR Lafite, which was also confirmed by ASC’s CEO Yoshi Shibuya to dbHK in Chengdu.

Although full details of the arrangement have not been revealed yet, as Shibuya admitted that things have not yet been completely finalised, he said: “Officially speaking I have nothing to say. I haven’t signed anything. Third party hasn’t signed anything.”

It’s not completely clear how DBR Lafite’s portfolio, which includes Domaine d’Aussières in southern France, Los Vascos in Chile, Bodegas Caro in Argentina, and ‘Légende’, ‘Saga’ and ‘Reserve’ from Bordeaux in addition to its classified growths, isgoing to be divided among its distributors in mainland China,

dbHK has asked DBR Lafite for additional comments.

Nonetheless, it appears that Pernod Ricard is going to take on ‘Légende’, ‘Saga’, two generic Bordeaux blends that have become extremely successful in the Chinese market because of their association with the Lafite brand.

However, speaking of the brands that ASC is going to work with under DBR Lafite’s profile, largely believed to be Los Vascos and Domaine d’Aussières, Shibuya emphasised that the brands are what he calls the, “most valuable wines” DBR is making, and each has “a story behind it, its own vineyard where people work hard to grow for the best grapes to make the best wines with its terroir”.

“This is what I want to emphasise to everybody including our staff”, he noted.

This also comes at a time when ASC Fine Wines announced a return to its core business, fine wine, with a marked departure from “big” and “commercial” brands, the company CEO revealed.

“I dare to express my regret that the company has been heavily dependent on commercial wines, big brands for years. Maybe forgetting the origin of the company. I am convinced that we must go back to the origin of the company. This is the only way we can continue to thrive and provide value for the consumers,” he said.

Ultimately, the goal of the wine importing company is to act as “a lighthouse” for consumers and trade professionals, he continued.

This delineation of brands is also in line with ASC parent company Suntory Group’s overall goal for the Chinese market, which is to develop the premium side of the market, especially for the on-trade sector he continued.

Explaining the decision, Shibuya said: “When you look at the on-trade, commercial brands are not respected. They don’t want to work with major brands because customers coming into the restaurant, they see very commercial brands on the wine list and identify how much it sells immediately. Consumers and trade need to learn more about artisanal, less known and more valuable wines…If you are selling just commercial big volume, on-trade professionals and sommeliers will no longer work with us.”

In line with this philosophy, the company recently added four more French labels to its protfolio this year; Provence rosé Miraval, and three family owned Burgundian estates.

In the coming years, ASC Fine Wines revealed that it will work more closely with Suntory Group’s other divisions including its own own business, spirits, beer and soft drinks sectors for the Chinese market.

“We could make more synergy with the overall direction with the group,” Shibuya commented.

Founded by Don St. Pierre Sr. and his son in 1996, ASC was sold to Japanese Suntory Group in 2010 for an undisclosed amount.

One Response to “DBR Lafite diversifies distribution in China”

  1. mary says:

    Pernod Ricard I guess get great opportunities here… congrats.

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