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Bollinger family buys Oregon’s Ponzi Vineyards as part of US push

The Bollinger family has made its first acquisition beyond French borders, buying Ponzi Vineyards in Oregon, as the company looks to grow its presence in the US.

The Ponzi family (left to right): Nancy, Luisa, Anna Maria and Dick

The purchase was announced yesterday by SJB, the holding company of the Bollinger family, giving the group a base in the US, marking a major step for a business that currently does not own any drinks producer outside France, and is cautious when it comes to expansion, despite the success of its main brand, Champagne Bollinger.

But the move was strategic, with Bollinger family holding group Chairman & CEO Etienne Bizot telling the drinks business yesterday that buying the Oregon Pinot specialist was part of a long-held aim to expand the company’s position in the US, specifically when it comes to Champagne.

Indeed, he acknowledged that Bollinger, a brand so closely tied to the Britain, was underdeveloped in the US – a key and growing Champagne market, albeit dominated by marques from Moët Hennessy, who are said to account for more than 50% of Champagne sales in North America.

“Our vision is to double our business in the USA within the next 10 years,” he told db yesterday, adding, “Although right now, it is a not a big share.”

Referring to an interview with db in May 2017, he said that since that time he had been seeking to expand the Bollinger family’s footprint, while admitting yesterday that it was his intention four years ago to buy a wine producer in the west coast of the US.

“Four to five years ago I had talked about the willingness of the family to expand, and we have been looking mainly on the west coast, and this is part of a more global project [for the group] to grow its market in the US,” he said.

Continuing, he commented, “It is the fastest growing in terms of wine consumption in the world, and we are not as successful as we should be in the US.”

Ponzi has a state-of-the-art, gravity-flow winery in Oregon’s prized Willamette Valley

In terms of the decision to buy Ponzi Vineyards specifically, he said that the Oregon producer had attracted Bollinger’s interest for its “great image” and “pioneering” approach – founders Dick and Nancy Ponzi were one of the first four producers to plant vines in Oregon, along with Eyrie, Erath and Adelsheim.

The acquisition sees SJB take on the winery, 35 acres of vineyards, a hospitality business on-site, while gaining a long-term contract to source grapes from a further 100 acres owned by the Ponzi family in the region.

While Dick and Nancy’s two children – Anna Maria and Luisa – will continue to work at the winery, Bollinger is currently recruiting a CEO to run Ponzi.

The price paid for the 40,000 case business was not disclosed.

Bizot explained that owning a producer in Oregon gave the group “legitimacy” in the nation, while a CEO at Ponzi “will give us knowledge of the American market – so we are not only acquiring a winery but expertise within our steering committee in terms of sales and marketing in the US.”

The Bollinger family is the latest in a raft of Champagne businesses with wineries in the US, including Moët Hennessy (Newton); Taittinger (Domaine Carneros); Roederer (Roederer Estate), GH Mumm (Mumm Cuvée Napa Brut) and Pommery (Louis Pommery California).

SJB, the holding company of the Bollinger family, comprises domains in four French wine appellations: Bollinger & Ayala in Champagne, Chanson Père & Fils in Burgundy, Delamain in Cognac and Langlois-Chateau in the Loire Valley. Founded in 1829, it is owned and controlled by the same family since 1829.

Vintus, current Ponzi Vineyards national sales and marketing agent, and importer of Champagne Bollinger, Champagne Ayala, Domaine Chanson and Langlois-Chateau, will continue to represent Ponzi’s trade distribution in the US.

Read more

Out of the shadows: Etienne Bizot

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