Glazer’s Bill Cascio “cautiously optimistic”

The VP director for one of the country’s largest distributors discusses the state of ultra-premium wine.


Bill Cascio is VP Director of Winery Relations for Glazer, one of the country’s largest wine distributors. He’s involved in setting sales strategies for some of California’s top luxury brands, including Opus One, Dominus, Phelps, Peter Michael, Spottswoode, Harlan, Sea Smoke, Rudd, Caymus, Far Niente, Nickel & Nickel and dozens of others. In view of anecdotal information about the toll the recession is taking on the sale of ultra-premium wines, we asked Bill to tell us how things are going.

Steve Heimoff: What do you actually do?

Bill Cascio: I coordinate all the wine business functions for my company corporately for all 11 states we work in. I make sure the winery is happy with our results and we achieve our goals and allocations.

SH: The market these days is said to be terrible. How are your brands doing?

BC: Certainly, the over $50 category is very challenging. However, brands with good equity—and those are the ones I happen to be with—are gaining momentum, especially with the interest we’ve seen due to the vintage coming out, 2007. That’s at both retail, which is good, and more importantly, after a very dry period, the restaurants are starting to order again. These brands are still in their accounts but the consumer wasn’t in there buying. But now we’re seeing turns [sales] increasing.

SH: So consumers are returning?

BC: Yes, slowly. And the restaurants have gotten creative with their programs. For example, Press (St. Helena) has their half-price Wednesday nights, and the Lark Creek Restaurant Group, in July, had half-price on all their wines.

SH: When restaurants reduce wine prices, who takes the hit?

BC: I think the restaurant reduces their margins, but then again, they get people coming through the door! And they get it back on appetizers, martinis.

SH: What’s the outlook for the second half of 2010?

BC: God, I’ll tell you. We saw some really nice lift the first quarter of this year. Things were up pretty much across the board. We all felt we were out of it, feeling pretty good. And then the second quarter just really got flat. And it’s been extremely challenging for us to forecast—the hardest I’ve ever had. But with the stock market, and some other good news, hopefully consumer confidence, which drives our category, [is up], so we’re cautiously optimistic that quarter 3 and 4 will be favorable. Will it be crazy great? Probably not, but hopefully people will be eating out more.

SH: Are your client wineries reducing their wholesale prices?

BC: I would say they made that correction in 2009, and some are just holding at the same levels in 2010. So we haven’t seen any return to net FOB pricing. We anticipate hopefully maybe 2011 we’ll see some elasticity going up.

SH: There are rumors of some big Napa Valley wineries going broke or selling. Would that surprise you?

BC: I’m blessed I have a hundred really solid clients with good brand equity, although some are more solid than others. The big driver of turnover is succession issues, more than it is the economy.

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Reader Comments:
Aug 6, 2010 11:56 am
 Posted by  jbrownwine

I noticed everyone gets to take it on the chin except him (restaurants and retailers). Nice. Let these guys hang in the wind until around Dec when they want their bonus checks-their bonus is tied to inventory not sales, so no one will see a discount on any those wines until the very last minute.

Aug 6, 2010 08:01 pm
 Posted by  sminor

Glazers is one of about four wholesalers with near monopoly power in the states it serves.

Aug 9, 2010 07:09 am
 Posted by  juicesourcer

The wine business went crazy with their pricing especially in places like Napa. Ask anyone out their in the wine business and they all say the same thing. Add ridiculous margins to these absurd prices that restaurants charge which created simply crazy wine list prices to the economic meltdown and you had the prefect storm.
Two thoughts:

1)The high end as it was will never come back.
2)When will restaurants really finally get...1/2 price Wednesday or whatever is a joke...that tells the consumer..hey come in on Wednesday and get a fair price because we are going to screw you the other 6 days. That's real innovation. I went into a kinda cool Itanian restaurant and bar in Buckhead...Atlanta yesterday for a pizza and they charge $10 glass and $40 a btl for a $8.79 wholesale Chianti...I drank iced tea.

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