A Sparkling Addition

Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi releases first sparkler.

For the first time in its 31-year history, Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi is producing a sparkling wine.

The Constellation Brands-owned winery announced the release of 80,000 cases of a brut-style Blanc de Blancs made from 100% Chardonnay. Most of the grapes are sourced from Lodi, with 5% from the northern Sacramento Valley. The non-vintage bubbly is made using the Charmat, or bulk, method.

Stefanie Jackel, Woodbridge’s marketing director, says the move “makes sense for Woodbridge. Consumers are looking for affordable luxury, and with the state of the economy, they’re even bringing celebrations home. They’re seeking ways to continue enjoying life, but in a less outward way.” The wine has an official retail price of $9.99, although it likely will be found for less at discount.

Few California wineries are entering the sparkling wine market these days, but a recent Wine Institute study suggests that consumers have rediscovered bubbly. Sales of California-made sparkling wines were up 8% last year, compared to a  modest 0.2% rise in the overall sale of California wines. The increase in sparkling wine sales was “because of gains in value-priced offerings,” Wine Institute reported.

Jackel adds, “Over the last 52 weeks, through June, 2010, the domestic sparkling [wine] category is the only one that’s growing at all tiers, from less than $5 to ultra-premium [$18 and up].” Sparkling wine represents 4.3% of all wine sales in the U.S., with California holding a 60% share of the market.

Robert Mondavi built the Lodi-based Woodbridge winery in 1979 as a lower-cost brand. For years, his Bob Red and Bob White, in magnums, were among the most popular generic wines in America. When the Mondavi family sold Robert Mondavi Winery to Constellation, in November, 2004, for $1 billion, Woodbridge was part of the package. The brand is the sixth-largest in the U.S., producing 7.3 million cases annually.

Jackel says if the launch of the new sparkling wine is successful, “We’ll consider the potential for other sparkling flavors, seeing where the opportunity lies. This product is a brut, so does it make sense to look at an extra dry or some of the others?” 

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