PORTLAND, Ore. — Beer, wine and spirits behemoth Constellation Brands Inc. said Thursday it has acquired Lingua Franca, the young but ambitious Eola-Amity Hills winery founded by Larry Stone, a noted sommelier and winery executive.
It’s the first move into the state by one of the industry’s true giants but comes in the wake of recent Oregon moves by sizeable European wine companies — Bollinger’s purchase of Ponzi Vineyards last year, and Santa Margherita’s majority acquisition of Roco Winery in January.
Constellation (NYSE: STZ) announced the Lingua Franca acquisition in an earnings presentation in which it emphasized "premiumization" — climbing up the price and quality ladder. In 2021, it sold of a big batch of its lower-end brands to Gallo, one of the few U.S. companies with a bigger wine footprint than Constellation.
"We have acquired the highly acclaimed Oregon wine brand Lingua Franca," CEO Bill Newlands said in the call. "This demonstrates our commitment to building a strong, omnichannel business that includes category leadership in (direct-to-consumer) and three-tier ecommerce while building our fine wine portfolio with a diverse collection of best wines from top wine regions around the world."
No further details regarding the deal were revealed.
While the move reflects Oregon’s lure for companies looking to upgrade their portfolios, it also appears to highlight the pressures that even top-flight smaller wineries face in an era of consolidation at wholesale and retail levels.
Stone told the Wine Spectator the winery was hurt by COVID and the 2020 wildfires in Oregon.
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