ACSA Enters Next Phase with New Executive Director


The American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) has announced that executive director Penn Jensen is retiring and has been succeeded by Margie Lehrman. Margie comes to ACSA with 20 years of executive experience with national associations as well as a background in beer, wine and spirits law, working for Lehrman Beverage Law. WSD has the first interview with Margie and ACSA president Tom Mooney to discuss what the appointment means for the organization.

"It's a huge step toward the future," says Tom, adding that an eventual change in leadership was in the plans from day one. "The first phase of creating a new organization like this almost has to come from within the community… in many ways, only Penn could have done what Penn did in bringing so many of us together to get things started."

But now that ACSA has established a solid foundation, Margie plans to bring the organization to the next level. Some of her top priorities are pushing through the federal excise tax legislation [see WSD 05-16-2015 ] and growing the membership base. They've recently hired a lobbyist to work on the former goal.

"For the first time, in the history of the craft distilling community, instead of having an organization that is distillers who enjoy spending time together in search of a mission, we have some very clear goals and some very clear initiatives," says Tom. "[FET parity] is really a life or death issue for the craft distilling community."

In addition to her plans for the organization, Margie shared her goals for the craft spirits industry. In addition to being a resource and making their members' lives easier, she would like to help members capture attention in their own communities. "Long term, what I would hope to see within the communities as a whole, is recognition that these small craft distilleries add to the local economy, not only in the hospitality industry, but when they are successful as small businesses they're also employing more local people."


The latest numbers in from Nielsen have sparkling wine sales up a healthy 11.4% for the first six months of 2015. Although domestic wine sales dominate the table wine category, sparkling is a bit of a different story. Going into 2015, domestic and imported wines split the dollar share almost right down the middle 50/50. However, in the 6 months to July 18, imported sparklers pulled slightly ahead, picking up 1.2 dollar share points as sales grew 14%. Meanwhile, domestic sparklers grew sales 8.8% for the period.

The $10-$15 price segment seems to be the sweet spot in sparkling. It is both the largest price segment (at $183 million for the 6 months) and the fastest growing (sales up 17.4% and volumes up 16%). The $8-$10 sparkling wine segment isn't far behind though at 15.7% sales growth and 16.3% volume growth. Sales for all other sparkling wine price segments delivered growth -- $0-$6 up 7%; $15-$25 up 13%; $25-$60 up 7%; and $60+ up 7.4% -- with the exception of the $6-$8 sparkling wines. Sales for the segment were down 0.5%, costing it 1.4 dollar share points for the 6-month period.

As you might have guessed, Prosecco is still climbing the charts. Sales for the category grew by a whopping 38.2% and volumes were up nearly as much at 37% for the 6-month period. The only other sparkling category that had sales growth even approaching Prosecco, were the other Italian sparkling wines (Asti and Lambrusco etc.) at 24%, which you'll note is also the largest sparkling wine category at about $276 million in annual sales, per Nielsen data. Sparkling rose is also having a moment, up 12.3% in sales and 8% in volumes. Champagne has largely recovered from its slump in 2013 as sales were up nearly 7%, but it still coughed up 0.8 share points. Spanish sparkling wine sales and sparkling moscato sales were also up 6% and 5%, respectively.

What is driving sparkling wine sales? Nielsen data suggested younger females and multicultural consumers are behind the movement. Prosecco in particular has a strong hold within the Hispanic community, according to Nielsen.


COPPER CANE LAUNCHES CARNE HUMANA WHITE WINE. Winemakers Joe Wagner, Copper Cane Wine & Provisions owner, and Derek Bietler are releasing the second offering from the Carne Humana brand, Carne Humana Napa Valley White Wine. It is a blend of sauvignon blanc, semillon, and chardonnay grapes, all of which are harvested from Napa Valley. This release is Carne Humana's first white wine and joins the Carne Human Proprietary Red Wine. The suggested retail price is set at $25 a bottle.

SAZERAC DEBUTS HIGH RYE OFFERING. Sazerac has revealed the latest release in the Abraham Bowman line, a limited edition Abraham Bowman Limited Edition High Rye Bourbon. At 100 proof, the new offering contains five times more rye than the standard Abraham Bowman rye. It will be available for retail in August for a suggested retail price of $70.

NEW YORK DISTILLING COMPANY LAUNCHES RAGTIME RYE. New York Distilling Company is set to release its new Ragtime Rye, available beginning September 1st. Ragtime Rye is distilled, bottled, and aged at New York Distilling Company in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where it spends a minimum of three years in full-size American oak barrels. The rye is made from a mash bill of 72% rye, 16% corn, and 12% malted barley. The suggested retail price is $44.

KINAHAN'S LAUNCHES STATESIDE WITH CRAFT + ESTATE. The Winebow Group's Craft + Estate division has picked up Kinahan's Irish Whiskey. Craft + Estate will initially launch Kinahan's blended Irish whiskey (srp $40) and a 10-year-old single malt (srp $70). The brand was founded in Dublin in 1779, but closed in the 1900s and was revived in 2014 at its original location.

Until tomorrow,

"If men could only know each other, they would neither idolize nor hate."
-- Elbert Hubbard

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