Annual WSWA Conference Kicks Off in Las Vegas Monday  | Beverage Industry Enthusiast
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Annual WSWA Conference Kicks Off in Las Vegas Monday 

The 75th Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention (WSWA) kicks off at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Monday, where thousands will gather to network, note the newest trends and find out what brands will win gold.

The week preceding the convention was marked by coast-to-coast buyouts and mergers of importers and distributors.

Such as The Winebow Group, based in Virginia and one of the country’s leading national importers and a distributor of wine and spirits, and Negociants USA, a national importer specializing in the wines of Australia and New Zealand, said they had merged on Monday. Negociants USA will become part of Winebow, keeping and expanding its portfolio of antipodean wines with emphasis on Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has expanded its now five-year agreement with Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, the largest North American wine and spirits distribution company. The market expansion includes Alaska, Oregon, Utah, western Washington State and Wyoming, bringing the total alignment with Southern Glazer’s in the United States to 26 states.

Meanwhile, Eastside Distilling, Inc., makers of Redneck Riviera Whiskey, will be added to the product lineup at ABC Fine Wine & Spirits. With some 130 retail stores in Florida, ABC is the largest independent retailer of wine and spirits in the state. Republic National Distributing Company will be bringing those bottles to ABC. The move means Redneck Riviera Whiskey is available in 15 states.

But not everyone goes to WSWA to strike a deal, some go to see friends.

“I attend WSWA because it showcases all the wines from around the world in one location, and is a great way to network with distributors and fellow vintners,” said John Balletto, president & founder of Balletto Vineyards in Sonoma.

David Biggar, president and co-founder of Vintage Point Partners, which will have a suite in the lower level of the convention in the Verona Room, said in an email: “WSWA provides the opportunity for us to see 90%-plus of our distributors, which is particularly important for me, since I can’t travel to all of them every year.”

Others come to win an award and thereby increase their distribution and sales. Take last year’s Yolo Rum Gold, which took home the gold in the WOSA Spirits Tasting Competition. Since then, it has signed with Mexcor International Wine and Spirits in Florida for distribution.

“It’s always nice to win an award. Talk about it on social media,” Yolo Rum’s Sam Hines said. “And I won’t say it was just the gold from the spirits tasting competition, we did win a few others, but now we have Mexcor and I’m pretty certain all those awards helped.”