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May 30, 2022 View:

Constellation USA acquires wine merchant Empathy Wines

Constellation Brands on Wednesday announced plans to acquire Empathy Wines, a direct-to-consumer wine merchant co-founded by entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.

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Founded in 2019, Empathy has sold approximately 15,000 cases of its signature California-made wines and has attracted more than 2,000 subscribed customers who purchase the product online only.

This acquisition comes at a time when many states are slowing or changing their reopening plans as cases increase. Restrictions on bars and indoor dining may be expanded, a boon for alcohol e-commerce.

The direct consumption market (DTC) market is growing more than twice as fast as the general market for wine consumption before Covid, said Robert Hanson, president of Constellations Brands Wine & Spirits. Robert Mondavi, Ruffino, Simi and The Dreaming Tree are among the wineries. Everything that has happened since then has accelerated.

Vaynerchuk has long been an innovator in the e-commerce space. He started working in his family"s retail wine business (bagged ice) when he was 14 years old. He used that business as a springboard to build the wine library into an e-commerce platform in the late 1990s. During his tenure, the company grew from $3 million to $60 million in annual sales. Since then, Vaynerchuk has gone on to several other businesses, including restaurant reservation booking platform Resy, which was acquired by American Express in 2019.