Sparkling wine has always been a lower-cost alternative to the special-occasion sip Champagne. But the proliferation of prosecco in the U.S. during the past 15 years has helped Americans realize that bubbles can be an everyday beverage.
Mionetto USA, founded in 1997, wasn’t the first prosecco to be widely distributed in the U.S.; Zardetto had been exporting here since 1984. But Mionetto, which says it “set out to champion a new wine category with American consumers,” helped do just that, with its prosecco.
The brand did a lot of work promoting the category, which meant educating consumers and bar/restaurant operators on what prosecco is and how the Northern Italian wine differs from Champagne, cava and the like. Mionetto played a huge role in increasing prosecco sales dramatically during the past decade: The sparkler overtook Champagne for the first time last year.
Mark West pinot noir (2003)
Derek Benham observed a dearth of mid-range pinot noir about 15 years ago. So the owner/CEO of Purple Wine Co. created Mark West pinot noir in 2002, which retails for $10 to $12 a bottle. It soon became the best-selling pinot noir brand in the U.S.
Benham, who had done something similar when he created Blackstone Merlot in 1990 (sold to Constellation Wines in 2001), had exquisite timing with the pinot noir. The wine movie Sideways would come out in 2004 and have consumers everywhere suddenly clamoring for the varietal. Mark West was an affordable and accessible pinot noir option to meet the demand.
Purple Wine Co. sold Mark West to Constellation Brands in 2012 for $160 million. The brand had become one of the fastest-growing major pinot noirs in the market, and it helped put the varietal on the mainstream America map.
Sake isn’t just for sushi anymore, but 15 years ago the fermented rice beverage was still largely reserved for Asian cuisine. What was offered in restaurants wasn’t always the highest quality and it was often served overly warmed.
TY KU cofounders Kirk Spahn and Trenton Ulicny changed that. They originally created the brand as a unique product launch assignment while at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. They spent four years traveling to Asia to research sake products, history and culture before launching the company in 2004. TY KU combines natural ingredients, age-old Japanese techniques, award-winning flavor profiles and innovative packaging.
The sake includes Silver, Black and White expressions, as well as a coconut-infused nigori and a cucumber-infused junmai. In addition to its sake line, which is brewed in Nara, Japan—the birthplace of sake—the brand’s portfolio includes TY KU Citrus Liqueur and TY KU Soju. TY KU, which works with celebrity chef Ming Tsai on sake pairings, has expanded the notion of sake in cocktails and beyond Asian concepts.