|Richard (left) and Rob Sands. (AP photo)|
VICTOR, NY -- Richard and Rob Sands took their father's little wine company on a two-decade buying binge, turning a regional purveyor of low-pedigree plonk into an alcoholic-drinks powerhouse with moderately priced wines, spirits and imported beers like Robert Mondavi, Svedka and Corona Extra.
Along the way, the brothers acquired one other seemingly enviable label in 2003: world's biggest vintner.
Even in a highly fragmented industry in which Constellation Brands Inc. claimed just 4% of global wine production, it was a high point for a family business with post-World War II roots in the Finger Lakes grape-and-wine country in western New York.
But size doesn't trump success. Constellation has been pruning methodically for five years as it strives to invigorate profits in a choppy economy and refocus on solidifying its supremacy in the sweet spot "premium category" -- higher margin wines priced from $5 to $20 a bottle.
In January, it dropped to No. 2 in the vintner-by-volume rankings behind longtime leader E&J Gallo of Modesto, CA, when it offloaded a once-promising Australian wine business that had gone badly awry.
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