As the fastest growing brand in the wine industry, Dark Horse Wine, an E. & J. Gallo brand, is certainly winning. After a very successful two and a half year test placing product in a leading U.S. retail store, the brand officially launched in March 2015 across the country.

Dark Horse crafts bold wines and marshals the best agricultural and winemaking practices from around the world to guarantee the highest quality. Today, Dark Horse offers six different wine varietals – Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Big Red Blend – and since its debut, the brand has exceeded expectations in terms of sales and performance.

The idea and development

It’s no surprise that development of this successful brand came with time and dedication. It all started with approximately six months of traveling around the country for the team to garner insight from wine drinkers all over the U.S. Research revealed that consumers appreciate premium, quality wine. However, most fine wine brands start at the $20 range and for most consumers, spending $20 or more for a bottle of wine on a regular basis can get costly. For the day-to-day consumption, consumers were in search of something a bit more approachable, and digestible from a price point of view.

Dark Horse Wine was created with an intention to produce what tastes like a $20 bottle of wine in a way that could be retailed for $7. This would bridge the gap between the desire for a premium product and what most consumers could afford – a growing trend referred to as “premiumization”.

“Each one of our varietals is created with the intent that if consumers were to do a blind test, they would guess our wine to be a $20 to $30 bottle,” says Matthew Farver, brand manager, Dark Horse Wine.

The brand’s Dark Horse

The Dark Horse name reflects both the brand and the individual behind it. Winemaker, Beth Liston, breaks the “winemaker” mold. After studying food science in college, Liston moved to Texas where she worked in wine sales. At the time, she already knew a lot about how wine was made – but not how it was sold. The experience helped her realize where her heart was in the business, which led her back to California where she soon after became Dark Horse’s winemaker.

From the bold Big Red Blend to a smooth Chardonnay, Liston’s passion for crafting exceptional wines that outperform their price is unparalleled. Her approach to winemaking is the same as to life: why do things have to be done the same way they have always been done? She takes inspiration from premium winemakers but explores new tactics and techniques that keep production costs at a minimum. As a result, her talent, dedication and innovative ideas combined with Gallo’s resources have enabled the brand to deliver a truly unique and unexpected product.

Creating a powerful package

“From the moment we identified the Dark Horse name, we knew that the product would need to surprisingly over deliver in quality,” says Farver.

A package that could provide a powerful display for the product once it hit stores was the team’s next focus. Considering the vast number of products competing for consumers’ attention in store aisles, brand owners must ensure their package is just as great as their product.

The team was able to translate the key tenets of its brand into high quality, premium packaging by engaging with long-time Gallo supplier Georgia-Pacific Corrugated ( The collaboration ensured that the packaging would attract and capture consumers while successfully reflecting the brand ethos.

“It’s such a win to have a package that expresses the brand so effectively and clearly informs consumers about the product that they are interested in purchasing,” continues Farver.

Once a product hits stores, the package becomes the advertisement. As brands are typically unable to include additional displays in stores, having a great package works strongly in its favor. Georgia-Pacific’s Color-Box® packaging solution vibrantly communicates the Dark Horse story, value and brand.

Color-Box packaging provides high-impact corrugated graphic solutions that not only make it easy for manufacturers to offer retailers exclusive or seasonal offerings, but also stand out on the shelf in a way that grabs consumers’ attention. The print method used in this case is litho-laminate, which outputs the colors vibrantly and matches the customer’s specs.

“Georgia-Pacific specializes in helping brand owners create a voice in the marketplace. Color-Box packaging provides a canvas for brands to tell their story in a way that is as unique and compelling as the product itself,” says Danette York, director of marketing at Georgia-Pacific. “It’s so much more than a box. It is a sturdy and efficient delivery vehicle that gives brands a competitive edge while helping to drive sales.”