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updated: 8/22/2011 5:40 AM

Vintner loses No. 1 status, toasts new growth

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Associated Press

VICTOR, N.Y. -- Richard and Rob Sands have turned their father's little wine company into a potent player in alcoholic drinks with moderately priced wines, spirits and imported beers like Robert Mondavi, Svedka and Corona Extra.

Along the way, the brothers acquired one other label in 2003: world's biggest vintner.

Even in a highly fragmented industry in which Constellation Brands Inc. claimed just 4 percent of global wine production, it was a high point for a family business based in New York's Finger Lakes wine country.

But size doesn't trump success. After a two-decade buying binge, Constellation has been pruning for five years to invigorate profits in a choppy economy.

Now the No. 2 vintner, it is refocused on solidifying its supremacy in higher-margin wines priced from $5 to $20 a bottle.