Southern Wine & Spirits is the biggest wine company you’ve never heard of. The behemoth American distributor stands between wineries and retailers, serving as a licensed wholesaler in 35 US states. Forbes estimated the company was the 29th largest private company in the US with revenues of $10.5 billion in 2013.
The company was founded in 1968 when Walter Jahn, a drinks executive from New York, bought out a local wine and spirits distributor in Miami. The original financing came from a bank with ties to organized crime, which competitors but not Southern frequently mention. The company grew first in Florida and then nationally, with its sales force championing the emergent interest in wine.