Leading Hawke's Bay wineries have a new commander-in-chief with former New Zealand hockey captain Simon Towns taking the reins at Constellation Brands.

Mr Towns has been promoted to president and managing director, and will oversee the sales and export of wines from vineyards such as Kim Crawford, Selaks and Nobilo.

Constellation Brands is the nation's biggest exporter of New Zealand wines, with Bay vineyards covering about 420ha and providing about 5000 tonnes of grapes.

An Auckland native, he will return home to New Zealand after serving as senior vice-president of strategy and development for Constellation in the United States, and leading growth strategies for several food and beverage brands internationally.


"I'm looking forward to returning home to New Zealand and continuing to build on the fantastic successes that Sam and his team have accomplished for Kim Crawford, Nobilo, Selaks and others," he said.

Prior to Constellation Brands, Mr Towns held senior leadership positions for global companies, leading initiatives such as category growth and price optimisation, as well as overseeing all aspects of the wine business from grape sourcing to sales.

Most notably, Mr Towns was managing director for a California-based sparkling wine company label where he was responsible for all aspects of the business, including grape sourcing, winemaking, production, and sales and marketing. Over the course of three years, he led the business to nearly double production and profit, while maintaining quality.

Mr Towns will be based in Huapai, in Auckland, in the coming weeks where he will oversee the company whose wines account for about 12 per cent of New Zealand's annual wine harvest.