I don't know whether executives at Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ) are allowed to drink while on duty. (Only for research purposes, of course!) But investors can't fault them if they break out a premium brand today, thanks to second-quarter earnings that easily beat Wall Street estimates.

For the quarter ended Aug. 31, the world's largest wine company -- it's in the spirits and beer businesses, too -- posted earnings per share of $0.54, excluding one-time items, which beat the Wall Street consensus by $0.13.

The greater comfort for investors, though, was Constellation's confirmation of its fiscal-year EPS estimate of $1.60 to $1.70, excluding special items. (The average analyst estimate is $1.65.) In doing so, Constellation offered a firmer forecast and less uncertainty than competitors Brown-Forman (NYSE:BF-B) and Fortune Brands (NYSE:FO).

Constellation's news also bolsters expectations that Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD) and MolsonCoors (NYSE:TAP) will be able to raise their bottom lines with a little help from price increases.

Not-so-steady predictions
Although Brown-Forman and Fortune Brands recently reaffirmed fiscal-year estimates, their EPS forecasts offer such a wide range, excluding one-time items, that final tallies can't help but match expectations. How wide? Both forecasts have wider spreads than the differences between the highest and lowest estimates by analysts.

Brown-Forman expects fiscal-year earnings per share of $2.60 to $3.00, excluding one-time items. Fortune Brands, which also makes golf equipment and hardware products, is looking for $2.00 to $2.30 for its fiscal year.

Although Diageo (NYSE:DEO), the world's largest wine and spirits company, doesn't offer a specific EPS range, it recently forecast "low single digit" operating-profit growth for its fiscal year.

Assessing trends
Comparing forecasts can be a chore for investors because key players have different reporting periods. Fortune Brands' fiscal year ends Dec. 31; Brown-Forman's year concludes April 30; Constellation Brands' year runs through February; Diageo's fiscal year concludes June 30; and Central European Distribution's (NASDAQ:CEDC) fiscal year matches the calendar year.

However, there are common themes among these alcohol poducers, such as concerns about economic recovery, increased competition, consumers reducing visits to bars and restaurants, and drinkers trading down to cheaper, lower-margin beverages.

Constellation Brands said Thursday that sales remain "challenging" for its bar, restaurant, and convenience store outlets.

For those looking backward, Constellation earned $0.45 on a reported basis for the quarter ended in August, compared with a loss of $0.11 for the year-ago period. Net sales of $876.8 million fell from $956.5 million, thanks to a divestiture and changing currency-exchange rates.

For those looking ahead, Constellation said it sees "some signs of stabilization." For investors, that's a reason to celebrate.

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Fool contributor Robert Steyer doesn't own shares of any companies cited in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.