January 31, 2007
Getting your hands on a bottle
This is a view of last year's South African wine trade fair Cape Wine 2006. This one of hundreds of trade fairs that showcase wine producers' goods to potential importers, distributors and retailers all over the planet. Everyone behind these counters is hoping that someone with a route to customers will fall in love with what they are doing and a fruitful relationship will start. Its a bit like a teenage dance.
The rules of how you get wine to shops in the USA where people can buy it are very complex. It requires many thousands of people to make this system work.
There are more people working in liquor distribution in the US than work in wine production in South Africa, and we pick almost all of our grapes by hand and most cartons are filled and stacked by hand.
Though this is a giant American business, there are only a small number of importers who can show your wine to the multiplicity of distributors.
That makes these importers very powerful.
How do you get one of them to know who you are?
In the UK and Holland, and to a lesser extent, in France and Germany, the route to market is dominated by half a dozen major buyers in each country.
If you think of all of the brands of wine out there, being made in Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Australia, Rumania and so on, maybe a million brands all together, how are they going to find a way to the customer?
Posted by graham knox at January 31, 2007 6:06 PM
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Out of curiosity, what does it take to become a wine importer in the USA? I've seen some fairly small-scale importers in Seattle that seem to be one or two-person operations... Do you just need an import license and you're set?
Of course, being an importer isn't enough - you need a distributor to get your wines on shelves or into customer's hands. I guess that's where things get tricky?
Posted by: Mark at February 1, 2007 11:02 PM