Wine Talk

Snooth User: bri729

importing Spanish Wine

Posted by bri729, Jul 9.

As the wine industry grows, more and more people are drinking wine.  I have found that Spanish Wines are very few if any at most Wine Shops.  I have an opportunity to buy directly from the Vineyard but am a bit cautious with all the varieties of wine nowadays.  How will I separate myself from the thousands of other wine brands and countries?  Anybody with import and distribution experience that can help?

Replies

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Reply by gregt, Jul 9.

How will I separate myself from the thousands of other wine brands and countries?

You won't. I would suggest becoming a veterinarian. There are millions of cats and dogs, not to mention parakeets, and people will spend anything on their pets. Plus there are barriers to entry. It's not like everyone who has ever played with a dog can whimsically decide to be a vet one day!

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Reply by bri729, Jul 10.

Hi GregT,

Thanks for your advice but I'm doing well with regards to work.  I am currently employed and wanted to do the wine importing on the side.  Worst case scenario if I can't sell it, at least I can drink it.  LOL

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Reply by dvogler, Jul 10.

I'm guessing that as more and more people are drinking wine, the wine industry grows.  I don't know where you live (usually one can click on a person's name and it'll show your location), but in British Columbia I can find plenty of Spanish wine.  We have a store (like Total Wine in the US) called Everything Wine and they have a huge Spanish section and then more in the vintage room. 

How can you separate yourself from the thousands of other wine brands?  Boobs.  Put 'em on the label.

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Reply by bri729, Jul 10.

Great tips guys!  Boobs and dogs? LOL  Although in Asia boobs are the norm for sales people.  I wish I knew some models here in the US.  hahaha!  By the way, I'm from Connecticut.  They do have Spanish sections for the larger wine shops.  We have direct contact with a vineyard in Spain so I think it might be a good opportunity.  Cellar Los Trovadores, I don't know if anyone really knows them but they are saying it's a Mid to High end wine.  Ranging from $15 - $30 retail for a 750ml.

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Reply by gregt, Jul 10.

bru729 - CT is where the guy who pretty much created the market for Spanish wine in the US lives. He started a long time ago and cultivated friendships with Robert Parker, getting super high scores for his wines. That created some buzz and he pretty much came to dominate the market for Spain. He ended up owning a number of bodegas in Spain and he's sitting pretty right now. There are a handful of other importers who bring in great Spanish wine.

There are in Spain many dozens of producers. Some good, some not so good. In the US, the market is looking primarily for US wine. About 35% of the market is made up of imported wine. The top five countries are Italy, France, Australia, Chile and Argentina. Spain is sixth.

So there is a market and there is a lot of Spanish wine in the US. I don't know where you shop that you can't find much.

Now, you know a vineyard owner. So do I. So do many people. What does that mean? Nothing.

You can get your licenses and everything and order up some wine. You will need to store it and more importantly, you will need to sell it. Anybody can bring in a few cases of wine. That is meaningless unless you can get rid of it. To do that, you need to do some market research and you need to knock on a lot of doors.

In other words, you need to start a business. You don't do it as a part time hobby. Do you know how wine is shipped? Do you know shippers and shipping rates? Do you know how to get it through customs? Do you have a place to put it? Do you know the relevant laws? Really? Can you outline everything that happens to a bottle of wine from the time the cork goes in until a customer takes it home? If you can't, you need to do a lot of research.

If you're really serious, get a job working with an importer for a while and learn the business. It's not like blogging where everyone who ever walked past a glass of wine suddenly becomes an expert and has much to say about the universe of wine. There's a wine blogging conference taking place right now in Santa Barbara and you can meet lots of those experts. Some of them even have policies about where companies can send samples of wine to obtain their important opinions.

But if you're talking about a business, it's more than waking up one day and deciding you are an expert and need to write. Importing is a lot of work and you won't find out how to do it on a wine forum. Get to know the business. In the end, you might decide to keep your day job and just bring in a few cases for yourself. Good luck either way.

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Reply by bri729, Jul 10.

Hi GregT,

At first, I thought you were just a joker who just likes to bust my balls.  You do know your stuff and I'm very impressed.  My current day job is actually in importing goods, but manufactured goods from China.  So I am aware of what needs to be done with regards to brokers, etc.  And storing wine in climate controlled warehouses, so I have a lot of experience with regards to the importing side of the business.  With regards to starting a business in the wine industry, I am learning about it little by little.  If this doesn't work out and I can't sell any wine, I would be interested in finding out who that Spanish importer is and just introduce them with our friend who has been trying to penetrate the US Market.  They are a vineyard in Monstant near Tarragona Spain.  I am more experienced with the business side of it than the wine side.  I don't expect to quit my day job for it but if I can make some money from it and literally enjoy the fruits of my labor than why not?  So I guess, I have no intentions of becoming a veterinarian or growing some boobs.  But I will keep researching and studying the wine business until I'm really comfortable to start it.  It is costly to start as the permits needs is probably about $4,000 - $5,000 plus the bond that is needed.  And the margins of a wholesale distributor are not that great, about 30%.  So to make up all the costs, I probably have to sell about $25,000 worth of wine to break even.

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Reply by gregt, Jul 11.

OK so you're farther along than I thought.

The guy is Jorge Ordonez. His wines are the ones that get critics raving. But he's Spanish and spends a lot of time scouring Spain for more opportunities. In addition he's purchase interests in wineries and convinced co-ops to start making wines to his specs and he's partnered with growers and winemakers from elsewhere to produce wine. There are a few other importers who have very deep connections.

Monstant is kind of the "value" Priorat region but those wines can be a hard sell no matter how good they are. Today points don't sell a wine like they once did and in spite of the fact that a winery gets high scores, their wines may not move. Monstant is a great example of a region that should get more recognition than it does. I know a few wineries there. But in the wine business, buzz matters more than reality. So Priorat gets a lot of buzz and they can charge lots of money for their wines but other regions, even nearby regions, don't get the same respect.

Introducing new brands is a tough business. Finding distributors in different states is also a tough business. So as an importer, how are you going to support your distributors? They will leave you in a heartbeat for someone who shows them some more love.

Since you're in the import business, I'll give you some more credit but you should have said that up front! It seemed like you were someone who had a glass of wine and decided to be an importer. The thing to remember is that wine is not like other goods. Wine is considered alcohol which means the federal government has ridiculous rules and there are 50 different states with different and additional rules.

And I was busting your chops a bit. But that's because you didn't mention that you knew anything about importing anything. It seemed like one of those people who visited Napa, tasted a wine, thought she was the first person ever to taste a wine, and decided to blog about wine and make a career of it. 

With wine, you need to get label approval, you need to get it shipped, and you need to get it landed. Then your work is just starting!

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Reply by bri729, Jul 11.

Hi Greg,

Thanks for all the information, sorry I didn't mention I have 10 years of experience with importing.  The only reason we are thinking about importing wine is because the vineyard we are working with has almost zero presence here in the US but has been shipping their wine all over the world, Singapore, Thailand, UK, Belgium, Switzerland, etc but I guess anywhere in Europe doesn't count as several because of the EU.  I haven't been California yet but would love to some day to see what you are talking about in the Napa Valley.

I understand I need Label approval, go through the TTB because it's alcohol and here in CT the alcohol are all price controlled.  I know it's a lot to research and I appreciate all the feedback regarding the wine industry and what actually sells.  I might take into consideration what the other post was about.  In Asia, the salespeople are always hot models.  I have not seen that here in the US maybe because of discrimination?  LOL  If I know some models, we might just hire them to sell the wine to distributors.  How can you say no?  LOL

I'm in the sales part of the importing business so I know how hard it is to market and most of my customers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing.  So it will be hard but I still think it's doable from a small scale operation.  But I will still weigh the risk and reward to figure out whether it's something I really want to get into.  Again, I appreciate your input.

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Reply by dvogler, Jul 11.

Bri,

You can imagine the number of people who stumble across Snooth (usually with a glass in hand) and think, "Hey, a wine forum!  I'd like to start a "I Love Wine" page! ...I was going to continue with several examples of one-timer introductions, but I think you get it.  We're typically polite and welcome them to the Forum, usually having to elicit pertinent details, only to never hear from them again. 

Greg is one of the regulars.  He loves bloggers almost as much as I do (sorry Lucha!)

I have to ask you though, do you drink wine?  When did you last have more than one glass of a good red?  Curious because you said you're more interested in the money than the wine.

PS: Your opening line was worse than a used-car salesman saying, "Now this baby is CLEAN!"

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Reply by gregt, Jul 11.

!

Selling wine is a little like selling cars. You use the models at trade shows but to go out on the street, they don't do so well. You need someone who can close deals. Matter of fact, Ordonez often had nice looking women pouring wine. He's no fool. And then if you want to land a big account . . .

It's a regular business and you do what you need to do to earn a buck.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 12.

I should add that GregT (too modest to say it himself) is one of the foremost authorities anywhere on Spansih wine.  His dirty secret is that he was part of a Spanish wine importer and knows first hand how hard it is.  Frankly, if you can steal a couple upper end brands from a high margin area, say, Aldo Conterno from Barolo, or Vieux Telegraphe from Chateauneuf, your job is probably easier than establishing a great product from Yeclas or Montsant.  You can do the homework and paperwork and bring in many containers full of great wine, but say it gets stuck on the dock, or your warehouse goes out of business, or your distributor puts his effort elsewhere, those costs are sunk. 

Not saying it can't work, but there's no shortage of Spanish wine crying the "VALUE!" call, and then the hip thing might be Hungary or Georgia or... well, yet another cool region of Italy, they neve seem to run out, and there you are. 

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Reply by bri729, Jul 14.

@DVogler,  Yes I understand where you guys are coming from and how many ridiculous inquiries show up here on Snooth.  I was on here a few years ago looking for advice on a good St. Emilion Wine that I can get a case or two as an anniversary drink that hopefully aged well over time.  I know some wines are distinct and are best when aged 10-14 years.  Anyway I did get some good advice but finding those wines are a like a needle in a haystack.

@GregT and Richard, thanks for all the advice.  I have read about Jorge Ordonez and he is really a guy who knows how to market his wines.  I will have to do a lot more research about wine to understand the best way to sell them.  I know a lot of the expenses probably come from marketing which is very hard to calculate in costs.  It's a lot easier for what I do in calculating costs of shipping, taxes and storage costs than find out how much marketing material and advertising will be spent.  And time travelling door to door to introduce and follow up on sales, etc.  A lot more work to do, but I am still encouraged and determined to try.  What I've learned from some of my customers who try to develop a new product, fail fast and fail hard.  Meaning you want to spend the least amount of time to realize whether the business or product will work or not.  You fail fast by spending less and fail hard.

Thank you all for all the tips, it really helps me understand the wine business more.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 14.

If people always did the sensible thing, no one would ever do anything new or great.  No Van Gogh, no Picasso, no Lou Reed, no cure for ulcers, no space program.  Sail for the horizon and hope for the best.  You've heard from us, so go, you pioneers!

 

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Reply by JonDerry, Jul 15.

Good luck on the endeavor Bri, was fun reading the thread and you come off as very competent and capable of the job at hand if there is a niche available out here for that wine.


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