General Chat

Snooth User: humpdog

importers, distributors, and brokers

Original post by humpdog, Jan 9, 2012.

hey everyone--it's been awhile since i posted but i knew the right group to ask this simple (to most of you anyway) question. :)


generally speaking, what are the differences between wine importers, distributors and brokers?  how does each group make their money?


that's it!  thanks.



prev 1 2


Reply by GregT, Jan 21, 2014.

You don't need a state license as a broker, depending on what role you're playing. If you are just a matchmaker, you can simply make your matches.

However, in practical terms, you will need samples to show. That means the winery has to send you some samples. And if you're going to be getting samples from another country, you need to be an importer or you need someone who is an importer to receive your wine for you.

If you've never done anything with wine, I'd suspect that nobody will give you any kind of exclusive. There are about a million people who would offer to represent a winery for a bunch of free wine - then they'll drink the wine and forget about it. Since you have no track record, a bodega would be taking a big risk by offering you any kind of exclusive relationship.

Normally you would take a cut from the bodega - you'd add a percentage to their wholesale percentage. Like I said, if they sell for 2.5 Euros a bottle, you might add five percent to that and then sell for 2.6 or 2.7 a bottle. The bodega would have to collect from the buyer and pay you. And they'd have to send you samples that you can show around to potential customers.

You don't want to have a bottle opened for a few days so you will obviously need lots of bottles. Or maybe buy a Coravin, since they didn't exist when I wrote the posts above. Maybe those things will actually become common in the business if they really work, but I think you'd be defeating the purpose by carrying the bottle around and shaking it all day.

And then you have the problem with the D.O. Madrid

I like the idea, but most of the wines just aren't that compelling. You have all kinds of cheap wine from La Mancha and elsewhere and then you have really expensive and hard-to-sell wine from Rioja, Priorat, Toro, and the Ribera del Duero. So it's really an uphill battle.

Still, someone will probably take on the challenge eventually, so good luck if you choose to!

Reply by Lacucusa, Feb 3, 2014.

Thanks so much for your detailed reply GregT!

This is a "boutique" family winery. That is why I have the exclusive. We produce organic wines: Albillo-Muscat and Grenache-Syrah (DOMadrid).  Since I am the only one living in the US (Miami, Fl), I might as well rep our winery and serve as broker without being responsible for clearing customs. In other words, take the selling aspect off their shoulders, in this side of the Atlantic and represent them in transactions with store purchasers, private collectors, restaurants, catering companies and others.

I've heard that you can hire companies that can bring a few palllets and store the wine. Can you recommend any? We're thinking in bringing over 3 cases of each for tastings and solicit orders. What do you think? Would that be enough? What about solicitor and import license? Do I need to get one. If you become an e-member, the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Miami assists you in processing  all the paperwork. Does it worth it to  become a member for $400 a year?

So far, we've had good reviews from specialized  press, won the Pasarela Cibeles and participated in Madrid Fusion pairings last week, with good reviews. I know is  an uphill battle, but would like to give it a shot...I rather take the challenge, than someone else.

Please advise!

And thanks again!




Reply by GregT, Feb 3, 2014.

If it's a family winery, that makes a lot more sense.

There are companies that will bring in wine for you and in fact that's how many smaller importers start out. The company will arrange for transportation, clearing customs, and storing in a warehouse. You will pay for all of that however, so if you want a few bottles of your wine from the warehouse, they will charge you every time they touch a bottle for you. Obviously they have to make money somehow, and that's one way they do it. There are plenty of companies and you should probably shop around.

If you don't know the ropes, you should definitely hire a customs broker. There is a LOT of paperwork. You will also have to get approval of your labels so don't overlook that. 

Here is a link to some basic and very important information:

Here is some good reading to start:

And then you have the National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America, Inc. (NCBFAA) and the International Federation of Customs Brokers Associations at the following links:

USAwinewest and Flexport are two companies that come to mind.

I suggest you also contact someone in Europe. Here is someone you can contact:

When you ship, you want to avoid extreme heat, so don't ship in the middle of summer and make sure that your wine doesn't sit on a dock in the heat. The ocean is cold, so if your wine is below the water level, it will be fine, otherwise ask that it be shipped in an insulated container - you don't need to pay extra for a temperature controlled container.

best of luck and let us know how it goes.

Reply by jak26, Feb 17, 2014.

Hi GregT, 

You seem so knowledgeable so I want to ask you this question. If you are an importer located in California, will you need a NY license to sell wine to distributors in NY?  There is tons of information out there, but I can't find any that  answer that exact question. 



Reply by GregT, Feb 18, 2014.

What you are describing is pretty much how most wine is sold in NY, and actually anywhere.

If you are an importer anywhere your job is to make sure that the wines clear customs w/out problems. If a distributor in NY wants to buy the wine, that's good, but you need to make sure he has legit wines with federal approval. You do not need a NY license in that situation. Only your distributor does. You just need  to have the wines cleared through customs, either by you or by someone on your behalf. You can have special labels made for that distributor for the same wine that you are selling elsewhere, or even in the same area, under a different label. That's why you see bottles at places like Total Wine or BevMo or Olive Garden that you don't see anywhere else - they may very well be the exact same wines that are sold elsewhere.

Distribution is much easier than importing. A distributor just calls up his supplier and orders another pallet. An importer has to bring in a container from overseas, sinking a lot more money into the inventory, unless he wants to bring in a partial container and then he pays extra.

Reply by Snoother 1527737, Aug 9, 2014.

Does anyone know if a wine producer can have more than one importer for the same labels?

If not what about the distributors? Can there be 2 distributors for the same label in the same state?

Thank you!


prev 1 2

Back to Categories

Popular Topics

  • posts

Top Contributors This Month

259386 Snooth User: zufrieden
30 posts
1413489 Snooth User: dvogler
23 posts
357808 Snooth User: vin0vin0
8 posts


View All

Snooth Media Network