Sunday, November 4, 2007

Wine Lesson: Know Your Importers

One of the best lessons I have learned so far in my wine education is "when in doubt, choose a trusted importer." The wine import industry is huge with most of the big players in the liquor industry (Seagram's, Moet Hennessey, etc.) trying to win the business of every big producer or wine store. Like any savvy company, the average wine importer is much more concerned with the bottom line rather than the quality of wine they import into the U.S; most importers would rather win the contract to export a mass produced and marketed (and unfortunately, loved by many) wine like Yellowtail than an obscure wine such as the Nosiola I reported on a few days ago. This is not to say that the big importers do not import some great wines-- some of the most reknowned wines are imported by the big importers-- but it certainly a gamble to go into a wine store and randomly pick up a wine imported by most importers.

Fortunately for wine experts and novices alike, there are a handful of importers who travel all over the world to try pick and choose every wine that they want included in there portfolios. These producers can be trusted to pick wines that are generally of great quality. Additionally, since these importers often search out rare, small production and rare wines, the wines are priced favorably and usually not boosted by ratings from the major publications. The importers I trust most include (this is not an exhaustive list):

Eric Solomon (European Cellars)
Rosenthal Wine Imports
Tempranillo Inc.
Polaner Selections
Fleet Street

When in doubt and in no mood to seek the advice of a sales clerk at the wine shop, it is always a good bet to go with a wine that has been imported by one of the above companies. Their portfolios contain wines in all price ranges, and in my limited experience, I have never had an undrinkable wine from any of the above importers. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for most other importers.

Tomorrow, I will report on an under $10 Southern Rhone red that I chose based on the name of the importer on the back of the bottle. Stay tuned...


RougeAndBlanc said...

Good list. I would like to add 2 to your list:
michael skurnik Wines
VOS Selections

Eddie H. said...

Thanks for the comment, Andrew. I agree that Michael Skurnik is a great importer as well; I should have included him on my list. I am unfamiliar with VOS (not that it means much-- I am unfamiliar with most importers). Does VOS import wines from a particular country? Are VOS Selections easy to find in NY?

RougeAndBlanc said...

I bumped into one of their sales rep who is a Frenchman a year ago. He always showed some intersting but not ultra expansive French wines at tastings. That is how I learnt about this importer. Their website is and the layout is great. You can check their wines. As a matter of fact, Both of my silver burgundies for WBW39 is from this importer.

Eddie H. said...

Thanks for the info, Andrew. VOS Selections seems like an importer that really cares about the wines they select to be in their portfolio. I am particularly interested in trying some of their New World wines. I am lost when it comes to picking out New World wines at the wine shop, so it's nice to at least have a go-to importer.