The prospective wine importer enters a world where tasting wine is part of the business and business is often conducted under an olive tree overlooking rolling hills of trellised vines, or with a gourmet meal at the cellar door restaurant. But it is still a business and one that must be approached with the right tools. In other words, this is a career choice from which you can derive much satisfaction and an enviable lifestyle. But first, you must do your homework. Without that, you cannot hope to succeed in a competitive, highly regulated industry.
Think for a moment about that very experience that may have prompted you to consider a career in the wine field. Remember your trip to Napa or Tuscany? The romantic chateaux, the charming tasting room experiences. Wasn’t it some of the best wine you had ever tasted, so good that you bought a case and had it shipped home? At home, it was still thoroughly enjoyable, but was it really the best you had ever tasted? Did you really need that much Sangiovese?
Ambiance has a great deal to do with our perception of experiences, and one of the first things to keep in mind if you decide to become an importer is to separate that memory of a wonderful time from the reality of wine as a saleable commodity. Relationships are all-important in this career – with the vigneron, winemaker and a connection with the wine itself. Making it a viable business requires an understanding of the wine’s relationship to the market and how to create that same attraction for your customer. Perhaps you did make an incomparable discovery. Becoming aware of the difference between perception and reality will serve you well in your pursuit of a wine importing career.
As you delve into the necessary budgetary, logistical and licensing aspects, don’t forget to enjoy your journey and keep the passion alive!