Choosing a Wine Distributor

Can anyone point me to an answer to the questions "How do you find a wine distributor" and "On what variables should the wine distributor be rated" and "is there a site that compares wine distribution for both the U.S. and Canada?"
If there is a moderator, please feel free to tell me where to find this information.
Bruce in Atlanta
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For a moment, I thought I would find a question from Dr. David Bruce, the California winemaker. Oh, well. To answer your question, I'd have to know why you're looking for a distributor. Are you looking for retailers who sell a particular wine? Are you an importer or winemaker looking to do business with a distributor in your state?
Mark Lipton
-- FAQ:
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Mark Lipton

drbruce wrote in news:03f4ec07-b39a-44da-b3ef-
Indeed Mark's response is true. Do you want to find a distributor who has a consistent across the board portfolio such as Kermit Lynch? Or do you have product and need a distributor?
Joseph Coulter, cruises and vacations
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Joseph Coulter

There is no easy answer. First, Canada has state liquor boards to deal with. They purchase from importers and have a different system from the US. In the US, each state has its own rules and regulations regarding alcohol importation, sale and purchase - many of them very backward. It really depends on what you are looking for a distributor to sell. The liquor/wine business in the US has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. Large national distributors have been buying up older, traditional family owned distributors at a rapid pace all over the country. Charmer and Republic National Distributors virtually control the east coast. Southern Wine and Spirits is the largest presence in the California and the west, including Las Vegas. The middle of the country is divided amonst these three. In my market (Washington, DC), importers may have distributor licenses also. My buying strategy for imported wines is to buy from these small distributors almost exclusively except for a very few Burgundy domaines (Leflaive, Sauzet, Drouhin and Latour) and a few Champagnes. My advice is to avoid the 3 tier system if at all possible. Go with a small distributor who will take the time and energy to sell your product.
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Mark Slater

I do not know enough about Canada to comment. In the US, this is a very complex question. If you are interested in a single state, you might start by asking a few store owners about distributors in the state and what they think about them. If you are interested in multiple states, the situation can become very complex, and many will use a special service to set up distribution for them. For instance, see
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/ for one example of such a service. I have no idea about the quality of their service. You may end up with different distribution services in different parts of the country and/ or states. Laws can vary from state to state, and importing a wine made in a neighbor state and distributing it may be as complicated as importing a wine from across the world. A good service can help you cut through the red tape, get permits, avoid expensive legal services, etc. Many states use a 3-tier system, but not all. The top level tier brings the wine into the state. The next level tier distributes/ wholesales the beverage to retail stores. The retail stores make the final sales to customers. Some states use a somewhat different system for sales to restaurants. Usually it is not legal for a higher level tier to sell directly to customers who must buy only from retail stores even if they want more cases of a beverage than most retail stores would order. If you are bring in a new beverage from outside the US, then some federal agencies become involved, and they have plenty of complex rules and red tape too.
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I have an ownership interest in a wine distributorship serving Ohio and Kentucky. What is your question?
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