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Use Wine Importers as a Buying Guide

Use Wine Importers as a Buying Guide

Rebecca Chapa | Chef's Blade

A day rarely goes by when someone doesn’t ask me, “What’s your favorite (fill in the blank with a wine type)?” or “What should I be buying?” Even my mother will often call me up and say, “Well, we are having lamb chops and a salad, what should we buy?” Usually this leaves me blank wondering what to say since what is available here in San Francisco is not usually available across the country: prices and stocks vary. My mothers questions usually end up annoying me, leaving me to respond, “Call me when you get to the store” which leads to the tedious back and forth listing of wines ensues, once at the store:

“Well, they have Stag’s Leap!”
“Mom, is that Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars? or Winery?”
“Stag’s L_eaaa_p it says.”
“But is it WINE CELLARS or WINERY!?”
“What’s the difference?”
“There’s a difference.”
“Well it says Pine Ridge Stag’s Leap.”

Over time, I have found it’s easier to give buyers tools that will work whether or not I am available by cell phone!

That’s not to say I blame my mother—the world of wine is complicated! Sometimes I am overwhelmed: there has been more than once that I have been somewhat desperate in a less than optimal retail store where the quality offerings are few and far between, so I resort to a very simple technique that I think is very reliable: I try to hone in on a variety or style of wine I would like to drink (i.e. Riesling, Pinot Noir, Italian, Spanish) and if I am not familiar with the brand then spin the bottles around and look to see who imports the wine.

An importer is someone who goes through all the procedures to get a wine from its country of origin to the USA. It then often passes through a distributor and on to a restaurant or retailer before it ends up on your table or in your cellar. The importer’s job is much more difficult than just dealing with customs, shipping, and the like. More reputable importers take great care and time deciding what they are going to import.

If you want to know the very latest information about a wine region, ask an importer who works with wines from that area and they will undoubtedly have the most recent and pertinent information. Ask them where to eat in the tiny towns in those regions, and they will know delicious places. The best importers fine-tune their offerings bringing in the best wines they can get. There is always a great deal of rapport between winemakers and their importers, and while there is a fine line between importers that change styles of wine to suit their constituents and those that merely suggest what styles are doing well in the states, they have their pulse on exactly what is going on in any region they represent.