How do they get here?


Henry Yuen

(Chinese article posted on http://taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans)


With west coast summer at full bloom, sipping wines at the patio and pairing them with barbequed goodies has already started. What to choose? What to buy? What are available out there?  Um, that keeps me tapping into my perspectives and expectations.  

Thanks to the folks in the wine industry, there is always a constant array of wine events to attend. As a wine writer and wine lover, I try to go to as many as possible.  To me, these events are classrooms for anyone interested in wine and the industry, not just to taste the many different wines but to learn and appreciate as well.  Moreover, there are always wine experts from different sides of the table to meet and talk to.

Seems to me the wine markets in Canada; and more so in BC, are still relatively confined in the sense that a lot of good wines from overseas are yet to land on our shores on a more consistent basis.  No matter what the reasons may be, what are available at government liquor stores, private wine shops and restaurants represent only a limited fraction of the wine brands that are being produced worldwide as we speak.

To find out more, I talked to Richard Carras, partner at Authentic Wine and Spirit, who set up and operated the Canada West’s first Wine Bar in Kitslano, a veteran in the wine

industry, a heavy-weight importer as well as a ‘Certified Wine Educator’.  We had a fruitful discussion regarding the intricacies of the wine business.

His company represents different alcoholic products worldwide and would love to import more brands, especially those smaller gems, from around the world into Canada.

“Yet, it is not always possible for various reasons.” Richard said, “For certain brands to be represented and brought in here, the infrastructure must be present.” He was referring to adequate marketing and promotional events prompted by the wineries to allow the brand a chance to first make noises in the market place. “Some smaller overseas wineries just don’t have that ability to commit to such campaigns which usually carry a heavy investment price tag.” He added.

Besides the marketing need, consideration must be given to other components of the infrastructure: Importation and warehousing, currency exchange pressure and trade terms etc., not to mention various restrictive government blocks due to liquor regulations.

So for Richard, what to represent and what to import is never an easy decision!  He explained, “It never hurts to represent a prestige brand. However, the portfolio of wines, the long-term relationships and not conflicting with other existing brands you represent are equally important when selecting any wineries to work with.” As an importer, there are times where he can bring in brands that may create a trend with success and brings in good fortune; other times, brand popularity can simply be dictated by unforeseeable trend!

According to him, what is trendy at the moment are the “concept labels” where the names on the bottles might not be a known traditional wine name; the bottle designs are fashionable, the logos hip, all combined to yield a contemporary and fun style. A good example is ‘Yellow Tail’ from Australia which represented the first of this trend where the name is unconventional and the wine’s fruity profile portrayed is well received. At a reasonable price point, Yellow Tail sells over millions of cases a year. Added now is the premium Yellow Tail labels catering to the more discerning taste-buds.

For him, his company is always looking for the right opportunity to import quality wines. Asked what he liked to see changed in term of the BC wine landscape? He said, “As a distributor, I am satisfied with the current setup with the government liquor control board being our major retailer. This will guarantee payment and provide orderly business system in the market place. On the other hand, I’d like to see a flat tax per bottle liquor tax that is similar to the system in Alberta. Then we can bring in more premium wines from around the world at more reasonable price to ensure they do well in the market place.” A win-win situation for wine consumers, I say!