All that really matters is the experience of the end consumer. Simple as that.
If she pops a bottle of wine with friends, pours the glasses, and loves the experience of drinking that bottle then it really doesn’t matter who the wholesaler was or even who the retailer was. The only two connection points in the equation are the label (brand) and the end consumer’s satisfaction.
People like Kermit Lynch and Terry Theise proved there’s another step that can be jammed into the equation. That of the importer. Turn the bottle around and see who brought it in. They proved that the importer can matter.
And if the importer can matter, then why not the wholesaler? And if the wholesaler can matter, then why not the retailer?
The answer is that most wholesalers and retailers are trying to be all things to all people. Most are generalists. Most can’t answer the question of “what do you sell?” with anything more creative than “wine.”
People like Lynch and Theise can give you a much longer, more romantic, more accurate answer. Do you think either of them cares at all about Napa Valley? About Australia? Nope. They are focused on what they do. They have cut out an opportunity to become the best at what they do.
It’s time for retailers and wholesalers to focus as well. To specialize. To be confident when they have to tell a customer “we don’t carry wines like that, but let me suggest someone who does.”
It takes guts to take a stand. But it’s the future of the wine business.
PS: Here’s a business hint for those that are lucky enough to be importers and wholesalers: set up a separate website to highlight your self-imported wines and make sure the website is on all of your labels (“Learn more about this producer at …). Champion your position. Build an email list. Tell the stories. Lots of photos. Add some videos. Give people an easy way to learn more about what they are drinking.
Oddly, very few importers do this.