Wine producers the world over have long coveted America’s growing consumer base of wine drinkers. But wanting access to the American market and successfully selling into it are two entirely different things. The United States has historically not made it easy (or cheap) for international producers to sell their wares to its citizens. Nonetheless, international producers have continued to explore many different ways to bring their products to American wine drinkers. And just like domestic producers, both the pandemic and recent trends in distributor consolidation have them taking a close look at the idea of selling directly to US consumers.
Of course, literally shipping wine to an American consumer from a winery in Europe or South America is against the law. There are customs duties to be paid, licences to possess, and different laws in every state about how wine can be sold, transported, and delivered into the hands of the waiting customer.
That hasn’t stopped some producers, however. I remember visiting a winery on my very first trip to Tuscany long ago and being told with a wink that I could have bottles of that estate’s wines whenever I wanted, as long as I didn’t mind receiving a shipment of ‘olive oil’ now and again. Plenty of small and medium-size wineries around the world skirt the law and import duties when they can establish direct relationships with consumers in America.
This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is usually available only to subscribers of her website. If you’re not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($11/mo or $111 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and maps from the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.