How to become a wine importer

Updated June 15, 2017

An integral part of the wine business community are the wine importers. Vintners can of course handle the work of growing the grapes and making the wine, but some may have difficulty bringing the wine to the consumer. This is where the importer comes in. The life of a wine importer can be interesting but difficult, especially when he's just getting started.

Familiarise yourself with relevant state laws about wine importation. Every state has different standards, certificates, taxes, and other requirements. Consult your state regulatory agency and complete all their necessary paperwork. Contact local legal and tax experts for information on the ins and outs of wine importation law and taxes.

Secure a source of wine to import. Getting an agreement with a winery to import wine can be difficult, and may require a fair amount of face-time or even knowing somebody who works for the winery. Meet with vintners about their operation and about importing their product. Locate a new vineyard in need of a market, or offer a better profit for the vintner than their current business partners provide.

Secure capital to pay for business expenses. Initial payments to vintners, cost of transportation, utilities, and other expenses will likely need to be handled before profits from your business can return. Consult a financial institution with a business plan to acquire a business loan to cover expenses. Approach private investors about investing in your business, including friends, family, and wine enthusiasts.

Contact a customs and shipping company to transport your wine between countries. There is a discouraging amount of red tape in place that makes the actual importation of items like alcohol very difficult. Call a customs company and get an estimate on your wine shipments. Shop around with different shippers for the best rates.

Locate buyers for your imported wine. Now that you actually have the wine, you'll need to bring it to market. Meet with different sales sources, including the managers of liquor stores and wine bars, and inquire about them carrying your imported wines. Present your wine to showcase its strengths, including samples of the wine for demonstration.


Work for a wine importer for a time before going into the business yourself. Working for another importer first can give you some invaluable skills and experience that will come in handy later.


Different laws concerning sales and shipping apply in different states.

Things You'll Need

  • Certification
  • Source of import
  • Business capital
  • Shipper
  • Customers
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