The Ultimate Vancouver Wine Guide: How Does a Bottle Get From France to Your Local Liquor Store?

It’s a journey where many hands and many decision-makers weigh in.

February 13, 2019

By David Kitai / Photo: Domaine Faiveley

Domaine Faiveley la Framboisière, $57

1. The Winery

Our story begins at the winery, in this case, Domaine Faiveley—a family operation since 1825, with one of the most respected pedigrees in Burgundy. In the past decade their wines, always of very high quality, have been holding up in the hallowed company of famed grand cru producers like Domaine de
la Romanée-Conti.

2. The Visit

In March 2017, Faiveley’s long-time importer, Trialto, sent Neil Punshon to France. He visited about 12 different suppliers in a one-week trip; at Faiveley, he walked through the vineyards and tasted new vintages from the barrel. He made the trip to show his face at the winery—Burgundian producers are in high demand, and visiting the winery goes a long way in securing an allocation—to learn the stories of each wine, and to see if he could find anything new that might fit the B.C. market.

3. The Wine

On that 2017 trip, Punshon found an ideal wine for our market, the Faiveley la Framboisière. Framboisière is a vineyard site in Mercurey, historically less valuable for the simple, fresh, fruit-forward wines made from its pinot noir. Punshon thought that Faiveley’s Framboisière was a perfect expression of good-value Burgundy, something that’s becoming harder and harder to find.

4. The Paperwork

Trialto is already established as Faiveley’s official agent in B.C. If they weren’t before Punshon’s visit, he would have had to get Faiveley to complete a formal application to the BCLDB, registering Trialto as their sole representative in the province.

5. The Decision

Once registered, Punshon has a choice: he can bring the wine in as “spec,” for sale to private stores and restaurants, or he can try to get it listed at BC Liquor Stores, where it will have much better exposure. To do that, he needs to get Barb Philip on board with the Framboisière.

6. The Gatekeeper

Philip is a master of wine and the European wine buyer for BC Liquor Stores. She often invites importers to fill a gap on BCL shelves, sending out an invitation for a style of wine at a certain price point. She’ll get samples from the agents and make her decision from there. Importers are also free to send samples unsolicited. There’s less of a chance she’ll accept them, though, and it’s almost certainly going to take longer before she lets the importer know.

7. The Pitch

Punshon was confident that the Framboisière had the right mixture of acclaim, quality and value, with a compelling enough story to get the wine on the shelf. Philip agreed: when accepting uninvited wines, she looks for “a distinct point of difference, extremely high point scores, or a wine that is just so delicious we can’t help but offer it to our customers.” To Philip, the Framboisière “scored very high on the deliciousness criterion.” She placed a purchase order for 180 bottles.

8. Drink Up

Purchase order in hand, it’s time to import. Burgundy’s popularity meant Punshon had to cajole every case he could from the winery, but by February 2018 he had his allocation. The full shipment arrived in Vancouver in September.

To avoid overheating the wines, he tries to ship in autumn, when Canadian ports like Montreal are cooling down. If he shipped in winter, the wines would have to cross the Panama Canal and risk sitting on a boat languishing in the tropical heat.

We’ll be adding to our Ultimate Vancouver Wine Guide over the next few months… follow along with somms’ top picks here!

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