Why you need to know wine importers

Shopping by importer is an easy way to narrow the vast field of wine choices. Krista Slater for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Shopping by importer is an easy way to narrow the vast field of wine choices. Krista Slater for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Travel is back, at least for the moment, and you might find yourself in a different city, wanting some wine (and away from your trusted wine shop, where they know just what you’ll like).

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If you lack focus in your mission, try turning the bottle around. On the back of the label, in addition to the required government warning about the dangers of alcohol consumption, there often will be the logo (or simply the name) of the importer responsible for bringing that wine into the U.S.

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Shopping by importer is an easy way to narrow the field of choices. Great importers build relationships with winemakers, clocking hours in the vineyards and the wine cellars to gain intimate knowledge of the process, as well as the people behind the wine. They also seek out producers who match the ethos of their portfolio. For example, Vom Boden chooses to work only with small producers who use “noninterventionist” methods, a less-is-more philosophy of winemaking.

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The advantage of shopping by importer is that, when you buy from them, you know you’ll get a wine of proven quality. Here are five of our favorites:

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Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants. This Berkeley, California-based importer arguably started the artisanal wine importer game. Lynch brought the concept of terroir to the American mainstream with his 1988 book, “Adventures on the Wine Route.” The company is focused on French and Italian wines, mostly traditional in style — wines you and your Dad can agree on. As it is a larger company, you often can find Kermit Lynch wines in shops.

Jenny & François Selections. For those seeking natural wines, this importer is the benchmark, having been one of the first to specialize in them. The selections have international breadth, but are heavy in French wines. However, if you find one of the company’s Austrian selections, we highly recommend you buy it.

Vom Boden. If you are long overdue taking that deep dive into German wine, this is the importer for you. It’s a self-proclaimed natural wine importer, yet, stylistically, the wines the company represents range from quite traditional to funky — it’s just that all of them are responsibly made, with minimal intervention. They are not all rieslings, but the rieslings all are delicious.

Olé & Obrigado. This company has a hyper-focused portfolio of wines from Spain and Portugal. Its extensive wine catalog is great for those looking to explore the many styles within the Iberian peninsula. Those seeking value will be glad to know the company has many bottles that retail for $25 or less.

Legend. Finally, someone is bringing new wave Australian wines to the U.S. Legend is a brilliant new importer, with wines including elegant Barossa Shiraz and Alsatian-style blends from Tasmania. The company was founded by American sommeliers who worked in Australian restaurants before deciding to bring well-made Australian wine back to the U.S. The website (legendaustralia.com) is one of the most informative and educational in the wine business.

The Slaters are beverage industry veterans and the proprietors of the Expat and the Lark Winespace in Athens.

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