Wine tanks at Western Australian vineyard

I come to this topic with a bit of hesitancy, because whilst I love being the recipient of good news and reviews, I don’t necessarily want to be the one to bring it to everyone’s attention. In this case, “everyone” might not be such a big deal, since my blog is so new its tiny green shoots have barely broken ground. Yet trepidation wars with the necessary art of self-promotion in the current publishing milieu.

When I wrote the first book on wine importing in the U.S., and expanded any previous work on wine sales and distribution, it was with a view to truly giving anyone who wanted to know, a ground level view of how it all worked. I brought my (at that time) eighteen years experience as an importer to bear on the project, but I also researched a great deal before I started, to discover what was out there. Was I really breaking new ground, simply adding to the dialogue or in danger of rehashing old material? Incredibly, I found nothing at all on the subject of wine importing.

It made me wonder. The answer could well lie in its seeming lack of broad appeal. Perhaps it wasn’t considered sexy enough to attract the masses. The current crop of titles includes ideas that titillate and draw the reader into hedonistic pursuit. They promise mouth-watering wine and food pairings, the world’s most expensive wine, the world’s best bargains, uncovering fraud and being invited into Grand Chateaux. 

I also arrived at my own conclusion that the dearth of subject matter had something to do with preserving the mystique of the wine industry and that those within in it were loath to divulge its secrets. I can’t say whether this was from fear of losing cachet or to discourage competition, but the question most often asked of me when I said I’d written this book was, “Aren’t you afraid that if you give away all your secrets you only encourage your own competition?”

The answer to that question and one I truly believe is, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” The best possible way to improve this profession is to provide the newly minted importer with the right tools from the beginning. It also pulls back the curtain on aspects that the average person may find intriguing, and hopefully their curiosity will be rewarded. I left nothing out, held nothing back – at least from my own experience – in my desire to provide a blueprint for anyone who wishes to follow it and I find my efforts have been rewarded. I have been the recipient of many appreciative emails from individuals who seem to have found what they were looking for between its pages.

In addition, I discovered this week that Wine Spectator’s Executive Editor, Thomas Matthews recently reviewed my book for the December 31st issue of the magazine. Since many people do not have a subscription, I have printed it in its entirety below:

How to Import Wine: An Insider’s Guide

By Deborah M. Gray (Wine Appreciation Guild, 328 pages, $29.95)

In a previous life, I aimed to be a wine importer. I got so far as to assemble a group of small Bordeaux châteaus willing to work with me, and had a professional in the field evaluate them.

“These are good,” he told me. “You can probably sell them. How many cases can you get?”

“Two or three hundred cases of each,” I replied.

“That’s a start,” he responded. “But what is your 50,000-case brand? You need that, too.”

That’s when I decided to be a wine writer instead.

I wish I had had Deborah Gray’s book at hand during my wine importing days; I might have saved myself time and money. I’m sure that many other wine lovers dream of becoming wine importers, too. For them, this book is essential reading.

It doesn’t pretend to be a roadmap to success; there is no such thing. But it raises many questions and suggests possible answers that any would-be importer must resolve before success is possible. Gray’s personal story-told in short, often painful, anecdotes scattered throughout the book-give graphic evidence of the value of thinking ahead. Read it as you drink, and make sure you look before you leap.
-Thomas Matthews

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I was struck with the word “painful” Matthews chose in connection with my anecdotes. Were they really that excruciating? Did I suffer so much as I blindly stumbled around in the early and not so early days? Looking back, I can see that I did. I just didn’t know any better. Hopefully, the “pain” I endured, and lived to write about, will help others avoid their own.