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Wine/Starting a wine brokerage company


Hello Paul,
I am looking to start a wine brokerage company. Well, two perhaps. The first would be representing wineries here in CA for sale here in CA.
What licenses do I need if I am just going to broker the deals? No taking ownership of the wine etc...
I am also looking to broker CA wines to the state of Alabama. What type of licenses would I need to accomplish this goal? I have a group in Alabama putting together something there that would allow me to broker the wines through them. I'm assuming they are starting a small distribution company for the state.
Thanks for your time Paul. I look forward to reading your response.

HI Garett

This is a tricky one, I and have to suggest that you consult an attorney who deals with alcoholic beverage compliance law.  IN some states, you can be a broker (NOT a distributor) without any license.  Not that a broker only takes orders--he does not buy or sell the wines, and he never takes possesion of the bottled good.  SO you could work for a winery in California as their broker for the Sacramento area, and you would be paid by the winery.  They would bill the accounts, collect the money, and then pay you.

But because of the complications of the repeal of Prohibition, every state has different laws.  If you want to DISTRIBUTE California wines to Alabama, you will need a license from Alabama to run that kind of business in that state.  A distributor buys wines from the winery, and then re-sells them to local accounts.  And that's a whole different kettle of fish.  

Hope that helps--let me know if you want more clarification.

Paul Wagner


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Paul Wagner


Wines of the world, wine a food matching, wine and food service questions. I currently teach Wine courses at Napa Valley College, am an international wine judge, written many articles for publication, and have been a guest speaker at way too many wine conferences to remember. 25 years in the business. With Liz Thach and Janeen Olsen, I authored the definitive book on wine marketing: Wine Marketing & Sales, Strategies for a Saturated Market by The Wine Appreciation Guild, which won the Gourmand International Award in 2008 for the best wine book for professionals! With Rick Kushman of Capital Public Radio, I host a radio show and podcast called Bottletalk at, where I answer questions about wine and food on the air.


30 years in the business.

Society of Wine Educators, Academy of Wine Communications, American Wine Society

Vineyard and Winery Management Magazine, Fine Wine Journal, les Amis du Vin Journal, Society of Wine Educators Journal, and more.

I have taught at Napa Valley College for the last twenty years.

Awards and Honors
Spanish National Wine Fair: A lifetime dedicated to wine award. Espaderino della Castelania di Soave in Italy.

Past/Present Clients
Wineries include Caymus, Wente, Parducci, Shannon Ridge, Paul Dolan Wines, Vigilance, and others. Wine regions include the Union des Grand Crus de Borcdeaux, Union des Grands Crus de St. Emilion, Consorzio di Chianti CLassico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Consorzio di Franciacorta, Rioja Alavesa, and others.

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