We put together the following information to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Quality Brand Imports and Cellar62.
What is an importer of record?
An importer of record is a party that is authorized by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to import products into the United States. QBI acts as a selling agent on behalf of foreign wineries and can thereby act as the importer of record without buying and selling the products being imported.
QBI has obtained a ruling from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and confirmed with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) that it is legal and permissible to act as a federal wine importer without holding title to the products being imported.
Instead of Quality Brand Imports buying the wines from the foreign winery and selling to an entity in the US, it allows foreign wineries to sell directly to permit holders such as wholesalers and wineries in US states that permit this business model. Not all state alcohol boards do allow it, but many do.
What is the difference between QBI and a traditional wine importer?
Traditional wine importers generally buy wines from wineries, import, and stock these wines in the US. In many instances, they ask for exclusive rights to sell the wines in the US market without any firm sales commitment.
European wines generally retail in the US market for 4 x EXW. The retail cost of European wines in the US market can be double the retail cost in Europe or even higher. That makes them uncompetitive with wines from other countries as well as US wines.
QBI allows for the supply chain demand flow to be reversed. Instead of importers deciding which wines will be imported into the US, retailers can decide which wines they want to buy and allow multiple wholesalers to bid for the business. This reduces risk, cost and allows wines to be sold at lower retail prices.
Do I have to sign an exclusive agreement with QBI?
No, we never ask any producer to sign an exclusive agreement with QBI. We strongly advise against exclusive agreements with any importer.
What if I already work with an importer in the United States, can I work with QBI?
That depends if you signed an exclusive agreement with another importer and the nature of the agreement. We are working with a well-known international law firm that can review any agreement you have with other importers to determine what your options are.
I am already working with wholesalers in the US market. Can I still work with Quality Brand Imports?
Yes, if they are located in US states that permit the direct sale to wholesalers.
Can European wineries sell directly to wine wholesalers in every US state?
While this works in the majority of states, alcohol regulations in some states do not allow this arrangement. You can contact QBI for more information about state regulations. QBI can provide detailed information about the rules and regulations of the alcohol boards in all 48 continental US states.
Can QBI act as an importer in states that do not allow wineries to sell directly to US wholesalers?
Yes. In that case, QBI can act as a ‘regular’ importer. Such situations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
What is the three-tier system?
The three-tier system for the sale of alcoholic beverages was set up in the US after the repeal of Prohibition. The three tiers are producers; distributors; and retailers. Under the three-tier system, producers can sell to wholesalers who then sell to retailers, and only retailers may sell to consumers. A member of one tier may not have ownership in a member of a different tier. For example, a wine wholesaler may not own wine retail stores.
Are there exceptions to the three-tier system?
Yes. For example, in some states wineries can sell and ship directly to consumers. In the control states, a state agency may act as a wholesaler and retailer at the same time.
What is COLA?
The Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) is issued by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). It allows the wine to be imported and sold in the US market.
Is it allowed to obtain a COLA for the same wine under different labels?
Yes, that is permissible under TTB regulations.
What is the processing time for COLA approval?
If all information on the label is correct, the total wait and processing time for wine labels is generally less than two weeks.
What is the cost to obtain a COLA?
TTB does not charge any fee for COLA processing. QBI charges $25 per Certificate of Label Approval (COLA).
Do wine labels need to be approved by state alcohol boards?
Some state alcohol boards do require separate label approval, some do not. However, once TTB has approved the label on the federal level, the label will generally be approved by the state alcohol boards as well. Quality Brand Imports will advise wineries which states do require separate label approval and the cost.
How much does QBI charge for its import services?
We charge a flat fee of $0.25/bottle to import wine into the United States. This fee does not include transport costs, custom broker fees, and import duties and taxes.
If wineries or regions work with our sister company Quality Brand Promotions to market their wines in the US market, QBI reduces the flat fee to $0.10/bottle.
Our wine brand is already established in the US market. Does Quality Brand Imports offer a discounted price in those situations?
Yes, QBI offers the import service for FCL shipments from one supplier in Europe to one consignee in the US for a rate of $0.16/bottle. This fee does not include transport costs, custom broker fees, and import duties and taxes.
What is the initial investment to participate in Cellar62?
The Cellar62 annual membership fee is €2,995 for the first year. Discounts of up to 25% are offered for the first 50 wineries to participate.
Why is there an annual fee to participate in Cellar62?
Cellar62 is developed, created, and managed by Sevenscope in Portugal. Sevenscope is an experienced web developer and charges the fee to run Cellar62. By separating the fee charged by Quality Brand Imports and Sevenscope we make the entire process more transparent. Vineyards know who provides which service at what cost.
How do wineries obtain contacts at US retailers?
Cellar62 provides such contacts to wineries free of charge.
Do I have to work with QBI to participate in Cellar62?
Yes, Cellar62 was developed by Sevenscope in Portugal and QBI to help European wineries market and sell their products in the US market. Cellar62 complements the services of QBI.
Do you have to sign up for Cellar62 to work with Quality Brand Imports?
No. However, for wineries not participating in Cellar62, Quality Brand Imports only handles the import of FCL (full containers). Do keep in mind that all promotion of wineries to retailers in the US market is handled via Cellar62. Therefore, we strongly recommend that European wineries do participate in Cellar62. The many benefits offered by Cellar62 are a smart investment. If your budget does not allow for participating in Cellar62, our import and sales system may not be a good fit for you.