Monday, December 20, 2010

Doug Reichel Wine Marketing Inc.

“There’s a quality of wine that’s indicative of the truthfulness and carefulness of the winemaker, who humbly respects the characteristics of the grape and its wine potential”

As a teenager growing up in rural Saskatchewan, Doug Reichel associated drinking with getting drunk – and he abstained. But after obtaining a degree in theology, Doug started teaching in South Africa and he saw that wine, along with good food and good friends, could be life affirming and enjoyable. He later taught in New Zealand, another wine-producing country, and this further reinforced his interest in wine.

An entrepreneurial orientation led Doug to embark on a new career marketing wines in Canada. In the early ‘90s, Doug and Andy Waldorf met through their sons’ Cub pack in Vancouver. Andy was a pilot with Canadian Airlines and had money to invest in a wine marketing company (now known as the Waldorf Wine Group) and Doug had connections with winemakers in South Africa. The timing was right as the embargo on South African wines had just been lifted, and South African winemakers were eager to re-establish their connections with Canada.

Doug founded Doug Reichel Wine Marketing Inc. in 2004 and now distributes wine throughout Saskatchewan and Manitoba from his home base in Moose Jaw.

“Truly humble farmer artists”
Doug’s portfolio is primarily composed of small, family-owned companies. He is on a first-name basis with the winemakers, providing the link between producers and consumers.

“Our early exposure to wineries was almost always with the winemakers themselves,” Doug says. “It allowed us to meet and get a sense of the very best of the winemaking world – truly humble farmer artists. If I’d met the high-powered sales people of the corporate world, I don’t think I’d have found anything to attract me.”

Doug says he’s learned to pay attention to good wine as opposed to splashy packaging and shortcuts. “There’s a quality of wine that’s indicative of the truthfulness and carefulness of the winemaker, who humbly respects the characteristics of the grape and its wine potential,” says Doug. “There’s all sorts of room for creativity and innovation but no room for arrogance.”

“I didn’t know wine could be so profound”
In 2000, Doug took his daughter to South Africa, the land of her birth. Friends poured a bottle of 17-year-old Rozendal wine. “I pushed the meal aside and got lost in the ’83 Rozendal,” Doug says. “I didn’t know wine could be so profound, robust and elegant at that age.”

When you enjoy a wine, you want to know about it, so Doug set out to find the people behind the Rozendal wine. When Doug set up his own company, he started importing Rozendal wine and Saskatchewan is now the only jurisdiction where it is available.

Wine marketing in Canada
Each province and territory in Canada has separate liquor licencing and taxation regulations. As a result, wine marketing companies represent individual provinces, and winemakers may have six to eight representatives in Canada. Doug Reichel Wine Marketing Inc. operates in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and Doug says that they are completely different operations.

Doug’s first task is to find the wines he believes are worth importing. He then has three separate sales roles.

First of all, he must present the wines to the buyers. Until recently, the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) was the only buyer, but the market has now been opened up to include two specialty stores – Cava Secreta in Saskatoon and Willow Park in Regina.

If the government accepts the wine, Doug moves on to his second sales role: convincing as many as possible of the 79 government store managers and franchisees to stock his wines. The stores are chronically short of space, so this can prove challenging.

Finally, Doug needs to promote his wine to the restaurant and hospitality industry and the general public. “I’m not a salesperson,” says Doug. “I’m a teacher and promoter. It’s very fulfilling to do a wine and food evening, to talk about the grapes and the winery, and see how the wine works together with the food.”

Locally owned and operated
Doug prides himself on being headquartered in Saskatchewan and on bringing in wines that are not available elsewhere in Canada.

Doug says that there are about 30 resident wine representatives in Saskatchewan as compared to 250 in Alberta. All but a handful are employed by large, out-of-province companies. “Many of them have money and are now dabbling in wine,” Doug says. “I don’t come from a position of wealth. If I don’t sell wine, I don’t eat.”

Looking ahead
Doug does not expect to expand his portfolio much beyond its current size. He hopes, however, to introduce a wine from Burgundy in 2011, and he wants to pursue some additional Italian wines. “Italy is the top world producer, and I only carry 3 or 4 Italian wines,” Doug says. “They have the history and the variety. Their approach to winemaking is so life-friendly.”
Doug’s website includes interviews with winemakers and descriptions of the wines and wineries. You can sign up for an electronic newsletter, and Doug hosts wine seminars several times a year – the most recent was in conjunction with Luis Manino of Bodega Melipal.

     Doug Reichel Wine Seminars
     Altos de Luzon: Wine from Jumilla, Spain
     Bodega Melipal: Malbec Wines from Argentina

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