Photo: Wine broker Mark Wendenburg
Veteran Okanagan winemaker Mark Wendenburg
and his wife, Jacquie, have launched the Okanagan’s first independent wine
brokerage, a business whose time has come.
Industry reports suggest that the 2012
vintage in British Columbia
was a record 35,000 tons. That is expected to generate surplus wine, leaving
wineries scrambling to sell excess volume.
The Wendenburgs have come along at just the
right time. Within days of launching WineAspect B.C. Bulk Wine Brokers Ltd.,
they were dealing with a couple of dozen clients. “It has been very well
received,” Jacquie says.
The WineAspect website currently includes
these wine offers:
2012 Chardonnay 5,863
Lt $ 5.40 per litre
2012 Pinot Blanc 3,177
Lt $ 4.10
2012 Pinot Gris 10,137
Lt $ 5.10
2012 Syrah 15,017
Lt $ 6.50
2012 Gamay Noir 9,200
Lt $ 5.50
2012 Pinot Noir 1,100
Lt $ 8.00
Sylvaner/Mad. Angevine 1,100 Lt
There are also
five inquiries from producer that want wine; and Jacquie says that additional
offers and requests are being processed.
country in the world has bulk wine brokers,” Mark says. “We do too. The big
wineries have them but there isn’t anybody for the smaller wineries … and some
are not so little.”
The idea came to
him because he had begun fielding requests in his other business, Wendenburg
Wine Consulting, to handle bulk wine sales (and he did a few transactions).
“It is such a different business that I
thought it made sense to start it on its own,” he says.
So he teamed up with his wife. She handles
the administrative chores while Mark makes sure the wine samples are sound and
Mark, who was born in Penticton
in 1961, the son of a grape grower, has been involved in the wine industry
since 1980, including training in Germany from 1982 to 1987. On his
return to the Okanagan, he worked at Brights Wines and then became involved a
trial sparkling wine project at what is now the Blue Mountain
In 1992, he joined Sumac Ridge, taking
over, among other duties, the production of Steller’s Jay sparkling wine. He
left Sumac Ridge in 2010 to become a consulting winemaker, with Blasted Church
Vineyards and Backyard Vineyards now his major clients.
Jacquie was born in Switzerland and
met Mark when he was working at a winery there. She brings a rich background in
customer service and administration to the wine brokerage business, including
10 years as an international flight attendant for Swissair.
“He is going to be the front man and I will
do the leg work,” Jacquie says.
The strength of their business includes the
credibility that Mark has earned within the industry. He is someone that
everybody trusts, and in the business of trading wine, that counts for a lot.
Many wineries already trade or sell wines
but there has never been a well-organized brokerage before.
“There are other places where people can
advertise [wine] but there wasn’t one go-to person,” Mark says. “We really want
to help the wine industry. I know how tough it is for big companies and small
companies because I have worked for both of them. [I know] how hard it is the
manage volume: it is either too much or it is too little, and you have to try
to manage it. This is the way.”
To begin the process, a winery will send
Mark samples, along with a technical analysis of the wine. If Mark decides that
the wine is sound, the offer goes up on the WineAspect website. Mark and
Jacquie will handle negotiations, confidentially, between seller and buyer.
When a deal is completed, they will charge each party 3% of the sale price of
the wine. There is a flat fee of $100 to each party if the volume handled is
500 litres or less.
The buyer is encouraged to do his own
technical analysis and Mark keeps a spare sample of the wine to ensure there
are no changes in the wine between the offer and the sale. However, WineAspect
itself does not guarantee the wine.
Wineries have various reasons for selling
bulk wine. It may be surplus to their blending needs or to their portfolio.
They may have made the wine because they agreed to take extra grapes offered by
one of their growers. They may need a bit of cash quickly.
Similarly, the reasons for buying someone
else’s wine are numerous. A winery may need to fill a hole in its portfolio; or
complete a blend; or put together blends for export.