Wine importer finds Alberta’s liquor laws more restrictive than China’s
By Mel Priestley | August 29, 2022
At the start of the pandemic, Yeping Shan uprooted his family from their home in China and moved to Alberta. He set about continuing his wine import business under a new agency, Pintoresco Wines, but he quickly discovered that Alberta and China handle liquor very differently.
“I thought it would be more or less similar to what I had done in China,” he says. “Turns out, it’s quite different. The business on the operations side is drastically different. I did not expect that.”
China is pretty laissez-faire when it comes to wine distribution, Shan says. He was used to handling all aspects of the trade, from sourcing wines, importing them, selling them in his own retail stores and shipping them to customers. In Alberta, however, everything has to flow through the provincial government. Shan describes it as more of a consignment model.
While the business operations and logistics were a big learning curve, Shan could at least rely on bringing in the same wines that he represented in China. He started with De Moya, a Spanish winery in Valencia that specializes in Bobal, a lesser-known Spanish red grape, and Merseguera, an obscure Spanish white grape on the verge of extinction.
“Pintoresco is really built on a relationship with De Moya,” Shan says, describing how he partnered up with De Moya owner Yves Laurijssens back in 2017 after Shan worked for him as an interpreter in China. “We really hit it off and built up trust in one another. I brought his wine first to explore Alberta, because it’s a good fit.”
De Moya’s wines are all great value gems, with extremely reasonable retail prices for the quality. At the time of writing, Pintoresco has brought five of De Moya’s wines into the province: two Bobals, a Bobal Rosé, a Monastrell and a Merseguera.
“The Bobal grape is quite a bold wine, fruity, and goes really well with steak and pasta,” Shan says. “So, it’s a good fit for Alberta. I was surprised when I saw how there weren’t many Bobals in the Alberta market already, so it makes sense to add to the selection here.”
Shan plans to expand his agency’s offerings in the coming months, first by bringing in more of De Moya’s products, and then importing some of the other wineries he worked with in China. He intends to keep things small, and the partnership between him and De Moya will always be central.
“You can think of it as a family with another family, just working together to see how far they can go.”
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