INTERVIEWS

Alex Guarachi – Founder and CEO of TGIC Importers

alex guarachi - TGIC importersTGIC Importers, Inc. began 25 years ago as a wine import company with only a single Chilean winery in their portfolio. Today, they are proud to represent 18 wineries from around the world as a national importer. TGIC brings in wines from 11 countries around the globe, including Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and Spain, as well as representing and distributing California wines from Napa, Sonoma and Paso Robles. TGIC’s impressive portfolio includes Montes, Santa Ema, Bodega Norton, Achaval Ferrer, Pascual Toso, Kaiken, Ché Gaucho, Lo Tengo, Castillo de Monseran, Guarachi Family Wines, Napa Angel, Star Angel, and Omaka Springs.

TGIC also offers a large selection of select imported and domestic wines for wholesale in the state of California. TGIC Importers, Inc. launched a new distributing company in the state of California in 2011. The name of the company is TITAN Wine and Spirits. TGIC has been its own distributor in the state of California and now this new division has become an independent organization.

I had the pleasure of being Alex’s Florida distributor for several years in that state, so it was good to touch base with him.

MR: Thank you for taking some time with me Alex; it’s been a while. In 2010, you celebrated your 25th anniversary and received the Wine Enthusiast Importer of the Year award. How good did that feel?

AG: It felt like I was receiving an Oscar! It was such a huge milestone and seemed so surreal. I was on cloud nine and felt like all of the hard work paid off.

MR: You have also started your own independent distributor named TITAN. It’s a tough business; I know this first-hand. How has it been going so far?

AG: Great question. It’s been a challenge. As you know, the wholesale business is so competitive and the margins are relatively low. With a tough economy and gas prices on the rise, the cost of doing business is higher now than ever before. With that being said, we are experiencing a buyer’s market and wines are being bought at a discount price. But I do see a light at the end of the tunnel!

MR: I was talking with Associate Professor Ed Korry from Johnson & Wales University earlier, and one of the things he is writing about in his column in this issue is how Argentina is seemingly hanging its hat on Malbec and Torrontes, while Chile stays diverse with many varietals in the mix. What are your thoughts on that?

AG: Another great question! I do believe that Argentina is putting the majority of their efforts into Malbec and doing a small amount of business with Torrontes. I think they need to work with other varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Bonarda. On the other hand, because of Chile’s climate and geographical conditions, they can grow many varietals, just like in California. In addition, Carmenère, the 6th Bordeaux varietal, is flourishing beautifully in Chile.

MR: It seems that SA wines have become pretty much mainstream now, something you’ve spent years fighting for. Do you feel that way, or is there still a ways to go?

AG: Mike, you’re right. Consumers have embraced South American wines. But as you know, the job is never done. We need to continue to educate the consumer about the world-class wines being made in Chile and Argentina. The perception in the U.S. still seems to be that South American wines are “value wines” and there is still work to be done.

MR:You have started your own label, Guarachi Family Wines, from California. I bet that’s fun. Can you tell us about that venture?

alex guarachi and enrique toso of pascual toso

Alex and Erinque Toso of Pascual Toso

AG: I am having a blast! As you know, I love wine and I wanted to make great wines in Napa and Sonoma Valley; specifically, a Napa cab and a Sonoma pinot. I hired one the best winemakers in the business, Paul Hobbs, and I am sourcing the best grapes from the best growers in California. It feels great when you sell your own wines and it is especially sweet when it is your own family brand.

MR: Montes and Santa Ema just got certified “Sustainable Wines of Chile.” You have others in your portfolio that are also certified, correct?

AG: Yes, you are right! Bodegas Norton is also sustainable.

MR: What’s next for SA wines, to keep on the same track, or what now …?

AG: I think SA wine producers can’t sit by on their laurels. They must continue to innovate, discover new regions more appropriate to specific varietals and clones, lower their yields, and learn more about their terroirs and climate conditions. Mike, as you know, this business is always changing and we must be proactive and change accordingly.

MR: Thanks Alex, and continued success in the future!