News & Resources

Blog header

02.10.15 by Ken Sheppard

Establishing a Wine Importing Business


Washington is one of the most sophisticated wine markets in the United States.   Its many wine producers have fostered a community that knows and appreciates both domestic and imported wine.

There is great opportunity for wine import businesses, but the process of obtaining all of the required federal, state and local licenses is complex, and can be hugely time consuming if not approached with the necessary background knowledge. 

Before you can import your first bottle of wine, you need at a minimum the following licenses and approvals:

1.   An Importer’s Basic Permit from the United States Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (the "TTB").  This requires detailed personal and financial information, as well as a letter of intent from each foreign winery from which you intend to import wine. 

2.   A Wine Importer’s License, issued under RCW 66.24.203 by the State of Washington.  This requires, among other things, that you establish a facility to store your imported wine, and have that facility inspected and approved by the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

3.   You must obtain various local business licenses, and have your business approved by the local law enforcement agencies.

4.   You must obtain TTB approval for the labels to be attached to every wine that you propose to import.  These Certificates of Label Approval ("COLAS") are highly technical and can be challenging to obtain.