The general public may not be familiar with wine brokers, but this is a profession as old as wine growing itself.
Legally recognised by a royal ordinance in the 14th century, wine brokers are the link between producers and wine traders. Working out in the field, they have first-hand knowledge of the wine industry, from the specificity of each appellation to market trends and even individual winegrowers, which allows them to respond precisely to the needs of the negociants. Wine brokers are responsible for negotiating prices and concluding transactions on a completely impartial basis: only the quality of the crop matters. They are considered to be trustworthy people, both by producers and traders, insofar as they receive neither commission nor mandate from them.
To maintain this climate of trust and prevent the occurence of fraud, the national federation of French wine and spirits brokers (FNSCVSF) has introduced an official certification, validated by an internship with a broker and an examination to assess candidates' knowledge of winemaking and commercial law. Wine brokers are neutral and reassure winegrowers about the credentials of the traders, and traders about the quality of the growers' wines, especially when it comes to small wineries. The FNSCVSF estimates that there are 400 wine and spirits brokers in France, who are responsible for 60% of trade in the bulk market. Among them, approximately fifty brokers are singled out as experts who taste the wines without removing the bung from the barrels to ensure their quality. Then there is one last noteworthy category: the sworn brokers.
Following in the tradition of former royal and imperial brokers, they have the right to determine the price of wines, to estimate them in general stores and to benefit from exclusive rights to voluntary sales by public auction.
by Alexandra Reveillon