Sussex Wine Merchants
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About the company
Sussex Wine Merchants was founded in 1992 by Jim and Brigitte Weinrott. Startup capital was $30,000, about one-quarter of which was quickly eaten up by the purchase of an 8-year old UD truck with air brakes which presented Jim with one of the first great challenges of his professional life, as he didn’t know how to drive a truck with air brakes. Three months later, Jim’s brother-in-law, David Akre, who grew up outside of a lumber mill in northern Minnesota, bought into the company and became the Weinrotts’ partner.
Akre had two specific skillsets that the Weinrotts needed. First, David was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Second, Akre knew how to drive a forklift and an old truck with air brakes.
Ten years earlier, at age 25, while visiting Brigitte’s family in the Loire Valley, Weinrott traveled to Burgundy. He knocked on cellar doors incessantly on the Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune, meeting the likes of a young Christophe Roumier, Dominique Lafon, Philippe Charlopin, Michel Ampeau and others. One night, before dinner with Roumier and Lafon in Chambolle Musigny, Weinrott posed the following question:
“Imagine you’ve just moved your wife and children into a new house in April. Then, in July, there’s a flash hail storm and you lose 80% of your crop in less than two hours. You have two choices. Either you sell one-quarter of an acre in a village appellation to cover your losses so as to stay in your new home, or you are obliged to move your families. What would you do?”
Weinrott says that Lafon and Roumier looked at him like he was out of his mind. The young vignerons answered that not only would they never consider selling off a tenth of an acre, they’d never consider selling a single vine!
That conversation marked Weinrott and would be one of the critical seeds that went into the founding and credo of Sussex Wine Merchants.
Sussex directly imports small production wines from family owned estates in France, Italy, Germany and Argentina, as well as representing a small handful of carefully chosen wineries in California and Oregon. While many of our suppliers farm biodymically and/or organically, and all are highly focused on the elimination of the use of herbicides and pesticides in the vines, we have never adhered to a “check-the-box” approach towards defining the way growers should farm or vinify.
Instead, we look for winegrowers who share the passion, rigor and entrepreneurial commitment that Weinrott recognized in the two young vignerons in the summer of 1982 — artisanal innovators hell-bent on refining their craft, seemingly never quite satisfied with the wines they make.
About Shipped at 56: All of our wines, regardless of price, are picked up from the estate in temperature-controlled trucks, loaded into refrigerated containers, unloaded into refrigerated trucks to the Sussex warehouses, and then delivered to our customers’ loading docks in temperature-controlled vehicles.