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Behind Fine Wine | Xpeditr’s Adam Gungle and Warren Porter Discuss Shipping Rare Wine Collections

In this episode of Behind Fine Wine Warren Porter sits down with Adam Gungle of XPEDITR and a bottle of 2009 Marcassin Estate Chardonnay for IronGate.Wine’s interview series, Behind Fine Wine. In this episode Warren and Adam discuss XPEDITR‘s experience in shipping wine for clients who have large collections, such as the Bill Koch collection to the Sotheby’s Rare Wine Auction. Adam also shares tips and valuable insight into the safe care, storage and shipping of your vintage wine collection.

Interview Transcript

Warren: Hey everybody, thanks for joining us, I’m Warren Porter with IronGate.Wine and this is our video podcast called “Behind Fine Wine” where we talk to folks from the industry, from behind the scenes in the business of fine wine, and today I’d like to introduce you to my friend Adam Gungle, from XPEDITR, welcome Adam.

ADAM: Thank you Warren.

Warren: Nice to see you buddy. Adam has a wine shipping company that Wwe use exclusively. I met Adam quite a number of years ago when the shipping company that we used became- let’s just say less than stellar, and the last thing I want when we’re shipping our clients’ best wine is anything less than stellar. So, somebody introduced me to Adam, the reviews on Adam came in Incredibly well and he’s proved to be one of our greatest assets ever since, so, I’m looking forward to talking to Adam a little bit about the background end of getting wine from place to place, it sounds easy but I know: it’s not, there’s a lot of intricacies to it and while we do that, we’re going to have a 2009 Marcassin Estate Chardonnay. Are you a California wine drinker?

ADAM: I am, I drink everything.

WARREN: It’s summer- it’s starting summer, so I thought we would do a Chardonnay. So, give that guy a rip.

ADAM: Cheers.

WARREN: Cheers. I was at an auction in Chicago, and they were offering this wine, and it was about to pass at a great price, I quickly lifted my hand and then-

ADAM: That’s delicious.

WARREN: I was quite surprised when I got to the airport in Canada, where they chose to charge me an enormous amount of money on taxes. After looking it up on wine-searcher.com and telling me that the guy in midtown Manhattan sells it for about $900 a bottle, therefore, that’s what they’re going to charge me tax on.

ADAM: so you’re looking at either 40% if you take it across yourself, or 106% if you take it over-

WARREN: Well exactly, I take it across myself so it’s 40%, but as you know, the cost of wine varies greatly depending on whether or not you are in midtown Manhattan and you have overhead to the tune of 100grand a month or if you are in auction. Or whatever. But, Anyway, that’s here nor there. So, I Hope you enjoyed that wine.

ADAM: Thank you for sharing.

WARREN: I really like it, it’s one of my last bottle in the case, and I’m happy to share it with friends.

ADAM: Wow. I appreciate that.

WARREN: So, I’m always curious how someone gets into their business. How did you wind up, let’s say in shipping specifically, but more importantly, fine wine which is a real narrow niche? So, tell me about that.

ADAM: well, it started with- I was shipping highly explosive, temperature controlled resins from Germany to North America, then-

WARREN: What do you mean resin like-

ADAM:  So basically, we needed to make paint, and it was part of a recipe for paint, to go for BMW, Mercedes, Honda, things like that. So I actually got attuned to the logistics business and trained through that company, bringing in these explosive materials. So, what we did was; we we’re shipping in probably six tots- six truckload tots a week to match the demand. And I was doing that while I was going to school, University at the time. So, from there, I went to Pernod Ricard, which is a French liquor distribution company, and I was doing a supervisory role there, and I was shipping all the wine and spirits that you see in the liquor stores today you know like Jameson, Malibu, Absolut,all these big names. So, when I was working there, I just saw how many breakdowns in communication between brokers, between truckers, between Pernod Ricard and those truckers and also customs. And I also saw that customs were always changing their regulations of how to deal with alcohol coming in across the border, I mean, it’s not the same as milk, it’s a controlled substance, so, it was then when I had my call to adventure, my call to action, and I founded XPEDITR you be a problem solver for these issues.

WARREN: Wow, okay, what year was that?

ADAM: 2005.

WARREN: And so, you started– you left Pernod Ricard and launched XPEDITR. How does Somebody– because I know at Iron Gate Canada, we started it in wine storage and it took us forever to find clients, so, how did you wind up- I mean, you find your clients how? How did you wind up becoming the top of the game now in a period of only 10 years?

ADAM: Well, interesting enough, actually, we were just doing such a good job at what we were doing that we were getting referrals, people were calling us, I actually got a call one day from this guy and he said to me; ” I’ve got this pallet of wine, it’s a four by four pallet of wine, it’s $3000 a bottle, so it’s a million-dollar pallet, can you get this done for me? I need you get this from point A to point B. If you can do this, you should be able to do this”. And I said-

WARREN: That’s a lot of Mateus, that’s what you say.

ADAM: Yeah, so, I looked around in the market to try to find a solution to this, and again, we’re the problem solver in the industry, there was no one that was doing it, no one that was doing it right. And so, there becomes an issue of insurance, there becomes a risk issue, and also a trust Issue. You have to trust that that wine is going to get there, temperature controlled, properly at 56 degrees Fahrenheit or 13-14 degrees Celsius.

WARREN: So all you guys do is temp control, because I’ve got people that ask us; “can we ship in this shoulder season, which is going to be like spring and fall, because the ambient temperature outside is 13-ish degrees and so”, if the wine doesn’t mean that much or isn’t overly expensive, then sometimes I say okay, but not if it’s with you guys. If they’re sending it through FedEx or whatever so-

ADAM: everything we do is temperature controlled weather it’s the proper temperature outside or not. We will ship it at 56 degrees Fahrenheit. The reason for that; when you’re going along a far route, let’s say from California to New: York or vice versa, the temperature is going to change throughout the night, through the mountains, altitude, you have to think of all that, and a lot of people just assume that “Its 56 degrees at my place, at my residence, it must be like that everywhere”.

WARREN: Yeah.

ADAM: But it’s really not. You really want to procure the ultimate ageing process, for wine, you don’t want it to go through any bottle shock.

WARREN: yeah.

ADAM:  So that’s where we made our debut, we were climate controlled, we are climate controlled shipping, 100% of the time, and we make sure that we get it done from A to B properly. That’s why we’re the number one choice, the gold standard for wine shipping.

WARREN: Yeah. I mean it’s been great for us because there’s one thing that I don’t want is any concern when it leaves and then you talk about- you know you talk about making sure that it gets from point A to point B at the proper temperature, and that’s really one thing that all our people care about, one thing I’ve always loved dealing with you over the years. I can just move it over and know that it’s going to arrive really, really well. You talked about also mitigating risk and insurance, so, where’s the main risk, like what keeps you up at night? What’s the big thing that you go-?

ADAM: well obviously, if you have a shipment that’s worth$20 million moving through the night, yeah, that’s going to keep me up at night, but, you got to increase velocity, reduce drag, do all the research you can, take off all of the different risks, knock them all off, basically like to say, to look at the landmines in the road ahead. And make sure you nail all these down ahead of time, you think of plan B, plan C, plan D, you make sure that you have all these things sorted out, so you’re prepared for any contingency, and that helps you sleep better at night, but we’ve got GPS, thermal tracking on every truck, so we can tell exactly if that wine goes up a degree or down a degree, we’re able to tell that instantly.

WARREN: Okay, Actually I didn’t know that. I know that you guys tracked but I didn’t know that it was GPS tracking as it kind of made its way through the chain.

ADAM: there’s also a new app that we’re using called– I believe it’s called Radar, it’s through blackberry, through RIM, and what they do is; every time a trailer door opens or closes, it tells you. It gives you a message, so, if someone is going in there in the middle of the night, or it’s at a truck stop, and it just happened to be opened, we get a read on every single thing that’s happening in that truck’s process, that’s why our competitors can’t match us. We just have efficiencies that nobody else has access to.

WARREN: But I guess you could also do that; you could have those efficiencies because you’re narrowly focused in a very specific way. Right?

ADAM: yes.

WARREN: So, if a guy is moving wine that is with a bunch of oranges and whatever else, that’s a different business, so being able to only do that specific product would give you a lot more.

ADAM: Right. And after- you know, like I mentioned earlier, when we had that call from that gentleman that had to move these expensive wines, we figured out that nobody could do it. We actually built a business around serving those customers and we’ve grown that business. It took a couple years to build a network of trust with drivers and everybody involved so you know that that product gets there from A to B.

WARREN: The one thing I want to ask you about is; Is XPEDITR purely domestic? When I say domestic, I mean north America, or Internationally, because we get a lot of clients that need to move wine back from Geneva or Hong Kong, or whatever, so, what do you guys play in that field?

ADAM: so, we currently ship North America, but, we have a footnote in France and Italy, and the UK as well. We’re currently expanding our plan for actually end of 2018 is to expand into Hong Kong and help that market. There’s a lot of wine moving back and forth between Hong Kong and the U.S.

WARREN: There’s a lot of wine moving back and forth between there. And we do a lot of that. So, I’m glad you mentioned that because I want to talk to you about that as well at some point because we’re seeing a great demand from Hong Kong and from other places. We’ve just put in a set up on our website where people can buy from all over the world. So, that’s good to know. When you say a footprint, what is that Exactly?

ADAM: Do we have trucks in the major cities in France and Italy, and they run up and down between France, Italy and the U.K. So, we’ll go pick up wine collections, if somebody is moving and domesticating into the U.S, or they’re immigrating over to France and Italy. We have a lot of military clients that have to move around a lot, and they want to bring their wine collections with them.

WARREN: And so, but your company in the north American market, where would you kind of sit yourself on a scale of the companies in this specific industry.

ADAM: we’re the gold standard when it comes to wine shipping, when you look at our competitors, they can try to do what we do, but trying isn’t good enough. Essentially, we’re the only company dedicated to just wine shipping. Everyone else has their business and they do wine shipping on the side. So, we’re the only fine wine dedicated shipping company.

WARREN: Because it’s not just about wine and Temperature, but there’s a lot of– because it’s alcohol, people forget, when it comes to selling alcohol, they forget that there’s a lot of licenses, rules and regulations, people don’t realize. So, it’s critical to know what it takes to cross borders, the various paper works to do, it’s not just furniture or oranges or whatever, this is– you talked about cutting your teeth on explosives, resins and stuff as you’re saying that, I’m thinking: I can only imagine what it takes to get that into the country when it’s so hard for us to ship things that are high alcohol volume. So, that specialty is really, really important I would have to think because nobody wants their wine stuck at customs. Right?

ADAM: Right, and your wine could be sitting there for three-four days. And you think: ‘okay customs have it” Well, customs warehouse are not temperature controlled. So, depending on whatever it is outside, that’s what temperature your wine is going to be at.

WARREN: So that level of knowledge is critical I would think.

ADAM: Yeah, there’s a lot of different things you won’t even think about until you’re in the middle of shipping your wine collection. So if you try to do it on your own, imagine trying to buy a business on your own without consulting a lawyer. Imagine trying to buy a home without consulting a real estate agent. These are the risks that you would take if you try to do this endeavor on your own.

WARREN: Yeah, it’s a good analogy. So, when we ship with you guys, these are private collections, so, how much of your business becomes private, and how much of it becomes commercial? Commercial meaning you know, you’re shipping for a corporation to their different places and private meaning your shipping for people because they move or whatever. What’s– like how much do you do in each?

ADAM: I would say that 40% of our business is private collections, so actually doing the white glove, going into someone’s home, cataloging, inventory.

WARREN: you guys do all that too?

ADAM: Yes. Packing up their wine collection and getting it climate controlled safely to the next home. 30% of the rest would be in auction. So, weather you’re auctioning off art or wine, and you need to get that delivery to your home, we’ll do that for you.

WARREN: you guys do art too?

ADAM: Yes.

WARREN: Okay.

ADAM: I actually just moved a Picasso a few weeks ago U.S domestic.

WARREN: I’ve heard of it.

ADAM: For things like that, we have to– when we’re dealing with that kind of value in the hundreds of millions of dollars, you can’t even insure it, because if that’s gone, it’s gone.

WARREN: That would keep you up at night.

ADAM: Yes, so we’ve got-

WARREN: I’d sit on the back of the truck if a Picasso is moving under my watch.

ADAM: Yeah, we have staff members that follow the truck, we’ve got ex-military guys, with machine guns and-

WARREN: Really?

ADAM: -and handguns with them, and they follow the truck 150 to 200 yards behind. So, you have to.

WARREN: wow.

ADAM: We have the truck drivers do a team start sort of thing so, the truck never stops, it’s always moving. To get back to your other question, 20% of our business is also wineries, so if you order enough wine from a winery when it constitutes a shipment to your home. We will facilitate that transaction for you.

WARREN: I actually thought you guys only did wine but I wasn’t really sure what– do you guys have any– what’s your craziest experience? What is a situation you walked into- maybe not crazy experience, because I can’t imagine- your time is to mitigate anything crazy Right? So, what would be a duration that you walked into that you went; “okay this one’s going to be a little bit of work, this is going to be something we’re going to have to do a little bit of extra stuff” And we all get these, right, we get something where it’s very remote or where the quantity is crazy large, or the value is really high or the client is very famous or infamous and wants to remain– right so what would be something that you guys have done that-

ADAM: Right. We take confidentiality very seriously, we don’t really discuss our clients, our clients’ names, its-

WARREN: ou and me both.

ADAM: But I can talk-

WARREN: In general.

ADAM: I can talk about generalities or what’s been in the media already which would be; the Bill Koch collection was a massive collection.

WARREN: That was sold at Sotheby’s rare wine auction, right?

ADAM: yeah, I think that was sold– it fetched north of $22 million. Congratulations to the Sotheby’sputting it together, that was amazing.

WARREN: Yeah, it’s huge I was at a Zachy’s wine auction that weekend and everybody was talking about the Bill Koch collection. We were in a quiet restaurant, I mean Zachy’s did very well but everybody was going on about the Bill Koch collection. So, you guys did that, you moved it form Bill Koch’s place to-

ADAM: We did.

WARREN: Wow. That’s a great feather in your cap, to be entrusted with that.

ADAM: It’s huge and that was an amazing collection, he had 1700s, 18th century wines in there, it was beautiful stuff.

WARREN: Yes, very unique.

ADAM: But, one of the most interesting that we’ve been on actually, it was in Los Angeles, that night, I was doing a delivery with a truck, there was about $10 to $11 million worth of wine in that truck, and I flew down myself to facilitate the delivery. And I was walking around the place, and there was just no entrance to this home. There was a 15-acre property, there was no entrance to the home, it was just bush and Someone cries out to me– not cries out, someone says to me: “Excuse me sir, what are you doing here” And I said– I looked around, I’m thinking: “there’s no way he’s talking to me, but there’s nobody here” I looked around and he said: “yes sir we’re talking to you. I said: “okay, I’m here, Im Adam from XPEDITR, I’m here to deliver the wine”. All of a sudden, the bush just opens up.

WARREN: No way.

ADAM: And there’s three armed guards there ready to take the truck in.

WARREN: Wow.

ADAM: I was just blown away, it was unbelievable, so because it was at night, they had– I’m not sure what they’re called, but they had those comes that you would see at the airport when they’re directing the airplane in.

WARREN: Yeah.

ADAM: So they had a guy there, and he was directing the truck in, onto tune platform or the driveway. And we’re standing there, all of a sudden, the driveway just gives way and we’re on a 40 for custom built hydraulic lift that goes into this guy’s underground lair, and he has a team of people that unloads the wine off the truck. It was like I was-

WARREN: Like Tony Stark.

ADAM: Like a bond villain.

WARREN: That’s crazy.

ADAM: It was quite amazing.

WARREN: You do get to see a lot of interesting people’s-

ADAM: We do.

WARREN: -Homes and the set ups that they have for their wine collections and things like that. There’s been things I’ve seen that you just go: ” I never even would have thought that this kind of stuff existed.

ADAM: Yeah. it’s just, it’s amazing the craftsmanship they put inti these hones as well.

WARREN: That’s very cool. So, I don’t want to keep you too long, but I’m going to ask you for a couple of tips, so someone is going to move their wine collection and whether that’s 100 bottles or 10,000 bottles, that’s obviously a very personal thing to move, right, were not moving bricks and what have you. You’re always dealing with people at an emotional level and so, when someone is looking to make that move and move their wine collection, what are the things you tell then to do to get it set up or what would be your advice to someone looking to move their collection?

ADAM: well the first thing is to choose a wine transporter that you trust, that you know has a good reputation, and he’s going to get it there. The next thing is to keep good record keeping. A lot of people, I would say 70% of clients, if you’re one of those clients that keep good records, good for you, but, 70% of clients have no idea what wine they have in their cellar.

WARREN: And this is why you inventory while you’re there?

A This is why we inventory while we’re there.

WARREN: Do you guys inventory automatically or if they say: “inventory for me”? Is it like a must you have to do it?

A No it’s not a must

WARREN: Okay.

ADAM: It’s a service, an extra service if you want to get that done. But– So it’s good to keep an inventory because if you have an emergency respond situation like a flood or a hurricane, or you just want to ship the wine, you got to know where your most expensive bottles are.

WARREN: Yeah.

ADAM: And I always tell people: “keep a hard copy and a soft copy of the wine collection, and don’t keep it in the cellar, you know the power goes out the electronic copy’s gone, if you get flooded, the hard copy’s ruined. So, keep good record keeping, it’s very simple to do once you start. The most important thing to have when you’re shipping your wine, is to make sure that you’ve got proper cartons and boxes. That they’re going to go into. We supply those, you supply those as well. But, you have to make sure that you’re not just shipping it in some kind of liquor store box that you got for free. Because there’s a certain pound test on a box when you’re stacking wine on top of each other, you don’t want then to crumple the bottom box, break the necks off.

WARREN: You bet. In fact, it was funny because we just ordered a bunch more, a Renata company called me and went: “why are these so expensive?” I went: ” cos they’re really good, they’re double wall, they’ve got inserts and everything, these are the kinds of boxes that we want” Better to do that than to try to save a couple of pennies on each box when you consider the value of the cargo.

ADAM: Of course, some of these boxes can be north of $20,000 just for a case of wine.

WARREN: Yeah.

ADAM: As much as you can afford to buy these wines, you might not be qualified to take them out of your home and move them around. Some people just put them in the back seat of their car, within four hours, that fruit in that wine is going to start getting cooked out of it. And then you try to open that bottle up ten years later and it’s ruined.

WARREN: And plus people– you often think about how when they go to move, they don’t realize the magnitude of that job, because you’ve got– and you’re building all these– and then when it gets to your new place, you’ve got to figure out how this is going to be laid out. Because you know we move wine collections using you guys and when we do that, you plan the way it’s showing up in the new place and how we’re organizing, whether it’s Bordeaux here or Burgundy here, or grid system or whatever, you lay all that out in advance, and then you’re not you know, shuffling and moving stuff around anymore than necessary, so, yeah, I agree, a lot of planning on the front end is good. How do people find you? How do they find your company if they need to move wine for whatever reason, whether it’s moving or otherwise?

ADAM: Funny enough, you know the first ten years of business, we didn’t even have a website. So, we were just word of mouth only, but now, recently, we have put ourselves online, we have a website at www.xpeditr.com

WARREN: How do you spell that?

ADAM: XPEDITR is spelled XPEDITR dot com.

WARREN: Okay.

ADAM: And from then you can go on, you can fill out. Quote request form, you can have a general inquiry, you can post your wine collection up if you want to get it evaluated. Or as well, you can subscribe to our newsletter and you can get quick tips and tricks on how to manage your wine cellar, and how to prepare it for a hurricane or a flood.

WARREN: Okay, perfect, hood stuff. Well Thank you Adam, thanks for coming buddy.

ADAM: You’re welcome.

WARREN: I appreciate it, and there’s always lots of stuff that goes on behind the world of fine wine and that’s what we always like to talk about so, thanks again to my buddy Adam from XPEDITR we look forward to shipping our wine through his company for a long time in the future because they always do such a good job, so cheers.

ADAM: Thank you Thanks for sharing this beautiful wine.

WARREN: Thank you very much and thanks for joining us this afternoon and you’re welcome. Thank you.

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