Photo by Paul Cheney Ignacio Carrillo launched his import and wholesale company in June 2019

Country, Culture, Wine

Cardel Wines is a local importing and wholesaling company born out of a love for the family-owned Spanish wineries owner Ignacio Carrillo visited before launching the Charleston-based company that’s supplying restaurants and retail shops with curated bottles.  

“Some of the wines we bring might only make 300 bottles,” Carrillo said. “A lot of these wineries, the only place you’re going to find them in the United States is in Charleston.” 

Cardel Wines’ bottles are so rare because the wineries producing them aren’t on social media or actively marketing their products — some don’t even have a website. So how did Carrillo find them? 

“In 2015, I was sent to Spain for an assignment, and I took my wife with me,” said Carrillo, a mechanical engineer. “During this time, we spent every weekend traveling around all the historic regions around Spain. We encountered all of this food and wine that they had in each region, and we fell in love with the country, culture and their wine.” 

Subsequent trips to Spain only increased this passion for family-owned “bodegas” that produce wines expressing the unique characteristics and flavors of their territories, Carrillo said.

“During one of those trips, I visited a winery in southern Spain, and one of the wines they gave me was something I had never tasted before,” he said. “That sparked my idea to get into the wine business.”

Initially, Carrillo wanted to solely import the wines, but he couldn’t find a wholesaler to carry his products, leading him to also open a wholesale business. 

“It was a hassle getting all the licenses because I was trying to do everything myself,” he said. But after 15 months, Carrillo began selling his Spanish wines to Charleston restaurants and retail shops in June 2019. 

Building a customer base was difficult — small wholesalers like Cardel Wines struggle to compete with bigger companies that get volume pricing for large orders, Carrillo said. 

“Any cost that I have to add, I have to find ways to cut that cost so I can offer my wines at a price that can compete with them,” he said. “It’s just hard to get new customers, especially with COVID.”  

Cardel Wines currently sells to Dashi, Park Cafe, Accent on Wine and Wine & Company, among others. So far, his local customers have been impressed with the product offering, which will soon expand to include select Mexican wines and ciders.  

“The wines that Ignacio has chosen have a limited number of bottles produced and can only be found in South Carolina since he is a direct importer and distributor,” said Dashi general manager Paul Brylinski. “Not only are they great prices, but the wines are all small family wineries in Spain that genuinely care about the product. We love working with Cardel.” 

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