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Save money, invest in the future – if you have spare cash

It is possibly no coincidence that in the same week that the world’s top wine ‘experts’ head to Bordeaux to evaluate the latest “vintage of the century” from 2009, that Naked Wines has chosen to update the concept for more modern times.

The annual Bordeaux en primeur scramble sees wine writers, retailers and other influencers run from winery to winery on a glorified “Chateau Crawl” tasting each of the top wines to rate them WELL BEFORE they are released.

“Let the customer decide how good a wine is, how much it is worth, and IF they are prepared to pay in advance for an allocation”

Do the Chateau offer this for fun? For education? For marketing? No, it is all about points, prices and sales. The global demand is such that the judgement of the visitors, plus the ego and history of the winery, helps to set prices for bottles that will only leave the winery years later then probably rarely be drunk and many spend decades being sold by one investor to another.

It is a shame. In principle the idea is a good one: Let the customer decide how good a wine is, how much it is worth, and if they are prepared to pay in advance for an allocation of that wine, to lock-in some discount on the final retail price.

Interestingly, regular consumers CAN start to do some of this, and not be restricted to Bordeaux either. Naked Wines has created a “buy early, pay less” system that means that the earlier that consumers are willing to commit to buying a wine, the greater the discount they get on that wine. They have even already selected a small number of wineries, some of them well know names (such as Teusner Wines) to launch with, and they do not cost £200+ a bottle.

It ticks a lot of boxes for me on The Wine Conversation: it focuses on unusual wines with unique stories, it engages consumers with the wine process (which inevitably includes distribution) and it still gives them a unique price advantage (i.e. discount).

I do worry about how many wine consumers are really willing to part with their cash in advance, when the wine could take months to arrive and they have to buy a case, but it is a great start.

I also wonder whether the discount being offered is really attributable simply to removing risk and some of the costs of sale (it amounts to a 40%+ discount in some cases), but if the consumer is satisfied that the final retail price is real, and that they really are getting a discount and offering help to wineries, then maybe the model will become established.

We might be seeing something very new in wine buying here, it could be fun to be part of it.

Disclosure: I am a Naked Wines customer and I have already “invested” in one of these wines

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Past Discussions about Wine Future

I had forgotten about this talk. Ryan Opaz of Catavino, Andre Ribeirinho of Adegga and I got together to share some thoughts during the Wine Future Conference in Rioja in November 2009.

We attempted to broadcast this live, but I’m not sure it went out or was archived. Thankfully our very resourceful Eduardo Benito of VinusTV was present to record the event.

I hope you agree that there are some things worth thinking about (even if you were not at the event itself).

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Value of social media tools: a wine label example

Do you doubt the ability of Twitter to offer valuable and tangible business benefits? Then check out this little example.

I was at the Wines from Spain tasting today and I met Sarah. In fact we were already “friends” on twitter in our various alter-egos as @thirstforwine and @bottlegreenltd but had not really met in person. In any case, this twitter-enabled chat encouraged us to taste some of each others’ wines, and in the process I was asked what I thought of this label:

Knowing that such things are subjective, I thought I’d ask for wider input, so I shared the photo with twitter. Within 20 minutes, I had 15-20 responses to be able to gauge a more general view. In this case, unlike my own personal luke-warm stance, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Check out some of the reactions below (some are not included as the messages are private):

  1. JohnG
    quaffability @thirstforwine I do like. Very nicely executed. But my first reaction is that it’s vermouth, and I think that is a problem.
  2. ryanopaz
  3. Duarte Da Silva
    wineboffin I like it. RT @thirstforwine: http://twitpic.com/17xb65 – A new ‘retro’ Rioja label. What do you think? Like?
  4. Justin Liddle
  5. Fields Morris Verdin
  6. Champagne Warehouse
  7. Somewhere is Jeannie
  8. Joanna Harris
    joanna_h85 Love them!! RT @elliott_people: @thirstforwine – Bottlegreen are a great company, fab people and product!
  9. Golly Gumdrops
    GollyGD @thirstforwine It’s attractive, but at first glance I’d think – ooo is that Cafe Rouge’s new house wine label?
  10. Seven Springs Wine
    7SpringsWine @thirstforwine Yes I like it, different, standoutish on the shelves, looks a bit ‘devilish’. Tim
  11. Emma Blackmore
  12. Laura Lindsay
  13. Int'l Wine Challenge
  14. Àlex Duran
    AlexDuran_ Fine! RT: @thirstforwine: http://twitpic.com/17xb65 – A new ‘retro’ Rioja label. What do you think? Like?
  15. Richie Roberts
    RichieWine Great label… RT @thirstforwine: http://twitpic.com/17xb65 – A new ‘retro’ Rioja label. What do you think? Like? (via @wineboffin)
  16. Nayan Gowda
    vinosity @WineChallenge @thirstforwine I would say more Nouveau than Deco, but I also like it a lot.
  17. Chris Carter
    ccarter126 Classy RT @thirstforwine: http://twitpic.com/17xb65 – A new ‘retro’ Rioja label. What do you think? Like?

this quote was brought to you by quoteurl

How about that for value for business? With a properly planned out strategy for getting input and feedback from fans, friends and consumers in general, twitter and other social media tools can be very useful without being complicated or time-consuming. And they can be fun too!

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Divide and Conquer

Demoiselle Vranken
Image by thirstforwine via Flickr

Apologies for another in a line of short hiatus on this blog. Once again work and family take priority over my online musings, and the good news is that there are lots of interesting projects underway – I just can’t find the time (except just before midnight) to share much about them.

Other than the 2010 EWBC (have you signed up yet?), my priority at the moment is to do something a little contrary. I am considering splitting off some of my content from this site to a separate ‘home’ on Posterous, so that I can then re-integrate it here, but as a separate area. As someone who (tries to) blog about marketing and wine in the UK, I also get invited out to wine tastings, dinner and trips and I want to find a way to allow readers to select those parts of most interest to them. I also want to find the easiest ways to make sure I get you the fun stuff faster and more effectively, hence using posterous (if you have not checked it out, do!).

After that, I will try to properly integrate other content streams so that this site, or something like it, can bring more of my ramblings together in one place.

So, this place may seem a little quiet for a bit, but if you really miss me, you can check me out at any of the following places:

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New Wine Shopping Experience at Vinopolis London

Ever since I heard that Majestic would be moving out from under the arches at Bank End, the warren of brick tunnels between Borough Market and the Thames, home to Vinopolis, I wondered what would be happening there.

It was quickly announced that Laithwaites, one of the key retailing brands of the MASSIVE Direct Wines, the king of direct mail wine suppliers in this country, including The Sunday Times Wine Club and countless others, was to take over the space. I wondered how they would be using the opportunity. They already had a number of shops as well as their direct mail business, but this was a big change for them.

I was not disappointed by the effort they have made to make this a pleasant and welcoming shopping experience. Check it out yourself:

Although the Majestic shop that had been there was a bit of an institution, its warehouse style presentation, that works well in its shops around the country, didn’t quite fit the end of the Vinopolis experience. Much as I enjoy shopping in Majestic stores as a wine lover, they can be rather daunting to some, and moving from the Vinopolis Tour to a roomful of thousands of wines was a bit like getting someone to watch a single episode of The F Word then expecting them to run the kitchens at one of Gordon Ramsey’s restaurants.

The choice, presentation and decisions were rather overwhelming. Maybe even off-putting.

I hope Laithwaites apparent focus on the tasting table, and the space to explore around the displays, will be more welcoming for novice wine drinkers. I also hope they keep the range of wines available to taste as broad (and non-exclusive) as possible.

I didn’t have much time to look at the full range available. I did notice some well-known names from Australia, New Zealand, Spain and also a range of ‘Fine Wine’ (usually £20+ per bottle) but I wonder what regular consumers will make of the lack of the brands they are used to seeing in high street retailers for context?

In any case, let’s hope the site helps to welcome many more consumers to the enjoyment, variety and culture of wine.

The official opening is on February 19th (according to Tony Laithwaites blog) but you can already pop in today.

Disclaimer: in my professional role for wineries in Rioja, I am involved in supplying 1 wine to Laithwaites.

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