Uncorked Ventures Blog
Since we opened our virtual doors in January of 2010, we’ve seen quite a few changes in the wine club space. The biggest one though has been the rise of the major media backed wine clubs.
It seems like every newspaper in America is starting its own wine club these days in order to try and bring in some extra revenue.
I should start by saying there are a few wine clubs that I have lot of respect for. We’ve run into them buying from some of the same wineries that we’ve spoken with, or we simply know based on conversations which have been relayed to us that they generally care about their customers in the same way that we care about ours. While I still think we consistently source the best wine of any wine club out there (we’re the only ones comfortable showing every wine we ship, every month, directly on our website), I can comfortably say there are a small handful of other clubs doing a good job for consumers as well.
The major media backed clubs fall into that category.
It’s unfortunate, but these major media backed wine clubs have been set up to simply take advantage of the marketing acumen, ad space and subscriber lists which come with being a newspaper or magazine with decades in publication.
The average consumer thinks that the wine writers at these outlets have some role in selecting the wines which are shipped. They don’t. These clubs are run by a 3rd party company, the media companies are hands off other than marketing.
I’ve been amazed that no one in the industry has said anything, until now.
In a recent Wine Spectator issue James Laube mentioned newspaper wine clubs and strongly suggested that you don’t buy wine from them, ever. Evidently he has seen the same type of shipments that we’ve seen, cheap wine or worse yet, private label wine which literally can’t be sold for full retail anywhere. It isn’t a good deal at 50% off, if the retail price is grossly over inflated.
If you don’t know what a private label is, a quick idea is a wine from a winery which only exists on a piece of paper. You can’t visit. You generally don’t get any AVA designation outside of the most generic such as “California”. Frankly speaking, consumers spend money on wine because they like a good story and they like to know who made their wine and why it was made the way it was. At least our customers do. As a consumer I do. Private labels largely increase profits by undermining the exact reasons why consumers like wine.
As both a small business owner in the wine space and also as a consumer, thank you James Laube.
As we move into February you might think thinks seem a bit quiet around here. As always, things happen behind the scenes. In the next few weeks you should see some major changes around here at Uncorked Ventures:
- Expanded Gift Basket offerings
- Major website pages get a re-design and upgrade
- New and improved email communications
As with any business we strive to continue to improve not only our products (by finding better wine) but also our customer experience. If you have any suggestions for us in ways that can make the site run more smoothly, please let us know.
I recently saw a press release which made me think.
The French wine region of Alsace has hired a PR firm in the hopes of expanding their appeal within the United States. A couple of thoughts immediately came to mind after reading the release:
-Last year I attended a tasting sponsored by a similiar group for Bordeaux. They poured quite a few wineries who were still struggling with lackluster (largely) scores and little American market penetration because of it. The wines were all quite good and it was a great event to learn some more about why Bordeaux is as special as it is, but I was left wondering why some of the wineries which had sent people to pour their wines at significant expense, choose employees who spoke little to no English. It was strange-I hope Alsace can learn from this.
-Secondly, they choose to quote or mention at least 4 Sommeliers in their release. Each of which works at an east coast restaurant. Given current market penetrations, I would have thought they could have at least mentioned someone in San Francisco or Los Angeles if they plan on trying to sell wine here (a note: they do).
In any case, there is certainly more and more competition for wine dollars. For us, that's a positive development.
It isn’t surprising that the best wine section in any newspaper in the country isn’t found back east, but instead is found in San Francisco.
One aspect of the paper that I absolutely love is their Inside Scoop series.
I noticed a short story in Wines and Vines the other day about the continued growth of wineries in the United States. It seems that year over year there are 450 or so new wineries in the United States, with about half of those coming from....you guessed it, California.
I've been telling people there are over 5,000 commercially active wineries in the United States, it seems that is a number that I need to adjust up quite a bit as the final American talley is well over 7,000.
For a wine club, more choice is definitely a good thing especially since so many of these entries are going to be small operations for a while and likely will fit the mold of what we're looking for, if they can achieve some really high quality wine.
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