Archive for the ‘wine’ Category

Wine 2.0

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

How about a glass of wine 2.0?

About a year ago I began investigating the possibilities of making my own wine. I have been a wine lover for a very, very long time and the next logical step for me was to learn how to make it myself, just the way I like it. This was when I discovered , and got pretty excited. I came across Crushpad via one of the many wine blogs I was following at the time, and began to seriously consider how to make that happen. Crushpad offered something that seemed to be just short of owning your own vineyard and being formally trained as a winemaker. It also, at it’s core, leverages the internet and takes advantage of several web based technologies to tie you to the making, the process, and the waiting as your wine ferments.

First, though, just a bit of background. With the advent of the internet and all things social media, the wine world has gone through a massive transformation. People who are passionate about wine have an abundance of resources to explore to pursue that passion as completely, and obscurely, as they desire. They also can easily find thousands of others who share their passion and interest, and swap reviews and recommendations. Wine blogging has exploded in the last few years, as has blogging about everything else, but wine blogging has an incredibly focused audience. Two favorites that I subscribe to are and , which also offers some excellent podcasts. If you enjoy wine, check these two out. They are both massively networked to hundreds and hundreds of other wine blogs, but these two are my consistent favorites for the quality of the writing, the reviews, and the creative sentiment brought to wine. Another HUGE influence in the world of wine online is Gary Vaynerchuk’s , Gary’s daily video blog of wine reviews and information with attitude, humor, passion and intelligence. It is also incredibly entertaining. Gary seems ubiquitous these days, and has brought an energy to wine online that is probably setting the bar very, very high. In fact, with regards to online marketing in general, Gary is very much an innovator, early adopter, and social media guru. More than most, Gary Vaynerchuk has quickly turned tools like into incredibly powerful connections to his audience. Rock on.

So, back to Crushpad, which I found via this exploding online community around wine. What I found so compelling about what the folks at Crushpad are doing is how easily they can connect you to the most important aspects of making wine… choosing the grapes and detailing the style of wine you want to create, along with keeping you apprised as your wine develops over time. They do this by forging very strong relationships with the grape growers and partnering with excellent winemakers. You can be involved at whatever level you would like, from incredibly hands-on and present at every step, or simply by checking in via web cam. You can monitor the progress of your wine via a dashboard and feel connected to the maturation process, etc. All very cool. Now, I have yet to actually DO this, but am again thinking about how to make it happen. It is just a bit cost prohibitive for me, but my idea last year, and the idea I am about to revive, is to get together a small group of similarly passionate wine lovers and have everybody “buy in” to the wine that I plan to make. Crushpad offers a number of different approaches to getting in, but my thinking is to put a group together and buy an entire barrel, which equates to roughly 25 cases, or 300 bottles of wine. I’m thinking 10 investors, which would give each investor 30 bottles of wine when completed. Taking this full circle, we would have a label designed for the bottles that tells this story, and acknowledges each individual investor, thus also personalizing the experience for them. They can monitor our progress online, and I will blog about the entire experience here. I’ve only just revived my motivation for doing this, and this could be considered the first VC round for my first experiment in making wine. I’m a Wine 2.0 startup. If this is something enjoyable, and if the wine is really good, I want to make this an annual experience and expand the number of people and the types of wine we make. My sense is that this would be really, really fun.

Reinvestigating The Wine Bottle

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

While scanning the shelves of our local wine store, I found one bottle distinct among the hundreds of others. It is the , pictured below, and the bottle form is refreshingly different.

Voga Italia wine bottle

Contrasted against the typical wine bottle, it looks modern, functional, and ultimately pretty cool. I imagine that alone has been enough for this wine to meet with some success in the marketplace. Admittedly, I am a sucker for cool packaging… I think our entire culture is, but the question going through my mind is why more wineries are not experimenting with the packaging of their product. The shelves of your wine shop are essentially dominated by a form factor that has been largely unchanged for hundreds of years. This shape can be traced back to around 300CE. In 1867 earthenware bottle shaped were discovered in a Roman sarcophagus dating to 325CE. So, the wine bottles on our shelves today are marginally improved versions of packaging created nearly 2000 years ago. Now that’s some serious design longevity. Is it because the wine bottle is the perfect shape in which to store and ship wine? Is it simply an unchallenged convention? Is is a cost issue?

I imagine that at some level the answer to all three of those questions is believed to be “yes.” But is it really? There is a terrifically strong argument that as these bottles compete on the shelves for the attention of the wine buyer that anything they can do to stand out, to be different, is going to be an advantage. This strategy has played out almost comically on our grocery store and discount department store shelves. Look at ketchup or laundry detergent. Products packaged well, sell well. Products that are packaged expertly have the potential to lead their categories. Naturally, to sustain sales the product must also deliver on consumer expectations for quality and performance. Now, we love wine and are constantly shopping for new experiences. It is stunning to me that as we scan the bottles of Califonia Syrah, Burgundy Pinot Noir, Loire Valley Sancerre, and Italian Barrolo we are essentially looking at the same bottle. There may be minor variations in the color and tint of the glass. There may be subtle differences in the glass thickness, in the punt, or the neck length, but essentially… it’s the same damn bottle. Now, some of this is determined by the governing bodies of the regions in which the grapes are grown and these wines are made, like the in France. But plenty of winemakers in all governed regions defy convention and the laws of the governing bodies (and their arcane rules) to do things their own way, and they do that successfully. At least one winemaker understands the value of differentiation, and their packaging (incredibly similar to that used for Voss water) was enough to get us to buy a bottle and try it… and had it been in a typical Pinot Grigio bottle we would have kept on walking. As it turned out, the wine was not bad. It was a nice summer, good value, patio sitting, crisp white wine. For the money, and with the packaging figure in, it over-delivered on the experience.

I state the obvious when I say that wine bottle shape has much to do with tradition, but it is a package that is desperate for creative thinking and innovation. The storage issue alone demands that the bottle shape be revisited. Add to that opportunities for limiting packaging waste, shipping in smaller boxes, and improved durability and there are compelling reasons to think differently about the wine bottle.