This story starts many years ago when I first met my wife. She wasn’t a wine drinker, but decided to join me in one of my passions. I remember my excitement as I dashed to the wine cooler to get something special for our first bottle together. The next evening, when I casually grabbed a bottle from my everyday stash, she asked me why I wasn’t getting the wine from the same place. That’s where I keep the best bottles, I responded, these are the ones I drink as everyday wine. Then she said it…
“Why do you ever drink anything beside the good bottles? What’s the point of everyday wine?”
That was the day my wine world came crashing down. I had been making a monthly pilgrimage to my big wine retailer of choice armed with lists of best buys. Scouring the shelves, I scraped together cases of decent tasting, I hoped, $15 bottles of everyday wine.
And I don’t think I was alone. Later, I learned that roughly 80% of wine sales in the USA were at bottle prices of less than $15. I was worshipping at that everyday wine altar with the rest of the wine pilgrims. But why, I had to ask myself. And that started my journey to find a better than everyday wine alternative.
The system is rigged
At the time, the bottles from my excessive number of wine clubs averaged about $40 to $60 dollars. My most recent wine club offer came in at a lofty $80 a bottle. Even with a club discount of 10% to 20%, that’s an expensive bottle to open for my nightly glass of wine.
Then came Coravin. A way to extract wine from a bottle without opening it permanently. Skeptical at first, I soon found myself nonchalantly grabbing a glass from the “best bottles” cooler serene in the knowledge that my cherished wine was protected. Soon my everyday stash disappeared, to the smiling approval of my sweetheart.
But my checkbook was less than pleased.
The cost of those bottles did add up. And although I was drinking better wine, I was basically drinking the same wines all the time.
When I started researching my alternatives, I learned the hard realities. About 70% of all wine sales are dominated by roughly a dozen mega-brands. Uber consolidators of wine labels that become impressive channel masters. They leverage a couple premium labels to push through their other higher volume wines. And the same is true for distribution, their cronies in this lopsided system, with 3 mega-distributors controlling over 50% of wine sales.
Wine country, here I come
I got lucky. Following my dream, I relocated to Sonoma, CA., one of the country's largest artisan wine producing regions. Not only was I in an epicenter of artisan wineries, I was surrounded by wine insiders with great access to winemakers across Washington, Oregon and California.
I followed another dream, pursuing WSET wine certification - which is currently level 2 with distinction. And I started working with a group of fellow wine lovers that helped small wineries put wine offers on a variety of different e-commerce sites.
During 2021, we launched a pilot site to test our ideas. We reached out to several artisan wineries that agreed to offer group buying discounts of up to 70% on partial and full cases of their limited release wines. We set up an e-commerce site called Divvy-Up that allowed people to group buy - basically do a virtual split - on cases of the wines. We’re convinced that the internet plus sharing economy concepts can connect wine lovers directly with small, artisan wineries. And by skipping traditional distribution, pass some eye-popping discounts on to the consumer.
It was a fun project that proved several things. First, by going direct to the wineries we could provide unique, premium artisan wines at $15-$20 a bottle in partial and full case volumes. Second, we built a new shared shopping cart that made it easy for multiple people to split a case - buying just the bottles they wanted. Case discounts at less than case volumes. Third, if we could get enough wine lovers together, there were many artisan wineries ready to participate.
We can make it happen, together
The key to making this work will be creating a substantial buying group. We've gone back to enhance the shared shopping cart with feedback from our experience. In parallel, we're building out a community of wine lovers that would be interested in this new approach to the better than everyday wine alternative.
I'll be providing tips on finding the best artisan wines for your taste, profiles of artisan wineries, reviews of limited release wines, and pointers to great deals on artisan wines when I find them. Hopefully, you'll join our newsletter list and our community as we build out our buying group. Sign up below.
Our project to connect small wineries directly with wine buyers was my eventual answer to my wife’s question. Combining winery direct access with sharing economics to offer a better than everyday wine at everyday prices. And here I was thinking that I’d be teaching my wife all about wine many years ago, when it was me that received the most important lesson.
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All reviews are my personal opinion. I accept samples for review, but do not guarantee publication if I don't personally feel the wine would appeal to the community. If you'd like to send a sample or have me visit your winery thank you. Please use this form to start the conversation.