The New Wave of Direct Wine Sales

Here in the belly of the beast, members of the Napa wine trade tend to slowly nod their heads and wear a knowing smile when discussing the benefits and allure of direct to consumer sales. Margins. “Life Time Value of Customers”. Brand Ambassadors. Freedom from FOB sales. It is, as we say, “all good”.  When basking in the glow of the implication of full margin sales, It’s sometimes easy to forget who the real lovers of direct sales are: The consumer!

The value of buying wine direct from the producer is altogether different and even more meaningful to the consumer, than it is to the producers sell the wine—despite the great margins:

1. Guarantee of the wines provenance. This is particularly important to those folks buying the really rare and really expensive stuff.

2. An important bond and connection established with artisans and families.

3. The extraordinary convenience of having access to wines well beyond what the the limiting three-tier system tends to put on local store shelves.

Whats notable about all this, however, is that the benefits that accrue to the consumer are all in the context of connecting with domestic wineries, rather than foreign wineries. Large oceans alone make this the case for Americans who prefer a direct connection with the producers of the wines they drink. However, there is no doubt that the same benefits consumers derive from doing business directly with American wineries could be had with foreign wineries if direct sales from these producers were possible.

In steps VinConnect.

It’s a fairly simple concept. Consumers visit, sign up for the mailing lists of any of 20 (currently) wineries working with the company and voilla—they receive mailing list offers and allocations direct from these wineries when new vintages are released. Payment is made and the wine shows up on door steps just as they do from American wineries.

Kevin Sidders is the mastermind behind VinConnect; the man who has helped convince a number of top French and Italian wineries to sell direct to American consumers and who has convincingly demonstrated to these wineries’ importers that they lose nothing in the process—neither customers nor funds. And the number of wineries that will be offering mailing list membership via VinConnect will be increasing.

Currently, among the wineries that have opened their mailing lists to American wine consumers via VinConnect are:

Clos de Tart, Vincent Girardin and Louis Michel from Burgundy; Domaine du Pegau, M&S Ogier, Vieille Julienne from the Rhone Valley; La Spinetta, Borgogno, Roberto Voerzio from Italy’s Piedmont region; Castello del Rampolla, Il Carnascialle, La Massa – Giorgio Primo, and Le Macchiole from Tuscany. Among others.

VinConnect’s Sidders really has two roadblocks to overcome in making this seemingly obvious and promising model work. First, Americans have little if any experience buying direct from non-domestic wineries. They literally have to be shown that they can do it, rather than seemingly knowing they can. The other obstacle is the absence of any tasting rooms for consumers to discover and initially connect with these non-domestic brands. While it’s true that many an American winery also lacks a tasting room where their wines can be discovered, at least their status as an American winery means consumers have confidence they can, once introduced to the winery, purchase direct.

Sidders is a smart, industrious fellow who understands the challenges to making VinConnect a rousing success. And though he is not currently smiling like Napa and Sonoma winery owners when he contemplates the benefits of direct sales, he is nodding knowingly. What’s more, by all accounts, those consumers who have taken advantage of the VincConnect service are doing both.

To sign up for the mailing list of he various VinConnect partner wineries you need only fill in your info here—it costs 30 seconds.

4 Responses

  1. Terroirist: A Daily Wine Blog » Daily Wine News: We’re Nosy - October 11, 2012

    […] Wark profiles VinConnect, the exciting new company that enables consumers to order wines directly from overseas […]

  2. bruce nichols - October 11, 2012

    Love the concept, but even if I lived in one of the 33 states that they are allowed to ship to (I’m not – Florida), my biggest concern is how it works its way say from Morey Sr. Denis to the final destination. I have a summer home in Maine where it can be shipped, but a very expensive bottle of Clos de Tart going from Burgundy, through Customs, to Sonoma and then back across the US to Maine scares the hell out of me!
    Yes, I know the major Importers and Distributors (Wilson Daniels) may do it, but their sheer scale is some comfort that the wine is truly experiencing minimal handling, minimal time on a dock or warehouse, and transportation is under refrigerant from Domaine to my doorstop.
    Tom, have you used the service? I noticed they were not on your “What We Endorse” list…

  3. Tom Wark - October 11, 2012

    Bruce, the only reason they are not on my endorse list is because I’ve not gotten around to it. I’m not concerned about the shipping issues in the way you are. I thin the opportunity for imports to provide mailing list access is great for both those wineries as well as consumer.

  4. » Blog Archive » Daily Wine News: We’re Nosy - October 14, 2012

    […] Wark profiles VinConnect, the exciting new company that enables consumers to order wines directly from overseas […]

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