Thursday, April 21, 2016

European Startup Wineist Aims To Disrupt Wine Industry

Wineist aims to help people on the go learn about wine and experience the magic that happens outside the comfort zone. Their initial offering was a set of six mini-bottles of wine that range from Navarra to Swartland…

Good Things Come In Small Packages

I receive a fair number of wine shipments. This one, though, was a real surprise. My package from Wineist, a small Euro startup designed to sell wine directly from wineries, brought a smile to my face.

About the size of a box of chocolates, when opened it reveals six 50 milliliter bottles. Each bottle is numbered and corresponds to a description in the “wine carte” booklet. The booklet is illustrated with playful drawings, but also provides solid information about the wine.

Each wine is labeled in two ways, a classification and a “wine perspective.” The wine classifications are: Freshman (light bodied white), Lusher (medium and full-bodied white), Juicer (light bodied red), Bigshot (medium and bold-bodied red) and Sweetie.

The wine perspectives include “Sunny Afternoon,” “Social Rally,” and “Philosophy Feast.” Each of these designations has an icon or color. While we don’t really need those devices, it adds to the fun.

Sampling The Goods

My wife, the Green Dragon, helped me with the sampling. The selection was quite nice:

  • 2014 Ernst Riesling Kabinett, Weingut
  • 2015 Delheim Pinotage Rose, Stellenbosch
  • 2014 Pagos de Araiz, Navarra
  • 2012 Chianti Rufina Cru Basciano
  • 2011 Allesverloren Barnyard Blend, Swartland
  • 2014 Bodegas Lopez Mercier Cal Y Canto

Each wine has a wine description, food pairings, “wine geek info,” winery info and a spot for wine tasting notes. You can also check off three categories: Pour More, One is Just Right, or Not My Cup of Wine.

Battling The Bottle

The first issue was the bottle itself. I’ve encountered these small European bottles before, and they just aren’t well designed. While most of them opened without a hitch, one required a pair of pliers to open and even then it didn’t come entirely off. I pried it open enough to pour.

My second sticking point is the amount of wine. I love wine – and my love is measured at more than 50 ML. The Wineist bottle is 1/15th of a regular 750 ML bottle or about 1/3 of a regular glass of wine. I like to compare tasting notes with Green Dragon, but if we split the wine, it was in danger of evaporating before we had any.

I must admit I don’t know how 50 ML bottles age, but I do know that large format bottles of wine can age longer because less surface area is exposed to air relative to the volume. For whatever reason, our Chianti sample had spoiled and our final Spanish wine didn’t smell good enough to sample.

There were some successes. The Navarra Tempranillo blend and the Pinotage Rose both scored highly with us. I really enjoyed the Backyard Blend, which lived up to its name and reminded Green Dragon of rhino.

Does The Wineist Model Work?

The Wineist packaging looked very cool, but once we started sampling we discovered the size was too small. There is an option to purchase full-sized bottles, but it is hard to pass judgment on the wines based on this very small sip.

We liked all of the tools, text and art that went into the booklet. It lent the experience an air of fun.
The bottles seem problematic. I’m not sure they are guaranteeing the freshest wine and they are difficult to open.

Wineist may have already received some of this initial feedback. The subscription model (which was 15.99 to 17.99 Euros per month) has been at least temporarily shelved in favor of full bottle sales. Here’s the latest word from the Wineist website:
Wineist will now be offering full bottles of wine, being sold directly from the wineries themselves through our webpage. We are becoming a platform where wineries from all over Europe will offer wine directly to the wine lovers! We will eliminate the middle man & high retail margins and offer the best wine for the lowest possible prices to the consumers! The price will be set by the wineries themselves and delivered by them directly to your door step, creating a win – win situation for everybody.  With this innovative approach Wineist will disrupt the world of offering wines as much as AirBnB has changed the world of offering apartments.

The website goes on to say that the subscription model will be transformed into a special wine club for the most loyal Wineist clients.

Wineist has plenty of Euro style and charm. We hope they are a smashing success.

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