Now this is interesting. Well, interesting to me, anyway:
Venerable Internet tech. news site TechCrunch recently profiled Snooth.com (I’m an affiiate, so it caught my eye), detailing its growing popularity, and its impressive ability to secure angel funding during a very dank, dark, and dastardly economic climate. Getting featured on TechCrunch is newsworthy enough in and of itself, and the whole event garnered the attention of Kaz & Randy at WineBizRadio.com. I’ve had the pleasure of chatting (I say “chat” because he’s British) with Snooth.com founder Philip James on a few occasions, and he is a generally approachable and nice fellow, so Snooth’s success has been fulfilling to witness from a distance.
Apparently, according to TechCrunch and Snooth.com itself, Snooth.com is now the largest and fastest growing (in terms of website visits) wine community website. SNooth is now even bigger than Wine.com, which lacks the social media aspects of Snooth, and is still battling perception issues from over a year ago when they arguably put their own interests well above those of wine consumers and retailers.
What I found most interesting about the recent Snooth.com lovefest was not Snooth’s success, but how the website has been classified.
TechCrunch called it “a social wine review site.”
While this is certainly true, it’s not the complete picture.
Folks, let’s be clear: Snooth is in the business of selling wine. I know that it says on their home page that they don’t sell wine. And they don’t – not directly. But the fact is that they are in the business of getting wine into your hands, through retailers whose selections are featured in their search results.
And they do it well enough – and integrate it so well with the best aspects of social wine networking (sharing reviews and recommendations) – that they are seeing huge success during a time when being relevant on the Internet at all means being involved in social networking.
Snooth.com is not the Future of Internet wine sales – it’s the Present. If you want to sell wine on-line (despite the headache introduced by arcane and unconstitutional state-run alcohol distribution monopolies getting in your way), then you’d better well understand the model that Snooth.com is quietly (well, not so quietly now I suppose) perfecting.
The King (wine.com) is dead. Long live the King (Snooth.com)!
A recent article by Catherine Rampell of the New York Times really caught my attention. In it, Catherine explores the recent wine buying trend in “trading down” – buying less expensive wines rather than splurging on the really pricey stuff (read the full article).
One of the interesting things she found is that wine retailers are almost making up for the reduction in premium wine purchases with an increased sales volume for the cheaper stuff.
But that’s not what I wanted to discuss here.
What I found most interesting is how some people are drinking the decreased volume of really good stuff that they are buying. From the article:
“The people who have been splurging have been doing it surreptitiously,” said Jesse Salazar, the wine director at Union Square Wines in Manhattan. “There’s the secret pour and the pour for the guests at large,” he said. “I was at a Christmas party recently where there was a substantial amount of wine being purchased. But there was a party case, and then there was the host case back in the kitchen. The host was drinking Bordeaux; the guests were drinking Chianti.”
The Surreptitious Pour.
I love it!
What I’m curious about is if YOU would do this – would you hide the really good stuff at a party for you and a select few friends?
Because, I sure know that I’d be tempted to do that…
(images: chowdernation.com – modified)
How much is that bottle of wine in the window?
Not that you’d want to buy wine that’s been sitting in a window for any extended period of time, since it’s probably baked from the exposure to all of that light and temperature variation.
Anyway, I’m off to Chicago for a non-wine-related business trip. While this jaunt has nothing to do with vino, that hasn’t prevented people from asking me wine-related questions! One of those recent questions got me thinking:
“Some wines seem so expensive… are they really worth it?”
The fine folks asking me that question are just looking for some good old-fashioned knowledgeable advice. But what they don’t realize is that it’s really a trick question.
My reply is usually something along the lines of
“How much did you pay for your house? Was it worth it?”
I’m not trying to be a smart-ass (that comes naturally), I’m just trying to get them thinking differently about a wine’s price tag. Is the price right? And if it’s “right”, for whom is it right? You? Me? Everybody?
There is a very, very simple reason why expensive wines are expensive, and it has very little to do with whether or not that wine is “worth” the price vs. a comparison with a similar wine at a lower price…
Does quality impact the price? Sure, but just like a fine dining experience vs. a trip to In-N-Out Burger, there is a relative level of quality involved, which is in no way a determinant of whether or not you’ll actually like that expensive wine. But that’s not the fundamental reason.
What about production and distribution costs? Sure, they affect the price too. If a winery picks and sorts their grapes by hand, that’s going to be a lot more expensive to do than doing it all by machine. In those cases, the winery is certainly going to pass on the additional cost to you, and in return you’d expect that the wine is going to taste better than one where the machines missed a few snakes and lizards during the sorting process… But that’s not the fundamental reason, either.
And as for the critics? Unfortunately, there is no denying the impact of critis like Robert Parker, who has followers lining up behind him so blindly that they will buy wine simply on the score that he gives it, not taking into account their own dis/likes. So the herd mentality has an impact as well, since a good Parker rating can easily send a wine’s price over $30 / bottle. But it’s not the fundamental reason.
Look at it this way: If your house is in a great area and built by a respected builder, then likely people would be willing to pay more for your house than another house nearby that doesn’t have those things going for it.
Similarly, the reason that a Harlan Estates red can cost up to $900 USD / bottle is really because of one thing: People will pay that much for it.
A little bit of supply & demand, for sure, but fundamentally the market has decided that $900 is a fair price. Just like the market decides, over time, what your pad is worth. Somewhere, people are consistently paying that much to get in on the cache factor of owning some Harlan.
God bless ’em. If you’re one of those people, let me know how that bottle tastes. But please, don’t tell me if you think it was “worth” the $900 (or not)!
(images: amcati.com, klwines.com)