Can SMS Marketing a 90′s technology help vineyards to grow?

The wine industry has always relied on the old school distribution and reseller model where each geography region or country has a distributor that takes wines from the vineyards in bulk and sell them to retailers in the region. Due to this model, the prices of wines are significantly higher for consumer and majority of the profit do not go to the vineyards that bear the most risk in the business. Some wine-makers have cleverly depend on technology to sell directly to consumers by using the subscription model that has been popularized in recent year by Birchbox. While others uses a slightly more traditional marketing method such as SMS marketing to inform customers when the new wine has come of age. These methods help to cut-off the middlemen in the business thereby increasing the profit.

Since my last update, I’ve been doing a lot of research around vineyard as a new type of property investment. Through these research, I learnt that wine-making is a very risky business. Your income for years to come is highly dependent on the year’s yield and quality. Technique for wine-making is secondary compared to mother nature. But, I’ve stumbled upon a few new technology that helps vineyards to control the quality of wine and in small ways make micro-changes to the growing environment of grapes. There are technology that helps improve almost every step of the wine-making process from growing the grapes to ultimately in marketing the wines.

Refractometer to determine ripeness of grapes

Wine-maker using refractometer to determine the sugar level of grapes

Why SMS marketing but not other form of marketing, you may ask? Well, most people that drinks wine are above a certain age like myself. And with age, the familiarity with new age technology such as mobile apps or emails decreases. SMS is an old enough technology for majority of the wine lovers to be familiar with. Hence, it is a good medium for the target market.

One way is to utilize this technology is pre-order of wine samples or wines. As you know, every vintage of wines may differ and you may not like a particular year’s vintage. So wine-makers can have a wide coverage of information push to the customers by sending a more traditional marketing method that is SMS to their customers. With a direct contact with the customers, the wine-makers can rely less on the mercy of distributors to promote their wine. Wine-makers can inform customers of the grapes quality and when to expect the wines to be ready. Majority of wine lovers are not comfortable in purchasing wines online (less familiar platform) so enabling purchase using a more familiar platform to the customers may work. Once the customers placed the order via SMS, the wine-makers can have the customers mail cheques to the wine-makers directly. And the wine-makers can start having wine orders before the wine is ready. Once the wine is ready, the wine makers can then ship to wines directly to the customers. Of course, there is a need to ensure that the minimum orders will make business sense to the wine-makers. But, this is a great way to use a platform that is familiar to the wine customers, do away with the middlemen and increase the profit of the wine-makers.

Technology is great to ensure the quality of the wine produced in vineyards. But I think there is room for creativity in how to market wines to consumers. Frankly, the old distribution model is out of date. However, a lot of vineyards are using technology such as Facebook to engage their customers when their customers may not be on or are not familiar with the platform at all. I think there is a middle ground technology that can be explored and that answer may just be SMS.

The New Age Property Investment

Recently, I made a trip to Malaysia for a property investment conference. It’s been almost 2 years since I have been there so it’s quite an interesting experience. Of course, as someone who loves wine, I can’t help but to check out the local wine scene. To my delight, I was not short of choice! I went through the list of wine bar in KL and decided to go for a quirky Chinese decor wine bar. It was a laid back bar with a large selection of wines. What impressed me most about this wine bar was the 20 selection of wine by the glass menu. I always like to try different wines and frankly, getting a bottle when I was traveling alone, did not sound like an appealing option. So by the end of the night, I had 3 glasses of wine ranging from the traditional French Bordeaux wine to the new world South African wine. It was an enjoyable evening.

Now, you may be wondering why did I choose this title of the post. In the 2 days that I was in Malaysia, I learnt that there is an strong appetite for overseas investment in Malaysia. I saw multiple ads on newspaper on properties for sale in London, New York and most interestingly vineyard investment. As a wine lover, this really intrigued me. So, I begun my research and learnt that Asia is indeed the up and coming wine region. There are relatively new vineyards that are challenging the norm (and the weather) to grow grapes around this region. Many of you may know Bali as a fantastic tropical island holiday destination. Little did I know that there is a vineyard in that island!

The more innovative wine makers started making wines from local fruits. I’ve tasted peach wine from Australia a while ago and it was a good dessert wine. I’ve also written about the wine made from Durian in a university in Singapore. That idea has yet to be tested in the market but nonetheless, intriguing. On the other hand, there are vineyards in Thailand that uses the traditional European Cabernet Savignon, Chenin blanc, and Shiraz grapes. Some of these vineyards have been produced better quality wine over the years.

Is vineyard investment in Asia really taking off? Short answer to that is, I don’t know. But we know that the wine consumption in Asia has been increasing steadily in the last decade. Premium wine demand has increased exponentially particularly in China. In fact, the owner of the famous Chateau Lafite has invested GBP 10million in a winery in Shandong, China. The demand of wine in Asia is expected to raise in the next few years with rising income level and increasing quality of life in Asia. With the decrease in production of premium wine in Europe. Assuming, the demand of wine maintain at a steady increment. We can expect that the price of wine will be higher as supply declines. As premium wines prices go up, the demand may adjust itself to be lower. When that happens, it is likely that the demand will shift to more affordable wines from relatively newer region.


Tech startups revolutionising wines online

Wine businesses have always been the most traditional of businesses. After centuries of viticulture, we still use grapes, and we still grow them on trellis, train them and prune them as winemakers of yore did. Lately (which in the slow-moving world of wine means decades), new world winemakers have really started coming into their own, confidently adapting new tools and practices that increase yields and improve flavours, including using massive steel tanks with temperature control, artificial tannin powder, and most gallingly of all, selling wines outside of the hermetic, intimidating confines of a dedicated wine store on online wine stores.

E-commerce is of course nothing new, but wine stores in general have had a terrible time making the transition online. Massive collections are dumped into online catalogues with little consideration of how to organize them or present them to the average uninspired wine consumer. In the past year or so, even this has changed tremendously. Companies like drync, vivino, & wine-family (pragmatically based in co-working spaces like this one) are just a few of the next wave of wine companies going online that promise to make the process of choosing wine and appreciating wine more accessible and less intimidating than an outraged maitre’d tut-tutting your appalling wine taste.

angry maitre d

These online stores are not only providing tasting notes and food pairing recommendations, all beautifully worded and expertly supplemented with photos, but also allow logged-in users to give their own 2 cents on the wines that they have drank, giving prospective buyers more than just the resident sommelier’s opinion to go on. Companies like vivino push this idea to its very limits, allowing users to create wine reviews complete with photos of products that aren’t even on the website’s database. After all, it is practically impossible for any single company to keep track of all the wines that are produced year after year, much less rank and review them reliably. Thus, crowdsourcing opinion is a supremely wise decision.

The consequence of all this crowdsourcing and democratisation of the sommelier’s art, is that wine appreciation becomes much more accessible. An old problem for wines made from grapes penetrating new cultures is that they were previously not part of the local culture and that it requires experts like sommeliers a long time to educate the dining crowd to appreciate and consume more wine. With the ready availability of knowledge online, and the ability for people to experiment in the comfort of their own homes away from the embarrassment of getting it wrong in a restaurant, we can expect more people to pick up wine drinking.

All this promise of a bright future for wine can be attributed strongly to the proliferation of wine knowledge online and how deeply the internet has become a part of our everyday lives. There is no corner of the wine business that is exempt from the change wrought by the internet, but that is not a problem but rather an accomplishment to toast to.

Moët & Chandon Champagne – The Power of Marketing

The movie ‘The Great Gatsby‘ directed by Baz Luhrman showcase the lavishing lifestyle of New Yorkers during the pre-depression times of America.



But did you know that the prominently product placement of Moët & Chandon champagne was not paid for?

Moet & Chandon Imperial

I was surprised when I discovered this point as I thought that most product placement in movies are sponsored by the brands. But, for this movie, the director want to showcase the real lifestyle during the 1920s of American and indeed during that period of time, when stock market was booming, many young ambitious Americans were celebrating their success with Moët & Chandon champagne. But why Moët & Chandon champagne?

This goes back to the power of marketing. Moët & Chandon champagne was probably the first champagne house that adopted modern marketing tactics. In 1866, Moët started commissioning popular entertainers and musicians to endorse the champagne. They were also commissioned to compose songs and lyrics that extol the virtues of champagne. With that, of course, the Moët & Chandon champagne were heavily marketed. During the raise of industrial revolution during the early 1900, champagne was successfully marketed to the raising middle class and the elites at that time. Even the author of ‘The Great Gatsby’, F. Scott Fitzgerald once said “Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”  quoted from The Atlantic postThat is why Moët & Chandon was a very popular choice of champagne and was heavily featured in the movie.

According to Bottles of Joy, Moët & Chandon is also the first champagne maker to go public. Moët & Chandon merged with other champagne and luxury brands to form Louis-Vuitton-Moët-Hennessy, making this company the world’s largest luxury brand company.

Since Chinese New Year is coming up soon, maybe it’ll be a good idea to share this nice and affordable bottle of champagne with my family during reunion dinner.

Moet & Chandon Imperial

Celebrating the launch of the Fleet Wine Database, and the champagne sparkling matchup

Wine appreciation is good for the soul. Few activities as popular as wine drinking require the sort of attention and focus in your senses that contemplating a fine wine requires. I could name a few alternatives like listening to classical music, reading poetry, sculpting clay, but all those require more skill and practice than my lazy ass is willing to pick up.

First, what is fleet wine database. This is my personal pet project to write about wine-related knowledge and share it with the world. There is no shortage of wine blogs, wine magazines, or even wine blog awards. However the truth is there’s always room for more. In a world where places as far flung as Bali, Thailand, India, China, Slovenia are producing wines, I can believe that there’s always room for an alternative perspective on all things grapey with alcohol.

So just what are we looking to talk about on this fine blog? Really it’s just my musings on the wines that I’ve drank recently, as well as anything interesting that I learn about the history and culture behind wine. It might be somewhat arbitrary to call this a wine-only blog, so I may expand my repertoire to drinks from other cultures as well from time-to-time.

To kick things off, let’s think about the coming celebrations to usher in 2014! If you have yet to choose your customary bottle of champagne to pop as the clock strikes twelve, you’re the perfect subject for reading my ruminations.

I live in Singapore, and an unremarkably inconspicuous liquor store opened down the road from where I live recently. On my last visit a couple of weeks ago I saw Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut Champagne on sale at S$64. I know that the same bottle sells for $99 (or more) at the local grocery chains. This set me thinking, just how much extra are we paying for champagne? Is there any real difference in quality between a quality bottle of sparkling wine and a similarly priced champagne? The question probably isn’t a new one, but I haven’t yet read any opinions about this in the Singapore context. This matters tremendously since alcohol in general is so expensive here.

A glass of wine that costs €3 at a bar in London would cost S$15 in a similar one here. Hence, one can’t be too careful with the limited finances one has for wine.

For comparison, I have a bottle of Moet & Chandon Brut NV (S$90), and a bottle of Trivento Brut Nature Sparkling Wine (S$25). This is a classic David vs Goliath matchup! Moet is arguably the world’s most famous Champagne brand, while Trivento is a fairly decent Argentinian brand, not known for charming the pants off anyone.

trivento-sparkling-brut-nature-mendoza-argentina-10400331 Moet & Chandon Imperial

First off, I tried the Moet. The packaging really is a piece of work. It’s curvy bottle’s allure and classy motifs insist to me that anyone who knows what champagne is about must surely fancy it. And at first, the generous bubbles and pretty golden hue are really captivating. When I take my first sip, I have to admit to myself that it is thoroughly enjoyable. When researching what good champagne tastes like, I constantly encounter descriptions about zesty acidity, dryness, delicate white fruit like peach and pear. There was plenty of acidity in its dry depths, and sufficient pear aromas to check your list. However (and surely you knew this was coming), something didn’t sit well with me. Someone wiser than me once said that a good wine makes you want to drink it more. Every mouthful is enjoyable because your palate craves more of the tantalizing flavours. It is like the scent of flowers. You smell it, and then you keep sniffing around for a bit, trying to catch another whiff of the flower’s aroma. Moet, simply put, did not do that for me.

By this time you may think, it’s already obvious what the conclusion will be. I won’t keep you waiting for the answer either. I enjoyed the Trivento Sparkling Wine much more than the Moet. I wouldn’t even say that the Trivento was better value than the Moet. It was simply better.

Trivento’s Sparkling Wine reads Brut Nature on its label. This means that it has 0 grams of sugar per litre. Moet is Brut, which is less than 12 grams per litre. Surprisingly, the Trivento feels sweet. I say feels because it smells sweetly floral, and has the flavours of pear also, but if you really think about it, it doesn’t seem to taste sweet at all. It looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, but it is in fact a swan. Another noteworthy thing about the Trivento was that it had notes (there’s a fancy word) of brioche, which is a fancy word for bread. There is a delicious bread-dough smell that freshly baked bread carries, and well-made sparkling wines (and champagne) has it. In this case, Trivento had it in bucketloads, while I never tasted the same in Moet.

Well I suppose, for us, that settles our first ever wine argument. Sparkling wine can be better than champagne (even the famous ones). However I reserve the right to rave about champagne one day when I discover one worthy of the name (and appellation). For now, ditch the champagne and spend half that on a vastly superior bottle of sparkling from the hills of Argentina.