Gary Vaynerchuk, also known as Gary Vee has created Empathy Wines with a radical new way of selling wine. With the aim of eliminating the middlemen, Empathy Wines wants to sell the best possible wines at a $20 price point for wines that would normally sell at double the price.
Jon Troutman, CEO of Empathy Wines told Food and Wine Gazette that staring a wine brand is something that Gary has been thinking about for two decades. “Gary finally had the right executives in place to help him. Both Nate and myself have been working with Gary across his previous wine businesses and most recently at VaynerMedia.”
Empathy Wines wants to sell wines that would normally cost double the price in a local wine shop. “We’ve seen similar, disruptive success stories from so many other vertically integrated brands in other categories – whether it be Dollar Shave Club in men’s grooming, Bonobos in men’s fashion, or Glossier in women’s beauty. Wine as a category is maybe even more ripe for disruption, since a great bottle goes through even more mark-ups in the traditional “3 tier” system. It starts at the winery, then goes to Distributors (who typically take the biggest markup), then Retailers, before being sold to consumers.
We’ve definitely thought about how our model could be applied to other wineries and brands. But for the time being, we’re laser focused on the growth of Empathy Wines,” he said.
Gary Vaynerchuk, who was born in Belarus, created Vayner Media with zero formal marketing experience and went on to grow it to an 800+ person global ad agency powerhouse, counting dozens of Fortune500 brands as clients will cut the middleman by selling direct to consumers.
He rose to fame when he helped catapult his father’s business Wine Library into one of the first and largest e-commerce wine retailers. Wine Library TV, hosted by Vaynerchuck was one of the internet’s first daily video blogs. At its peak, more than 100,000 people a day tuned in for Gary’s eccentric-yet-educational wine reviews.
For Empathy Wines, he has teamed up with John Troutman and Nate Scherotter. Together, they were the team behind Cork’d, a social network comprised of hundreds of thousands of wine lovers and Daily Grape, one of the very first mobile-native video apps in the App store.
Empathy Wines are being released for the first time next year. The Rosé wine will ship in February 2019 followed by white wine in early summer 2019 and the red wine in autumn 2019. Shipping is included in the price. Three shipments of three bottles of wine each time cost $243 or $81 per shipment. Six bottles per shipment cost $450 in total and three shipments of 12 bottles per shipment costs $720.
Customers who purchase 12 bottles of each of the three wines will benefit from Club Empathy which includes an on-demand text-based “sommelier” service, for any wine need a club member has. Whether it’s getting a Pinot Noir recommendation for their picky father-in-law, or help in booking top wine tastings for a Sonoma weekend getaway, the service will have them covered.
The service is led by Wine Concierge and Customer Experience manager, Nora Hoefer. Prior to joining Empathy Wines, she’d worked as a sommelier for restaurants including Eleven Madison Park, Maialino, and The Lobster Club.
The final varietal makeup and percent in each blend isn’t yet finalized, since we just finished the 2018 harvest a couple of weeks ago. Our wines are finishing fermentation, then aging before being blended and bottled. However,Jon told Food and Wine Gazette that the direction they are heading for each wine is Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carginan and Pinot Noir for the Rose which will be stylistically modelled after a lot of classic rosés from the south of France. The 2018 Empathy White Blend is expected to be a blend of Vermentino, Chenin Blanc, Albariño, Viognier, and Grenache Blanc. “It is a unique blend, with components geared to achieve balance – refreshing and crisp acidity, matched by body and texture. For the red, the blend includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah. Lots of structure to match food, but juicy fruit flavors and balance to enjoy on its own,” Jon said.
The wines for the time being will be available only in the United States but Jon told Food and Wine Gazette that they are currently exploring the required licensing and compliance to ship our wines Direct to Consumer in markets outside the United States. “That said, the way we sell Empathy Wines internationally probably won’t follow a traditional wine export model. We’re hoping to start offering our wines to consumers in countries where we see the most demand sometime in 2019.“