Gary Vaynerchuk launches disruptive new wine co
New York-based wine critic-turned media mogul Gary Vaynerchuk has re-entered the wine business with a disruptive new direct to consumer wine company called Empathy.
Vaynerchuk, who rose to fame in the early noughties through entertaining wine videos posted on his Wine Library TV webcast, has partnered VaynerMedia colleagues Jon Troutman and Nate Scherotter on the project.
Keen to disrupt the traditional wine distribution model by cutting out the middle men, the trio are seeking to pass on the subsequent savings to the consumer.
Bypassing conventional distributor and retail channels, Empathy works directly with grape growers to source quality grapes and produce its own range of wines.
Among the grower partnerships in place so far are with Shannon Ranch Vineyards in Lake County, California, Bokisch Vineyards and Mettler Family Vineyards in Lodi, and Marietta Cellars in Sonoma.
The first two wines to be released through Empathy are a rosé and a white, which went on sale in May and June respectively.
The rosé is made from unspecified grapes from three vineyard sites in Lodi and Lake County, and is said to be “crisp, juicy and mouth-watering”.
The “zesty” white meanwhile, is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Albariño, Vermentino, Viognier and Chardonnay from sites in Lodi and the Dunnigan Hills in Yolo County. A red blend in also the pipeline and due to go on sale this autumn.
The wines can be bought in three, six or 12-bottle cases or as a subscription, with pricing starting at US$81 for a one-time shipment of three bottles, which works out as US$27 (£22) a bottle.
The company, which launched entirely on social media, currently ships to the US, Canada, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand.
“We started Empathy Wines as a radical new way of selling wine. We want people to pay less for great, authentic wines while shining a spotlight on top-tier grape growers – the unsung heroes of the wine world,” said Vaynerchuk.
“Old school laws and antiquated business models have forced wine lovers to unnecessarily pay too much for great wine.
“Empathy is able to produce and ship high quality wines directly to consumers who would otherwise pay double the price at their local retailer,” he added.
Subscribers who sign up for three shipments of 12 bottles annually become members of Club Empathy, giving them free entry to Empathy events and tastings around the US.
The company’s SMSomm service meanwhile, provides Club Empathy subscribers with personalised wine recommendations sent via text.
Born in Belarus, Vaynerchuk moved to the US aged three and began working at his father’s wine shop in New Jersey aged 14, joining full time in 1998.
The success of his eccentric and entertaining Wine Library TV videos helped turn his family’s humble Wine Library store into a US$60m business. After filming 1,000 episodes, in 2011 Vaynerchuk ceased Wine Library TV, swapping it for video podcast The Daily Grape.
In 2009 Vaynerchuk stepped away from wine to launch his social media focused digital agency VaynerMedia, which provides media strategy to companies like Pepsi, AB InBev and General Electric, and employs over 800 people.