However, I hadn’t thought of the two together before. True, the interest level for wine in the DC Metro area has probably never been higher. And any new source that make purchasing quality wine easier is a good thing in my book. Still, I wondered what the thinking was behind this new business.
So I reached out to the Post to find out. See below for my interview with Tim Condon, Director of New Digital Ventures at The Washington Post.
Please give WashingtonExec some background on the Washington Post Wine Club.
The Washington Post Wine Club was formed out of the New Ventures Group. Our team’s mission is to identify new business models that fit within The Washington Post brand, launch them and operate them. We oversee The Capitol Deal, our daily deal business, Service Alley, an online marketplace to find home service providers, and our recently launched Sponsored Views, a product that allows stakeholders to express their view in response to our online Editorial and Op-Ed content.
The Wine Club was an off-shoot of The Capitol Deal team, which found that some of their most popular deals were tastings at regional wineries.
What sort of market data suggested that the time was right for this new offering in the DC metro area?
Our research had always shown that this was a strong market for wine consumption – in fact one of the top metro areas for wine consumption on a per capita basis. However, it wasn’t until we saw great response at The Capitol Deal whenever we published a deal for a regional winery. At that point we felt that the combination of a generally great wine consumption market combined with a popular wine producing region in our backyard represented an opportunity to create a business that could be meaningfully different from other wine clubs, and would fit with our brand.
We felt strongly, however, that the wine club had to appeal to fans of regional wineries and those who only prefer other top regions in the world. As a result, the core club offers the best wines from around the globe. Members of the club can then opt to add an optional shipment of just regional wines. Non-members can also choose to purchase a sampler package of regional wines.
What were some criteria for your selection of Global Wine Company in San Raphael to administer the club offering?
First and foremost, we had to feel confident that we were going to be working with a company who understood the importance of upholding a world class brand like The Washington Post. Global Wine runs the wine club for Williams-Sonoma and Food and Wine Magazine, so we felt comfortable that they had the experience to represent a top brand.
Second, we needed a partner who would customize the club for us to offer wine from regional wineries. Global Wine was willing to do that for us. Third, as we started to learn about the different wine club models, we found that some clubs source wines from authentic wineries around the globe while other clubs are primarily manufacturers of wine.
We wanted to source from many different wineries because we felt it fit with our brand and what our consumers would expect from us.
How big is the potential market for this type of curated wine offering?
We’re not sure. We believe that it is one of the best individual markets in the country to launch in – given the region’s consumption habits and the presence of an increasingly respected wine producing region. However, we also believe that the typical club buyer is probably consuming most of their wine from their local retailer and using the club as a discovery and gift giving vehicle.
Does the DC metro area have a “wine identity,” and if so how would you describe it?
I’m sure we’ll learn more about DC’s ‘wine identity’ as we get out there and meet our new customers. But, generally speaking, the Washington region indexes extremely high for travel, it is highly educated, and, of course, loves to drink wine. We believe that this means that DC wine drinkers not only love the wine, but they love the experience and discovery that accompanies the wine.
Hence, our decision to source wines from wineries around the world, and our decision to offer optional shipments and gift packages of regional wines. We also include a little inside story on the winery and region from where each wine was produced.
What type of price advantage do members enjoy on average, through the buying power of the club?
The typical discount may be in the 8-10% range, but we don’t expect that people will buy from us for the discount. We expect that our customers are mostly interested in discovering wines at certain price points that they wouldn’t have otherwise discovered on their own.
Christopher Parente is managing director and partner of Strategic Communications Group, a social media and public relations consultancy based in Silver Spring, Maryland and Tysons Corner, Virginia. He also publishes Work, Wine and Wheels, a top 100K web site in the United States as measured by Alexa, an online measurement company. You can follow Chris on LinkedIn or Twitter.