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New ‘back pocket sommelier’ service launches

One of the greatest things about having wine experts as friends is that you will always have someone to text and ask about where to find particular bottles that you enjoy.

Wine expert and sommelier Luke Campbell (pictured above) was that friend for many, but he realised that not everyone was lucky enough to have a sommelier in their back pocket. So he founded Vinni, a text-based service to become that friend for everyone.

He said: “Having been in the wine industry for the past 20 odd years, I found I was getting endless texts from my mates asking where they could source particular bottles of wine whilst they were out and about. I thought, a sommelier is something everyone could do with in their back pocket.”

Launched recently in Melbourne, when consumers sign up to Vinni, they can simply text through an image of a label and the Vinni team will source the wine and deliver it in boxes of six or 12. Users can text Vinni as many times as they like for a flat monthly or yearly subscription fee, which includes free shipping and also wine advice and suggestions from expert sommeliers like Campbell.

Wines are sourced through Campbell and his team’s extensive network in the wine industry, including with his other business Vinified Wine Services. Altogether the team brings has a combined three to four decades in the industry.

“There aren’t too many wines we can’t find… it doesn’t come easy, but certainly with our knowledge and our relationships we’ve been able to prove successful over time,” he said.

It’s certainly an interesting idea, and although just recently launched on a small and direct to consumer scale, Campbell has big plans to extend these relationships for Vinni to support venues too. Over the coming months as Vinni scales from the consumer side, the service will also be looking to build trade partnerships to provide venues with new business streams.

The exact details are still being fleshed out, but essentially the idea is to partner with venues which may not have the licence or the means to onsell their wine list, and give them the option to do so via Vinni. It’s not about replacing the on-premise wine experience, but moreso complementing it and building on what these venues can offer to customers.

“Connecting with consumers in an era marked by the pandemic and in a rapidly shifting business landscape has really never been more crucial,” Campbell told Bars and Clubs.

“The customer always wants more from the [venue]. This will be a way for the restaurant or bar to offer a further service, further expanding their bottom line and just increasing the value of their business to customers.”

Campbell is confident in the potential of this idea, spending a lot of time researching how to best make such a service work.

“Our research shows that almost 60 per cent of our existing customers at Vinified are really comfortable with a text message service. Then even more so than that, the research showed that 90 per cent plus are replying to text messages more than they are emails or phone calls,” Campbell said.

“In an era where the pandemic has made things very hard, we’re trying to make things easier.”

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