Experiential trend excites alcohol offer
Wine tasting concept, Beyond The Label (BTL), has opened its first store at Westfield Miranda in Sydney.
Part of the experiential trend in retail, specialised delivery equipment allows customers to sample a large range of wines by a 15ml ‘taste’, half glass, or full glass, paying with a pre-loaded smartcard.
Beyond the Label CEO, Paul Capper, told Inside Retail PREMIUM: “Obviously we know as retailers, if we don’t get better at creating an experience and hitting all five senses, then people will shop online – with wine, the same as electronics and groceries”.
Capper first pitched the concept to Westfield about a year ago.
“They loved the idea because it’s an engaging, experience-based idea. It’s not just straight retail,” Capper explained.
The store is set up like a bottle shop.
“We have 48 of the wines that we have available as bottles also available through the tasting machines,” said Capper.
“Customers can treat it as a bottle shop and just pick up a bottle, or they can come in and taste the wine; I call it the ice cream principle – when you buy ice cream and you try two or three and you decide which one to take away.
“You can either try them to decide which bottle to take, or use the tasting at the experience itself – sit down and have some food and try six or seven different wines.”
The cost depends on the wine, which start at $1 for entry level wines, but BTL also stocks $200 premium bottles such as Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz and Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz.
“We’re trying to make it more accessible for people to try these premium wines.
“You can’t generally get these even by the glass in a restaurant or in a bar. They don’t want to open them because it’s too expensive and if they don’t sell it within two days, it goes off.
“Our equipment preserves the wine so we don’t have to worry about selling it quickly. It allows people to taste wine or drink glasses at a price they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”
There are only two manufacturers of this type of equipment in the world – American company, Napa Technology, which BTL works with, and an Italian company.
Wine is preserved using Argon gas which sits on top of the wine to prevent any oxygen getting penetrating the liquid.
“As far as we know we’re the only one in Sydney using this type of equipment. There’s a lot of these types of stores in the US and Europe, and increasingly in Asia.”
Cappa was inspired by the concept while visiting family in the Cayman Islands about 18 months ago.
“They had tasting machines that would allow you to use a smartcard to try different wines and was blown away by it – I thought it was an amazing customer experience.”
Wines on offer at BTL are about 80 per cent Australian; the overseas varieties are often brought in to educate customers in different styles of the wine.
These are mostly boutique – BTL aims to bring in products that aren’t likely to have been seen anywhere else – and are chosen by a blind tasting panel. Chosen wines are rotated every six weeks in the machines.
BTL has also begun hosting wine tasting evenings from the Miranda store in form of quiz style events, where prizes are given of the customer’s favourite wine.
“We’ll also do more structured classes and structured tastings with winemakers and cheese makers,” Cappa said.
All staff have completed wine courses at a professional level and can discuss each wine knowledgably, as well as food pairings. The store also offers share food plates, including charcuterie and antipasto prepared on boards.
This story first appeared in Inside Retail PREMIUM issue 2031. To subscribe, click here.