Four years after they launched their own boutique wine by going online to create a sort of virtual winery, Sunny Fraser and David Gordon are trying to break new ground in their campaign to bring fine wine to the masses.
Their strategy? A new kind of bottle that cost $2 million to develop.
Clocking in at 187 milliliters and resembling an oversized, flat-bottomed test tube, their patented bottle — which holds a generous glass of wine — is made of a delicate, seamless glass. Lighter than the typical bottling glass, it is sealed with a specially-threaded and lined Stelvin cap.
“We wanted something with integrity that could stand up to a fine wine,” Fraser explained. And, more to the point, they believed consumers would be willing to indulge more frequently in fine wine if they knew they could buy their smaller bottle, which they call The Vini, without having to uncork a more expensive, bigger bottle.
“It’s not just about us and our wine. It was the format, and how great it would be if I could just get a glass and not have to wait for a special occasion to bring out these great bottles,” she explained. “For us, it was about making fine wine more accessible.”
So far, during their “soft launch,” the couple have produced 1,000 cases containing their own wine, with enough to fill another 7,500 cases. They are selling it online, for about $35 about a 4-bottle set up to about $400 for 48 bottles, as well as in about a dozen local gourmet shops and restaurants including Joe’s Stone Crab and Joanna’s Marketplace in South Miami, and at the Eden Roc and several other hotels. They plan to expand into more hotels and into bottling for other wineries.
“We’re not trying to fit into every market. It’s not meant for a convenience store or gas station,” he said. “We’re trying to tap other markets that haven’t been tapped before. They haven’t had a solution before, and we’re trying to be that solution.”
While the wine industry may have a reputation for being stodgy and unadventurous, it has had its fair share of innovative bottling, from boxed wines launched in Australia in the 1960s to foil-capped plastic cups, cans, Tetra Pak cartons and even sippy pouches.
“Americans have always been known for great packaging and experimentation and there’s a lot of innovation in packaging going on right now,” said Gladys Horiuchi, communications manager for the San Francisco-based Wine Institute.
Take box wines. Long associated with cheaper brands, they shrugged off some of the stereotype in 2003 when Black Box introduced its line of finer wines. The boxes, which hold wine in an inner plastic bag not unlike the traditional Spanish bota bags, keep wine from oxidizing. And increasingly good boxed wines helped drinkers become what Epicurious calls more “bottle agnostic,” opening up the industry to different, often more reliable and more eco-friendly packaging.
“This is the generation that grew up on ... those fruit juices in little packs,” Horiuchi said. “Those people are of drinking age and they’re willing to buy this packaging because they drank it as a kid. There are still people who like traditional bottles, but Americans are willing to accept something different.”