A gray market that’s legal in letter, but rebellious in spirit, has emerged.
Booze on Wheels: Liquor stores that come to customers are popping up across the country. In Los Angeles, Calif., Sara’s Market has opened a store in a panel-van, taking orders online and hitting the streets to deliver the goods.
Wine Clubs: If you’re interested in a highly specific type of wine, or a particular region, chances are there’s a club for that, and most are focused on small-scale producers. Business is booming for Orange Glou, which bills itself as the world’s first and only orange wine subscription service and saw its order volume go up by 30 percent in March and then another 25 percent in April. MYSA Natural Wine, a natural wine e-commerce platform, says that revenue in March, April, and May was higher than revenue for the past 15 months combined. From mid-March to mid-April, subscription rates increased 1,220 percent.
Direct Importers: For decades, Dalla Terra and other direct importers have worked to get small-scale producers to wine lovers at a lower price, cutting out the middleman. They work as agents with distributors in the U.S., who buy directly from the winery, instead of them. Dalla Terra gets commissions from the winery on the amount of wine sold, instead of importing the wines, marking them up and then selling them to distributors. It eliminates a tier, and consumers often get what would be a $26 bottle of wine for about $19, president Scott Ades explains.
Virtual Tastings: For many new brands, such as small-batch Mezcal producer La Luna Mezcal, COVID-19 has shattered their sales goals. They were on target to produce 10,000 liters per month, but as of now they’re producing 2,000 liters, which is more than they actually need, says Salvador Chavez, founder and CEO. “We were primarily focused on on-premise, and because we’re new and people aren’t that familiar with Mezcal, we were a hand-sell,” Chavez says.
“We signed new distribution partnerships right before coronavirus, but now all of those deals are on the backburner for the distributors. Now we just want to survive. We’re launching tasting kits which will benefit SACRED, a nonprofit committed to saving agave to continue to spread the word virtually and work toward our larger goal of preserving communities in Mexico.”
Thousands of other small-scale wineries, distilleries, and brewers are also going virtual.