Delivering the future of premium wines in a click
If you consider yourself a wine connoisseur, then you must know the importance of a sommelier in fine dining to create a memorable tasting experience from all aspects of service. They are trained and knowledgeable wine professionals who specialise in all facets of beverage service, but now you don’t have to even visit a fine dining restaurant to utilise a sommelier’s talent because wine.com.au has their very own professional to provide only the best products and services.
We’ve been lucky to grab a chat with professional Sommelier, Ben Moechtar (Bsc CS WSET Approved Educato) from premium wine merchants, wine.com.au. Ben shares with us his take on how an industry steeped in tradition is rapidly evolving, as dedicated wine lovers are sourcing their wines online
Associated with Sommeliers Australia for more than two decades and inaugural National President, Ben has been the recipient of some of the most revered wine scholarships including Len Evans Tutorial, Dux of CMS exams, and runner up Negociants Australia Working with Wine Fellowship. Along with his focus with wine.com.au, Ben also curates a number of wine lists as a sommelier, consultant and educator.
While wine.com.au was only launched in 2017, as a new addition to the Australian premium wine landscape, their roots have been well and truly anchored in the wine industry for many years. Being an important extension of an array of blue-chip businesses, dedicated wine connoisseurs, premium catering companies and iconic Australian venues as clients already, wine.com.au might be seen as a relatively new player in the online wine market but is fast becoming the online fine wine supplier of choice.
1. Hi Ben, thank you for the time to chat with you. Being both a part of the premium online food and wine delivery services, where we originated in 1994 as one of the first on the scene, with wine.com.au being a relative new comer to the online delivery scene, how do your customers’ respond to this ‘new’ way of procuring fine wines?
We all have less time to spend browsing in person in wine, beverage and food stores, being time poor, and at the same time we are being exposed to a greater and greater selection of fine foods and wine. Thankfully this exposure is incrementally increasing our knowledge so we are making better decisions more often. New sales and service platforms for consumers while driven by increasing competition, are improving the quality of our online experiences. More Sommeliers are recommending wines online instead of in a restaurant setting and the consumers are set to benefit from this.
2. How has this role with wine.com.au being online having a global reach compared to your previous roles as a sommelier?
Traditional Sommeliers work a dining setting and are restricted by the number of seats and consumers through the door each service period. Online platforms tear down the walls and allow us to work in a global setting without the usual restrictions. We get to advise, source and sell internationally more fluidly on a daily basis.
3. With the wine knowledge you have, what are you seeing in terms of shifts in trends or changes in wines due to climate change or other environmental influences?
Wines from traditional “cool climates” (by that I mean what you may read in a text book) are seeing characteristics which are more akin to much warmer climates. This doesn’t happen every year but is happening more and more. It means it’s harder to predict how a wine may taste. Vintage is retaining its importance, but perhaps more so is passing on the tasting experience of a sommelier, who gets to try many more wines than a normal consumer. Our recommendations are becoming more and more important because what we taste is in real time and not from texts.
In terms of changes to wine styles driven by consumers – we are seeing more wines labelled BIO (biodynamic) or Organic practises or Certification, Minimal Intervention or Handling (low or no sulfur) and “natural” wines”. Also a shift to consumers wanting to know exactly where the wine comes from – its provenance. That is where it was grown but also where it was stored (especially with aged wines).
4. As a business, wine.com.au is built on the principles of authenticity, provenance, character and quality. What would you say is unique to wine.com.au offering that I couldn’t find with your online competitors?
Most online competitors are about pricing. But wine isn’t just about price and nor is food in a restaurant. It’s down to people and to trust as well as maintaining consistency of quality ingredients, product and service, which have never been more important. You don’t choose a recommendation from a Sommelier in a restaurant unless you trust them. This extends to cocktails in a bar, food in a restaurant. It’s about how we live.
Our customers trust us as the professionals with the knowledge and expertise, so they don’t mind paying more if they are educated and better informed about “authenticity, provenance, character and quality”.
5. Our customers love our meals because our meals are made using premium produce using only 100% real ingredients with no preservatives or additives. With the growing focus on wellbeing and nutrition, have you seen any shift in the need for organically grown grapes or the reduction in use of preservatives?
100%. As we become better informed we want to know how things are farmed, grown, handled. We are also seeing a shift away from GM and additives in wines as we are in food. There’s a reality that we must keep in mind with all this. Food and wine is food. If it’s not preserved somehow it perishes more quickly and is more fragile. Preservative free wines are not for the cellar. That’s not to say that cellar worthy wines are loaded with additives either. But you can’t expect for a preservative free wine and a “normal” wine to behave the same way. They both have merit and in the end consumers will decide wine styles that drive markets.
6. As well as providing unparalleled access to the world’s most celebrated, loved and rare wines, what proportion of your role is focusing on the ‘concierge’ element, from assistance in selecting or locating particular wines, to personal service in gifting, cellaring or transporting your wine, wine.com.au provide tailored and flexible solutions of the highest calibre.
It doesn’t end with a click on a mouse “purchase”. Wine service and food service is ongoing. At wine.com.au you have access to experts and that leads to better decisions all round. I would never give a gift that I wouldn’t enjoy accepting myself and that’s the sort of trust we provide.
7. How do you see wine.com.au wines and your customers wine interests evolving into the next 5-10 years and how do you think this will set you apart?
I foresee more interaction between our services and our clients. In person, on the phone or online. Once a relationship of trust is created, we as consumers are happy to make time. It can start with pricing and service and a few clicks and searches, and then grow to so much more. In many ways it’s like a restaurant but so much more and so much bigger. I love this industry because when we have a great experience with food and wine we want to share it, without boundaries. We believe online wine sales are set to soar in the years ahead. Wine consumers are becoming increasingly savvy and online sales are delivering more choice and better service than ever. The future prospects for online wine sales and our customers’ satisfaction is certainly very exciting!