This article is brought to you in partnership with Cuvée Collective
On July 27, Napa Valley startup Cuvée Collective launched the world’s first wine NFT club. Over 25 wineries will offer collections valued at $100 to $1,000 per NFT, which allow holders access to exclusive experiences like winemaker dinners, private events, virtual tastings, and rare wine allocations.
Upon launch, the first 200 people to purchase a Collector NFT will receive a $200 Flow token credit to spend on their first wine NFT in August. After purchase, email email@example.com for Flow token verification.
Cuvée Collective is launching this week with a goal to demystify non-fungible tokens for blockchain-averse wine collectors and digital natives.
Andrew Allison, CEO and cofounder, says his familiarity with Napa and the tech space paved the way for Cuvée Collective, a company he and cofounders Jacopo Daeli and Daniele Delgrosso are billing “the world’s first wine NFT club.”
“I grew up in Napa. My family had a Cabernet vineyard on top of Atlas Peak, so I grew up in a family that sold grapes. I did my undergrad at Sonoma State University in wine. And right out of college, I sold an app to a liquor distributor. I was making all of my money selling the ad space to brands like MillerCoors or Svedka Vodka. I was close enough to this space to know how much opportunity there is for innovation.”
Allison says that Cuvée Collective came at the right time. “When you work backwards from wine, blockchain technology is now safe enough, sustainable enough, and also easy [enough] to onboard consumers. The market is now ready, in our opinion, for NFTs in the wine industry.”
And while other NFTs in the wine space are sales or gimmick-based, Cuvée Collective emphasizes wine experiences and exclusivity that will benefit and be influenced by its members. “What we are doing is about community benefits and not sales gimmicks,” Allison says.
So far, 25 winery partners are on board, including cult names Robert Craig, Goosecross and Massican. “What the next generation of consumers wants is to come to Napa and have an experience,” says Robert Craig Winery CEO Elton Slone. “I think NFTs are a way to bring that experience to people, let them own a piece of that experience. If communicated correctly, they will be a tremendous tool for us to use to tell people our story.”
“We’re helping brands release NFT collections on their behalf,” Allison says. “We get to play a more fun role, which is looking out for some of the last-mile logistics or some of the planning aspects, working with that younger audience to reach the brands in a new and more approachable way.”
SOMM TV sat down with Allison to learn more about how Cuvée Collective is initiating Millennial and Gen Z into Web3, why a community-centric approach benefits collectors and brands, and all the exclusive benefits the club offers the next generation of wine collectors.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why NFTs? Why is there a demand for this right now in the wine industry?
I think the technology is finally ready. Blockchain technology has developed far enough that it’s ready for mainstream adoption. And the word blockchain is consistently daunting. If you understand blockchain at the most fundamental levels, it’s just an open ledger. Anyone on the internet can look up verified ownership on that ledger. All an NFT represents is a marker on the ledger. So when you work backwards from the wine now, blockchain technology is now safe enough, sustainable enough and also easy to onboard consumers. The market is now ready, in our opinion, for NFTs in the wine industry.
What is included in your NFT?
Our NFTs are going to be great stores of value. So anyone who purchases an NFT with us will have access to wine, wine allocations, events, and experiences that only NFT holders can have. You can’t walk in the door at any of these wineries and get the experiences we’re putting together. You also can’t get [some of the wines without the NFTs]. Some of the NFTs will have wine that either usually sells out or is not available for sale. We’ve attached that to an NFT. You’re getting not only things that are either hard or rare to find, but you’re getting a turnkey package.
An average package might be something like a winemaker dinner, small-lot production wine, like wine that comes out of a 25-case run, and a digital experience as well. [A digital experience could be] an opportunity to chat to a winemaker that is really popular or influential in their own right. Every NFT will be an opportunity for library experiences, just like you have library wine or access to wine. So when you do end up coming to the wine regions of the world, you’ve already got ultra premium experiences. And on the wine side of things, you’re getting access to that really hard-to-get-a-hold-of wine.
Will this be competing with existing, traditional wine memberships? Are you targeting wineries that are not doing traditional clubs, or kind of piggybacking on the ones that are?
From a business standpoint, we think the wine NFTs will be top of the funnel. We think that many people that buy the wine NFTs will have such a great experience that they will likely join the wine clubs. Many of the brands that we’ve spoken to, they see the Boomers and the older generation joining their wine club, but many of the younger generations that come and experience the winery do not end up joining the wine club. We see ourselves as an opportunity to onboard Gen Z and Millennials into the wine industry and actually be adopters or subscribers. So we see ourselves as complementary to a wine club.
That answers my next question — the target audience here is not necessarily wealthy Boomers, but the next generations.
Yeah, I think that Gen Z and Millennials are far more comfortable transacting in digital currency. Web2’s version of that was Venmo and cash apps. I think the natural progression of that will definitely be NFTs in the sense that you purchase in-store an NFT in your crypto wallet and consume it the same way you can consume a fungible currency like a cryptocurrency. Still, you’d also redeem and use the utility of your NFTs through your wallet as well. So you’re coming to Napa this weekend, and you had some wine NFTs in there libraried away. And you want to book that winemaker dinner, and you also want to get that private tour, and also you may want to pick up some of that wine — and you could do all that through your app, and it’s a natural transaction.
Will the wineries be big legacy brands? Is it a majority of traditional Napa vineyards and wineries, or are you also including more modern wine brands and DTC companies?
We’ve spent time trying to curate collections that we are excited about as consumers. So if we zoom out and look at the whole wine world, there are 55 major wine regions that we’ve been assessing. So Napa would be one, and Sonoma would be another. We’ve started hyper-locally with Napa and Sonoma, which I think has to do with our team’s background. With us here in Napa and graduating from Sonoma State, many of our friends either work at the wineries or many of the folks we grew up with own the wineries. We just felt like we could solve the problem hyper-locally here first.
And so yes, there are some multigenerational brands that we’re working with, and some forward-leaning brands that aren’t necessarily winery list. Many of the folks we’re working with can provide a physical tasting experience or something of that nature.
But I think we’ve been a little choosy when it comes to the first 25 that we work with. We wanted to ensure that experiences were unique, like what we would look for as consumers ourselves. We’re not necessarily looking for high-volume shops today. We want it to feel very boutique, very exclusive. All of those things tie in with the rarity of NFTs and the collectability. So we drew the line at high-scoring, high-priced wines, if that makes sense. Our ambitions are to work with all wine brands and a collection for them. But, our first 25 are so critical that we started hyper-local and wanted to work with these ones first.
What wineries are involved so far?
We have 25 wine brands that have committed […] Robert Craig, Goosecross, Massican, and I’ll stop there. We want to maintain this unboxing experience each week, so there’s a brand reveal. But I think those are illustrative of how great some of the brands we’ve secured are.
[*Author’s note: Some of the other brands are Arcudi Wines, from Tony Arcudi, a prolific winemaker based in St. Helena; and Azur Wines, a project from Elan Fayard, who is one of the first people to produce Provence-style Rosé in Napa.]
How does Cuvée Collective compare to other NFT wine programs, like Hello Fam, WivA, or Bitwine?
With other programs, many of them are doing one NFT attached to one bottle of wine. I’m not saying that that’s right or wrong. We just don’t want to do anything that sales gimmicky. This is not a quick cash grab. We are focused on curating something unique and special to each winery and build a collection that reflects their brand. Many other NFT projects are building something vertically, where they’ve gone and secured some wine, and they’re making NFTs for it. That’s not necessarily what we’re doing.
The other thing you see in the space is that folks are buying really expensive wine and then fractionalizing ownership — so buying a $10,000 bottle and then everybody that puts in $100 bucks gets an NFT. One hundred people own a chunk of the bottle, hoping that the bottle goes up in value. We think anyone building NFT projects in the wine space is probably better for greater awareness. However, I think we need to make sure that the wine brands that have been building in the space are the focal point.
It’s not necessarily about the technology. It should be about the brands leading the conversation or relationship with consumers. It should not necessarily be us injecting ourselves in there. We’re putting ourselves in a position to help lead and run the community aspect of the relationship and then feature these great brands. We don’t want to muddy the waters and try to sell wine.
Tell me more about the community aspect. I saw that you have a Discord. You’re active on social media. Why is the community aspect so important to this project?
What we are doing is about community benefits, not sales gimmicks, and I couldn’t underscore that enough. Community benefits are really about letting the NFT and the core value that comes with each NFT lead the way, and we want to distance ourselves from this sales gimmick mechanic. We’ve seen other big brands release wine NFT collections that weren’t special enough. Or weren’t unique enough or weren’t rare enough. And they, whether they were intended to or not, are perceived as very sales gimmicky, and we do not want to do that. And so, we’ve made something truly special for each of these brands.
Each NFT comes with so many great benefits that it feels like a no-brainer to purchase, even if you don’t have an established relationship with the brand. Also at the community layer, just by holding any of our NFTs, you get other great services from us. So we have a concierge desk where someone could manage last mile logistics. People can say ‘hey, I want to come to Napa this weekend, or I want to go to Sonoma this weekend.’ Anyone who works in the wine industry knows that all their friends call them and ask what they should do. Our concierge desk will handle that for anyone in our community as an NFT holder.
Towards the end of the year, we have ambitions of opening up a somm hotline, which is somebody who can either help you with tasting notes, your library planning, or your wine purchasing. That’s again, just another thing we want to provide to our NFT holders that help navigate the wine world, take the snobbery out of it, and make it a little more fun and more approachable. And I think because we’re helping brands release NFT collections on their behalf. We get to play a more fun role: looking out for some of the last-mile logistics or some of the planning aspects or, you know, working with that younger audience to reach the brands in a new and more approachable way.
I see that there’s a range of prices — $100 to $1,000 per NFT. How does the pricing structure work?
It’s going to be down to each brand. Some brands might only have 20 NFTs and a premium experience. Others might have 200 NFTs and something that would be a little more quantifiable or transactive. The way the Robert Craig NFT is going to work is that they have a property on Howell Mountain that is not open. They’re going to open up that property for groups of NFT holders. If you hold the Robert Craig NFT, you and five of your friends can go try library wines at their Howell Mountain property. So basically, your party of six gets to try wines that they don’t bring out because it’s out of their library.
You’re also leaving with wine from a single-vineyard estate wine called Robert’s Block. They only make 25 cases a year of Robert’s Block, and these bottles are etched in hand-painted for NFT holders. It’s truly something that’s off-menu. It’s wines that they don’t normally pour, and you’re trying some of the best wine that Robert Craig makes. And it’s only for our NFT holders in this package. We think those will be some of the secrets to the formula that makes wine NFTs truly valuable.
This is exactly what I would look for and want to show off as a Napa native to my friends. Because of this type of curation, wine NFTs will lead the way, in our opinion.
What about at the lower end, like the $100 or $200 NFT?
We wanted all of our NFTs to be an approachable value. We’ve worked with another winery that will do a digital date night. The winemaker is always busy, but what we’ve done is we’ve secured 100 bottles for this NFT. So you get the wine shipped to you whenever you want and then you can book a digital date night. The winemaker will show up and taste through the wine with you and your date remotely. It could be in Decentraland, Sandbox, or over Zoom, whatever platform you choose. But you’re getting a quick winemaker tasting for you and your date. Afterwards, you go back to whatever your plans were.
That’s an example of a benefit consumable from afar with somebody who always sells out of their wine. So for our community, we’ve secured wine for those NFT holders to ensure they get the opportunity to try this one that always sells out.
If there were 100 NFTs sold, that winemaker would get on 100 Zoom calls with each date?
Yeah. It would be bookable through our concierge desk, and we would have a number of slots a week that they’re willing to taste. We would work through the logistics of planning those, but I think we’ve got Tuesdays and Thursdays reservable for that.
It’s an experience redeemable throughout the year, so it can be extended out to whenever the NFT holder chooses to redeem that experience.
Do any of the NFTs expire?
No. Back on the community benefits note — community feedback steers everything a project like us does and works on. Holding our NFTs allows anyone to vote, contribute, or provide feedback to anything we’re building. So if the wine NFTs change, amend, or upgrade in any way, the community would drive us in that direction. That feedback loop is truly what is a part of the Web3 generation. The ability to have asset ownership and control of the direction is something that is just not generally seen in other aspects of the internet, and Web3 is really bringing it forward.
So for the SOMM TV audience: What is the benefit of the Collector NFT?
Our presale opened Monday [July 25], which was like a soft opening. Starting Wednesday [July 27], the Collector NFT is available for sale to the public.
Anyone who holds the Collector gets the right to buy any of the wine NFTs we just talked about 24 hours before the public is allowed to. We’re going to sell 3,500 Collectors, and those people get to shop on the Monday of the week each wine NFT drops, and then the public is available to purchase any of the wine NFTs that remain starting on the Tuesday. So our Collector NFTs are what’s called the genesis NFT or founding community member NFT. Those 3,500 people become the most influential people in the community feedback loop.
What do you think? Are you ready to Web3 initiate yourself?
I’m thinking about it. This seems like it’s making this a little more accessible.
Yeah, totally. The key thing that we discussed early on with this project is that we wanted to have an inclusive community. Many NFT projects will use this concept of wine lists where they send insiders, effectively, the opportunity to buy NFTs before other people. We wanted fair access to NFT drop, so there’s no whitelisting, and we really focused on planting the flag and being an equal opportunity project for anyone to join. We wanted to be super approachable from a price point standpoint. We’re here for the long haul, and it is by no means an attempt to make a quick buck.
The Collector NFT is available on the Cuvée Collective marketplace for $179. After purchase, email firstname.lastname@example.org for Flow token verification.