James Halliday reveals new wine venture

James Halliday has joined forces with Entertainment Group to launch a new direct-to-consumer marketplace called Entertainment Wine Community.

Halliday’s wine technology start-up Junovate is the driving force behind the new venture. The globally respected wine reviewer, critic and judge, who releases the famed Halliday Wine Companion each year, launched Junovate with Judy Pridmore in 2019.

Junovate’s solutions and services include virtual assistants such as Juno, AI voice-enabled websites and business advisory service enabling wineries, regional wine tourism organisations and wine event specialists to market their wines and promotional opportunities to consumers directly on their devices.

Entertainment Group is best known for its discount books, which give members access to thousands of offers across Australia and New Zealand at local restaurants, cafes and hotels, plus car hire to online shopping, gift cards and more. Every membership helps local community fundraising, with 20% of every purchase going directly to the member’s chosen fundraiser.

Entertainment Wine Community is set to to officially launch in early 2022 and is currently inviting Australian wineries to join the community, which will give customers direct access to multiple wineries in one transaction.

Halliday said: “The wine industry has faced numerous challenges in recent years, from droughts, bushfires and the pandemic. The smaller wineries particularly are keen to grow their direct-to-conumer (DTC) audience, so now is really the time to get behind them.

“Over the past 18 months, we have been working to support wineries by encouraging wine lovers to buy direct through our Cellardoor Challenge initiative, so joining with Entertainment Group to reach their customer base allows us to build on our efforts. We both share an ethos to support local and the community, and we’re excited to bring wineries and wine lovers together through this partnership.”

Sales go directly through the winery, with no-upfront costs, as Entertainment Wine Community taps into the explosive growth of online sales, accessing the highly engaged Entertainment audience of over 700,000 customers. This follows the huge contribution DTC channels made to local wine sales over the past year, outperforming all other sales channels and increasing
profitability with a higher average sales value.

The marketplace will enable wineries to feature their complete, or selected range of wines as well as their experiences, both at promoted and recommended retail prices.

Entertainment Group’s CTO, and incoming CEO, Ani Chakraborty said: “At Entertainment, we’ve established ourselves as one of the country’s most innovative programs connecting local businesses with communities and consumers and look forward to extending this to support the wine industry.

“It’s no secret Australia is home to some of the world’s best wine, so we are thrilled to be launching Entertainment Wine Community to showcase the full breadth of what the industry has to offer. This unique new marketplace is a place where our wine lovers and wineries will meet, sharing amazing Australian wines, and great experiences.”

Tough 18 months for local wineries

The launch of Entertainment Wine Community comes after a tough 18 months of Australian lockdowns, in which local wineries saw a 23% decrease in the number of visitors to their cellar doors.

The impact of COVID will be long-lasting for the wine industry, particularly due to the decline in international tourism, meaning there’s a big focus on sales driven through domestic customers.

The introduction of Entertainment Wine Community will help enable more DTC touchpoints for smaller wineries, in-line with findings from Wine Australia’s latest DTC report last month citing a significant increase in DTC sales over the past three years.

There was an 18% growth in wine sales value and 5% increase in volume in the past year via DTC channels, a higher
average value than other sales channels.

Sue Henderson CEO Schild Estate Wines (Barossa) said: “The Entertainment Wine Community’s marketplace will be welcomed by the wine industry, as a connection with a special group of customers who love food, wine and travel. Customers are crying out for real engagement with wineries and we’re excited there’s an innovative new platform to connect us all while not losing touch of our shared interests of quality wine and life experiences. We look forward to welcoming those customers to Schild virtually through EWC as well as in person to spend when they’re able to visit us in the Barossa.”

Patrick Corbett, co-founder and director of Singlefile Wines (above), added: “As a boutique winery in the remote region of the Great Southern in Western Australia, we are excited to learn how we can tell our story and showcase our wines to a whole new audience through this Entertainment Wine Community’s new DTC marketplace.”

As well as introducing hundreds of wineries directly to consumers, Entertainment Wine Community will also enable members to share the wines they’re enjoying, their experiences and recommendations with other wine lovers, while also receiving exclusive offers and rewards on their purchases.

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