Wine Gallery co-founders Tom Walenkamp (left) and Banjo Harris Plane (right)

Australian startup Wine Gallery is like Netflix but for wine

Sam McKeith

Tom Walenkamp was confident the wine game needed a shakeup. And that’s exactly what the 32 year old has done with Wine Gallery, an online platform that curates and delivers wine to Aussie consumers based on what they like to drink.

“What we’re trying to accomplish is basically providing easier access to wine,” Walenkamp says.

“The reason we started the business was we knew there was a gap in the market for people who knew they liked wine, but didn’t necessarily know much about wine.

“We really wanted to provide a place where people could start enjoying and learning about wine while at the same time fining really good quality wine.”

Wine Gallery was launched in 2015 by Walenkamp and three-time Australian Sommelier Of The Year, Banjo Harris Plane. The nationwide platform has grown rapidly in the last 12 months, with the pair now even considering expanding into growing Asian markets.

“It’s kind of like how Netflix works - if you like one movie then the system in the background will see what other movies are relevant based on its characteristics.”

Walenkamp describes the way the service works as similar to popular film distribution site Netflix. He says that Wine Gallery uses a mix of a “palate quiz”, customer ratings, and feedback to select wines tailored to customers’ tastes.

Wine Gallery is powered by the company’s “recommendation engine” that uses customer input to recommend three bottles per month that are specifically tailored to customers' particular tastes and preferences.

“The way that it works is that every month, once we get our new wines in, Banjo goes through and tags each bottle with twenty or thirty different characteristics - things like tannin, acidity, sugar levels, production methods, fruit flavours, vintage, all those kinds of things,” Walenkamp says.

“After the palate quiz, we start suggesting wines to people based on those tags and how they relate to the tags. Once ratings and feedback come in each month we can then cross compare wines based on that.

“It’s kind of like how Netflix works - if you like one movie then the system in the background will see what other movies are relevant based on its characteristics.”

Walenkamp says as customers provide the company with their ratings he “starts to build up a pretty good idea of what they’ll love”.

Wine Gallery continues to build a strong following via word-of-mouth and on social media, especially Instagram.

Wine Gallery’s fundamental value proposition? Curation.  

“A big problem for consumers can be that there’s too much [wine] out there. You don’t know where to start, you don’t know what a good bottle is - there’s all these confusing rating systems and you don’t know whether that’s just advertising,” says Walenkamp.

“It led to a feeling in me of being overwhelmed by the selection and not having enough knowledge to navigate it.”

A subscription costs $69 for three bottles and $9 shipping, with users able to skip, pause or cancel their subscription at any time.

Walenkamp says while Wine Gallery generally targets customers in their 30s he’s been surprised by the take up from older wine enthusiasts. There’s also been heavy interest from female consumers.

Marketing has been a challenge given the dominance of the big industry players, but Walenkamp says the Wine Gallery continues to build a strong following via word-of-mouth and on social media, especially Instagram.

“We’ve found that a lot of different people really like the platform, so that’s good.”

Sam McKeith

Sam McKeith is Sydney-based media professional. He has contributed to many leading publications including The Huffington Post, The Australian Financial Review, The Australian and BRW Magazine. He was previously a senior reporter at the Australian Associated Press where he covered national affairs. 

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