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McKenna blog: the online wine opportunity

Published:  16 May, 2011

Harpers news editor Gemma McKenna blogs on helicopters, share warnings and négociants, from LIWF's online conference ahead of the fair's opening tomorrow.

Harpers news editor Gemma McKenna blogs on helicopters, share warnings and négociants, from LIWF's online conference ahead of the fair's opening tomorrow.

For all those go-getters out there the last speaker of the day at the LIWF online conference certainly stood out. Guy Levine of Return On Digital sold his first dotcom company at 18, at 24 sold a digital publishing firm he founded, bought a helicopter from the proceeds, and at 31 is now on his third company.

He follows the kind of strategy that all little guys love: how to stick it to the man. Or in this case, how to use online tactics to get big boys (and here he apologised to fellow speaker Tesco's Dan Jago) to issue a share warning.

Levine is a BIG fan of online wine guru Gary Vaynerchuck... He advises you to basically just do what he does. Or hire the experts, namely his company.

They do some pretty James Bond-stylie stuff, such as how to get your Google ads to follow someone around online who was about to buy a basketful of wine from you then balked at the last minute. Might seem a bit Big Brother, but that's business.

Chateau Bauduc's Gavin Quinney is another little guy who triumphs over adversity. When he bought his Bordeaux estate, he upset his négociants by trying to sell wine in a less circuitous manner. They stopped buying. But the indefatigable Quinney went to Gordon Ramsay's restaurant and sold direct. Then he started selling to consumers direct too.

He's the sort of guy who manages to tweet, Facebook, come out with crazily inventive email campaigns, blog, tend to the vines and sell his wine. Sounds exhausting. But it seems to work.

These are the kind of people succeeding in today's internet wine world. Taking risks, because if it doesn't work it doesn't cost you and you can just change it and start again.

It's the eve of the LIWF opening, and I reckon, talking about online wine sales - currently worth around £200 million in the UK - was pretty auspicious. Let the games begin...