Miniature wine company tastes success, launches capital raise

An Adelaide company that offers virtual wine tastings in miniature sampling bottles has launched its Texas winery on the back of strong growth in Australia.

Sep 13, 2021, updated Sep 13, 2021
Auction house Langton's used Trust in Taste to host a virtual tasting with clients this year.

Auction house Langton's used Trust in Taste to host a virtual tasting with clients this year.

The company is also kicking off a campaign to raise $2 million to fast-track its growth, including the potential establishment of a European facility.

Trust in Taste has developed technology to transfer wine from regular wine bottles into 60ml small tasting samples without affecting wine quality.

Batches as small as 50 miniature bottles extracted from four 750ml bottles of wine can be ordered.

It commissioned its Australian small bottle facility at a warehouse in Parafield in November last year and has increased its Australian sales five-fold so far this year.

The company began production at its Texas facility in late July and has shipped its samples across the United States.

“The initial customer is the Napa Valley Wine Academy and they are a wine school so we use some Australian wines and other wines from all around the world that we put into samples so their students can get 6, 12, 18 samples to have with their virtual class,” Trust in Taste founder Peter Evans said.

“Since November 2020 this month’s sales have been our best ever in Australia and our first month of sales in the US with one customer are larger than our total sales in Australia.

“So that’s where the growth is going to come from.”

The company’s second US client is the Michelin Group, which also owns Wine Advocate Magazine.

“They have a huge mailing list and they are selling an event where French wines will be sampled virtually by wine connoisseurs and sommeliers in the US,” Evans said.

The initial Trust in Taste business model invited Chinese wine drinkers to sign up for an in-home tasting virtual where wines marketed by Trust in Taste in 60ml bottles were delivered for a cellar door style tasting accessed via QR codes on the sampling bottles.

The Chinese business launched in 2018 but has mainly relied on sales through education providers since tariffs on Australian wine were implemented last year.

In Australia, the education sector accounts for about 15 per cent of business while commercial clients have included Yalumba, Yarra Yering, Endeavour Group and its auction house Langton’s.

Trust in Taste provides a moderator to conduct a video interview with the winemaker virtually and all the tasting participants are typically sent a kit of six wines to taste through as the winemaker explains them.

“We’re signing an event with a wine brand here every two days at the moment, which is just crazy, so we’ve picked up about an extra 20 brands just in the past month,” Evans said.

“Lockdowns and COVID restrictions have played a part – we can’t discount that, however, every time we get someone experiencing our service they love it and they want to keep it as part of what they do regardless of COVID.

“Everyone is used to jumping on a Zoom call now and doing everything remotely from getting the product, providing feedback and making a purchase so we commit that the Zoom call you have that involves a wine tasting is going to be your best Zoom call for the month.

“In a tasting, we can collect data back from the clients immediately and they can tell us what they did or didn’t like about the wines and we can provide that information back to the winery within 24 hours.”

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The company is just starting to expand its offering to wineries in the US and expects the education turnover to eventually be about 15 per cent, similar to the ratio in Australia.

Evans said there was also an opportunity for Australian wineries to have their wine miniaturised in Texas and used to target new customers in the US.

“We’re launching the US for Australian wineries over the next couple of months and we’re in talks with Wine Australia on how to best do that,” he said.

“It’s going to be great for wineries who say ‘we want to get into the US, send samples to 1000 influencers to put the product on the ground over there and we’ll use you to help find distribution’.

“The US is a really difficult market legislatively – we’re a licensed winery in the US, which is very rare for an Australian company and we can legally ship to almost all states.”

Trust in Taste is looking to attract angel investors and high net worth individuals to raise $2 million to help it expand faster.

Evans said research was being done into potential European sites with the UK, Spain, Italy and France all possibilities.

“We’ve gone from a bootstrapper to being on the cusp of making some bigger decisions,” he said.

“The US is the largest wine market in the world and Europe combined is probably equal to it and we’re doing an investigation at the moment.

“We’re looking at being able to offer Australian, US and potentially South African wine into Europe but also providing a way for European wineries to get their products into the US and Australia.”

The company has about a dozen staff spread across Australia, the US, China and the Philippines.

Evans said it had the ability to ramp up fast.

“We’ve now got our process right with our unique technology and that’s bedded in and we’ve opened the line in Texas, which proves we can scale,” he said.

“If we find the right partner, we can be in a new market within 90 days.

“We can deploy a new plant in a shipping container, it arrives, the shipping container becomes the factory,  you plug it in and away you go.

“It’s about strengthening the team by building our business development assets in the US and here and also enhancing the tech that goes with it.”

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