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Posted: Tuesday, August 12 2008. 10:53

Feature: Chat with Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library

Gary Vaynerchuk who owns and runs an interactive wine retail store in New Jersey and hosts a popular web TV programme was in India last week when Subhash Arora chatted with him to find out about his passion and vision and how he has taken his retail business to around $60 million in a short span.

'Helloeverybodywelcome …to winelibrary TV and this.. is.. your host.. Garry Vay…ner…chuk and this … is the thunder show a.k.a. internet's.. most.. passioned wine programme and we are having a very special show'.. thunders Garry at the start of his internet TV show which he has aptly titled 'The Thunder Show.'

His mission on the planet and that of Wine Library is changing the wine world. A phenomenal growth in revenues; he grew from $4 million to $40 million in 4 years, might perceptibly change his world too.

It is also his mission to meet every wine person on the planet. The 32 year young energetic and effervescent globetrotter was in India last week to meet many of such persons. He had invited me to meet him so we could share some of his thoughts on how he has come a long way in such a short time.

We met at the Polo Lounge at Hyatt where I realised that theatrics and histrionics apart, Gary Vaynerchuk, the Director of operations of  Springfield, New Jersey  located retail store 'Wine Library'  has a serious knowledge of wines and seems to be doing a great job connecting with people and increasing his fan folowing. 

The Wine Library

One does find books, seminars and frequently book signings but wine is the protagonist at the Wine Library, his retail store which Gary loves to refer as an 'adult them park'. Started by his father Sasha Vaynerchuk, a Russian immigrant as Shopper's Discount Liquor in 1983, he took it over in 1998 and rebranded it as Wine Library.

He took the business forward by going online and using internet technology like  YouTube and Facebook to the hilt. Many in the bricks and mortar space may not know of him despite being featured in Time, New York Times and several other regional US publications, but he has created waves in the internet space. (I had not realised till I met him that I had subscribed to his newsletter for years and still get it regularly in my mailbox) 

Wine Library TV

The Wine Library TV is one such medium which indirectly helps him generate half his revenues. 'I want to remove wine-snobbery completely and therefore make my programme fun and easy to follow for people of all ages.' No wonder he has over 80,000 hits a day, the number increasing with each episode, the 516th of which was uploaded on August 11th when he was perhaps still somewhere in India.

The daily TV Blog is pure passion with him. 'You are doing so many things here without any monetary compensation, I have heard. I am sure the satisfaction of being recognised for what you are doing is itself a reward and I am sure it enhances your personal equity,' he reflects. 'Similarly, I don't seek any rewards but I am recognised for my passion although it might indirectly help me with sales,' he muses, adding, 'I regularly turn down sponsorship offers for WLTV because it's something that I needed for my soul, not my pocket.'

Appearing in celebrity shows like Conan O'Brian has also helped him promote himself even further. He has recently published his first book '101 Wines Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight and Bring Thunder to Your World' which is also helping him win many new friends and customers.

He has an easy access to wines for the Show because of owning the store. The 515th episode on wines from Sauternes saw him demonstrate the tasting of a 1969 Chateau Doisy Vedrines, which is not otherwise available even in his Library. But he often trashes the wines he sells on his TV Blog and has thus created a credibility. He says, 'my purpose is to tell my viewers how to look at the wines from their own perspective. I merely tell them to taste as many wines as possible and not to go by anyone's opinion including mine.'

India Wine Challenge

He is very intrigued by the Indian wines and is keen to bring them to the US market. When I told him about the India Wine Challenge, he was keen to know more about it and even offered to be on the panel of judges, even if it means spending time and money to come to India, if his busy schedule allows him the luxury. He is busy tasting and judging wines all the time. He says, 'my goal is to taste as many wines as I possibly can.'

Time is really a luxury for him as he is constantly on the move. He has software installed on his website which regularly updates his visitors where he is, on any particular date.

Wines of the World

Gary debunks the myth that the wines have to be necessarily expensive to be good. He is always scouting around for wines which are not expensive and yet are good quality- he is really enamoured with Argentina and Portugal which he says, 'has the best value for money wines  on this planet.'. He is also a fan of some of the Spanish wines which he feels are getting expensive now. He loves Torrontes and Albariño varietals. 

Tryst with India

Besides importing wines from India- I did direct him to a few wineries where he could possibly find good quality wine, he is keen to check out the possibility of exporting wines to India. Normally, a difficult task, it could be a practical opportunity in a market where the buyers and consumers are fairly knowledgeable.

'We get wines at the best possible prices and as a single source, we can deliver a package which is hard to beat.' It does give him price leverage over others and the possibility of consolidating many labels in one shipment. 

In a Utopian world, Gary, yes,  when every Indian state would recognise that the heavy excise registration charges for each label, besides the annual license, are a big obstacle in getting more varieties. Waiver of these charges could certainly win him thousands of hearts and palates. But in India, where snail moves faster in the world of wine, he might have to fall in line with the rest of the mortals. 

Gary the Showman 

Gary is quite a showman in many respects, and he knows it. He could well be a sports jockey, a Rush Limbaugh type of a rightist Radio host or a Billy Graham type of a preacher man. For the moment, he is enjoying being Gary, the wine man who likes to sign off his TV blog, 'with you, and a little bit of me, whether they like it or not, we are going to change the wine world'.

Gary left me with a feeling that India is going to see and hear a lot more of him in the near future.

Subhash Arora
August 12, 2008

 

       

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