Wine critic Jeremy Oliver likens the current online wine market to a race to the bottom in price – “where brands fear to tread but typically feel fearful not to participate”.
“Too many Australian online wine retailers are simply flogging what they have sitting in their shed, much of which is purchased at distressed levels of discount, which they then dress up with elevated ratings and sell at unsustainably low prices,” Oliver says.
“Consumers are being fed the lie that they should be happy to buy wines simply because they are cheaper than their typical retail price, rather than because they will actually enjoy the contents of the bottle.
“I see missed opportunity everywhere.
“Online wine retail should be all about the user experience.
“It should provide in-depth and truthful information about wines, engage customers with the narratives behind brands and labels and treat each customer as an individual, rather than just another minor component of a vast, anonymous and monochromatic herd.”
Oliver made the comments while announcing that he is about to launch a new online platform, Oliver’s Wines, which he says has the potential to re-invent online retail for wine.
The platform will be available in both English and Chinese and will include all of Oliver’s library and ongoing output of tasting notes, articles and videos.
It will focus on both Australian and international wine and feature an online store whose curated range will include only the wines Oliver believes are the very best in their various price ranges.
Oliver’s Wines will feature “the world’s finest wine recommendation engine”, which will recommend wines to each user based only on their very own favourites.
“Nothing to do with the herd or what’s in the shed,” Oliver says.
“I have an experienced team to run the business, while I go back to my old day job of creating content, opinions and ratings of wine from the perspective of pure independence.”
There will be no charge to wine brands for Oliver to taste and review their wine.
Neither will wineries be charged for using Oliver’s content.
“I became a wine critic in a very different time to today,” says Oliver.
“Wines were rated and reported upon because somebody liked them, not because they paid for it.
“Consumers could trust the intent behind wine scores, even if they disagreed with them.
“It could hardly be more different now.”
Oliver says he wants to use technology to provide “an old-fashioned retail experience” which recognises each customer and treats them respectfully and honestly.
“As a critic, I want to rate and comment on all the major wines in Australia, regardless of whether or not they’re for sale on this platform,” he says.
“My opinion is not for sale, just as it never has been.”
Oliver believes that in Australia today there are too many feted brands that sell over-rated wines, while some excellent brands never receive coverage and support because they refuse to play the game.
“It’s the ambition of my new platform to seek out, engage with and support these quality-focused brands and to do what we can to make them visible, sustainable and profitable,” he says.
“In short, we want to help the wine buyer through the provision of information and truly personalised recommendation.
“We want to help the industry by removing the costs associated with wine media coverage and by encouraging and supporting quality.
“We want to build long-term relationships with buyers and producers of wine that stands out from the pack – not by price but by quality.”
The platform is timed to launch “to participate in the 2023 Christmas market”.