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Is the world ready for the ‘gamification’ of wine?

E-commerce platform Underground Cellar has introduced a new gaming element for its wine buyers.

There’s no denying that many people enjoy a little flutter. And with the global casino and online gambling industry worth a staggering US$2261.79 billion, according to a 2021 report by Statista, it’s a pretty safe bet that our unquenchable thirst for risk, as well as for wine, is here to stay.

That’s one reason why Jeffrey Shaw, founder of Californian e-commerce wine platform Underground Cellar has launched a new ‘gamification’ concept for selling his bottles online. And he believes it could be the future.

In a nutshell, customers choosing six or more wines worth US$30 each may arrive at their online checkout to find that half of their order has been upgraded for free to bottles worth US$50 or more. Or they might not. And therein lies the gamble.

On the one hand, ‘more expensive’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘better’ wines. Then there’s the issue of taste preference. If you have a specific idea of the kind of wine you’d like to buy, only to find it has been substituted for something else, then it could become frustrating.

However, it may also enable wine fans to discover new wines, new producers and lesser-known wine regions around the world. The idea, according to Shaw, is to introduce buyers to more expensive bottles, far-flung vineyards and wines produced by smaller, family-run operations that customers might otherwise not hear about.

“Some of the best wineries and winemakers wouldn’t respond to us two years ago,” Shaw has said. “Now they are coming to us, tail between legs, saying ‘we’d love to chat’.”

Are we ready to accept a gaming element to wine investment? And is it all that different to bidders spending a small fortune at auction on a lot they’ve never tasted? We might just have to suck it and see.

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