Could ‘curbside sommeliers’ be the next big thing?
Forget ice cream vans. You might soon see sommeliers on wheels bringing their favourite wines to your doorstep.
It’s no secret that since the start of the pandemic, food and drink delivery services have enjoyed astronomical success. This week, Just Eat revealed a 14% increase in orders during the fourth quarter of 2021, and booze delivery venture Drizly has proved so popular that Uber has snapped it up for a cool US$1.1 billion.
With consumers able to order everything from Advocaat to avocados via apps, it might seem like every base is covered. But could there be a gap in the market for consumers to enjoy expert wine advice from a qualified sommelier right on their doorstep?
Brion Brionson, who launched curbside wine delivery service Little Lands in December 2020, thinks so.
The fledgling operation, based in Los Angeles, sees Brionson drive a white van stocked with natural wines into local neighbourhoods to tempt his customers’ fancy.
Using more than 20 years of wine experience gleaned from working at restaurants including Barbrix, Botanica, and All Time, Brionson rumbles up and offers his professional guidance on the best bottles to suit each buyer.
“Because it’s only me, there’s zero filter. This is pretty much the most unfettered access to how I interact with the world and with wine,” Brionson told LA Eater.
A ‘Limited Off-Sale Wine License’ permit from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control allows him to sell wine directly to consumers online and by phone as opposed to from a physical retail location.
Customers can place orders for specific bottles via text message, Instagram and Little Lands’ website, or they can simply request the presence of Brionson and his van.
“Then I’ll roll through, they’ll meet me at the van, and I’ll go through what’s on board,” he explained in an interview with LA Eater.
All of Brionson’s picks, which include a mixture of European whites, reds, rosés, skin-contact, and sparkling wines, plus a few choices from California and Australia, are considered to be natural wines.
Or, as the drinks expert says, wines made “without chemical additives or sugars or additional yeast.”
As for his customer base… “I end up delivering mostly to people with young children who are kind of housebound, or people who work from home,” Brionson says. “I’m able to DM someone and say, ‘Hey, I got some Alsatian riesling, and I know you’ve enjoyed that in the past.’ Most of the time, people are like, ‘Yeah, bring it over.’”
It ties in with a hot trend for demystifying wine and making it more accessible, which has seen the take-up of canned wines soar from 21% to 32% in the last three years.
For many, the idea of interacting with a sommelier at home, in a casual, relaxed fashion, will feel less intimidating than having that same conversation in a restaurant, where fellow diners can overhear their every word.