‘Wine people know Oregon is amazing but among regular people it’s less well-known,’ says British wine expert Joe Fattorini. He aims to change that.
After writing a weekly wine column for the Scottish publication The Herald for 14 years, running a wine shop and hosting ITV's The Wine Show, British wine expert Joe Fattorini wants to make history with Pix, the world’s first online wine discovery platform, where he serves as managing director.
Consumers frequently rely on less-than-scientific measurements to pick their wine. Multiple studies on wine buying habits have revealed shoppers frequently purchase wine based on label. A 2017 study at the University of Adelaide found wine labels and cleverly-written descriptions had significant power to alter consumers’ emotional states, and that consumers often pay premiums for wines with better labels.
Pix aims to change that.
Left to right: Matthew Goode,Joe Fattorini, and James Purefoy in The Wine Show (2016). Credit: The Wine Show
Using an analytical search engine and reviews from trusted sources, the wine discovery platform will assist consumers in choosing the best wines for them every time they buy. If successful, Pix could offer a boat to Oregon’s wine industry, which he describes as “a small area that punches big” in terms of wine quality.
Fattorini discusses how the evolving technology of wine buying could put Oregon’s wine industry on the world’s radar.
RELATED STORY: A New Season for Oregon’s Wine Industry.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
How is Pix different from wine platforms currently available?
We started Pix because there really wasn’t a ‘Google’ of wine. There are ‘Amazons’ of wine — people who collect from different places, aggregate it and sell it to you. There are places where you can keep records on wine, but there was no one saying “Let’s see if we can capture the entire universe of wine on a website.”
We operate exactly the same way as Google. What our platform does is put you in touch with the people selling the wine you will enjoy. [We] have no skin in the game about where you buy your wine from, so our only interest is connecting our consumer to the wine they enjoy.
Managing this platform is the exact same job as managing a wine shop. We make sure everything is categorized in the right way and use merchandising to help people drill into their choices. We also pick out staff favorites. Our platform is based around giving the kind of human answers you would find in a wine shop. We have to write 350,000 wine cards that give descriptions of what the wine tastes like. Some of them we write ourselves, some of them we get a computer to write.
That’s basically it. We want to create the world’s biggest wine shop with the friendliest staff.
Joe Fattorini. Credit: The Wine Show
Will Pix give an advantage to Oregon wine, which frequently ranks highly on wine lists, but produces relatively low volumes compared to other wine regions?
Totally and completely.
I’ve sold Oregon wines in the UK. Résonance Vineyard and Nicolas-Jay, I adore the wines of Oregon. It’s a small area that punches big. Wine people know Oregon is amazing but among regular people it’s less well-known. What we do is curate our engine and our sections to say “if you’re looking for a very smart pinot noir, you want to be looking in Oregon.”
One thing previous engines haven’t been able to accomplish is getting wine to punch at its own weight division. Your search can be dominated by a few really big players. What our model does is allow Oregon wines to show up alongside wines like Providence in New Zealand. It allows for your wines to be in the line of sight of people looking for wines that are really special, and makes sure wines are grouped in their own weight division.
Our revenue model is going to be based around keywords, and one or two of your keywords you pay for could be showing a customer your biggest competitors. We also are able to provide descriptions of what exactly makes southern Oregon AVAs and Willamette Valley pinot noirs so special.
How is your platform able to connect people to the wines they like better than other wine websites?
What we do at Pix is categorize our wines on three different metrics: The first is what the wine tastes like — notes of blackberry, et cetera. The second metric is the texture of wine, which is something people really latch onto. They know they like smooth wines, rich, zesty, or velvety. And the third category is “how do I use this?” A blackberry wine, for example, is very good for a date night or for a barbecue. Now you have a way to describe your wine using real-world language.
We know people like wine for these specific reasons. It’s a question technology helps us to answer.
One thing we don’t do on our website is have user ratings. These are terrible in the world of wine. Wine is a lot like comedy: the thing that makes you love a certain wine the most is the same thing that makes somebody else not like it at all. Natural wines are a good example of this. The average rating of a natural wine is a 3.8, but most reviews are either a five or a two. We needed to give people something more helpful.
The reason people choose wine based on labels isn’t because that’s what they necessarily want to do, they default to that because they don’t trust other metrics. Some people I talk to actually feel guilty they chose wine based on the label, but you should never feel guilty because the wine was sold to you so badly that’s what you decided to do.
How does your site make it easier for smaller wineries to compete with larger producers?
It’s free to use our platform to find wine and it’s free to post wines on our site as a seller. If I’m a winery, not only do I get to keep all of the profit margin, I also get to keep that customer. We can show them when we have a limited release or something else they might like over the next five or ten years.
We’re also going to develop a mobile app that will be very useful in retail and in restaurants.
If you’re looking on a wine menu, someplace with really premium wines, our site can tell you which ones you’re going to like. That, for an Oregon producer, is amazing. Oregon wines are a phenomenal value, but they need a bit of help since casual wine drinkers around the country might not have heard of it.
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