Removing the Bowties & the B.S. from the Wine Industry

By: Qian Leung posted Jun 14th 2018 12:35PM

Founded seven years ago by two guys in a garage, Vinomofo is an online wine community that brings some beloved wines from across the globe direct to your doorstep. “The first time I created an online wine business, it was a social site for wine lovers, called Qwoff,” says Justin Dry, 40, who was born near Barossa Valley in southern Australia. Aside from studying wine marketing in school, he’d also picked grapes and made wines in different parts of Australia. “The reason we started that was based on this philosophy of removing the bowties and intimidation around wine, democratising wine for a younger audience.” His second business was an online wine travel show, with a cameraman and sound man following him and his brother-in-law Andre Eikmeier as they travelled to different wine regions in a Volkswagen Kombi, meeting winemakers and trying their wines. “We were hosting the show for a couple of years, it was really fun.” The third business was a mobile check-in app which offered discounts upon checking in to wineries in different locations, which also lets friends know where you are. “In 2010, we’d built an audience of younger wine lovers and a network of wine producers with this attitude of wine democratisation. That was when we launched vinomofo, just wanting everyone to be able to try good wines.” There was a funny story with how they came to be known as vinomofo. “Originally it was going to be called vinomojo,” says Dry. Two days before the launch, they received a legal letter notifying them that there existed a wine brand named mojo wines. To wait until the courts heard the case would mean a delay of six months, but the time was ripe – they needed to launch. “So we tried to come up with names that would be as close as possible, such as vinomoto, vinomodo, and eventually I said, ‘Why don’t we call it vinomofo for the mother f*****s that were trying to steal our mojo?’” The idea was to change it back after winning the court case, but everyone loved the story because it fit so well with their attitude. “Our members love it, they refer to each other as mofos, it’s crazy. It seems ridiculous, but it’s true.”

Having been in Singapore for slightly over a year now, Dry is excited with how the vinomofo community in Singapore has grown. “I think Singapore has for too long paid way too much money for wine, because there’s been too many middlemen.” After tasting numerous wines and picking only the top 5 percent of wines that they love drinking, Vinomofo skips the agent, the exporter, the importer, the distributor, and goes straight to the producer. Since they have a community of 600 thousand consumers, they are able to buy the wines at a good price, which are shipped to warehouses, and sold directly to mofos. “Singapore seems to love champagnes, so we’ve got champagnes, mixed six packs, which would normally cost S$450, but we’re selling them for S$250, meaning they’re only about S$40 per bottle – and they taste amazing.” The list of wines changes every four to six weeks, featuring about 100 reds, 50 whites, 40 sparklings, and 10 dessert wines, and may come from Italy, France, Spain, Australia, or New Zealand. In the days to come, Vinomofo will be going into the U.S. and U.K. markets. “Like how we started in Australia, we build a community around tastings.” Once Dry has gotten to know their members, they begin to refer to him as their friend. “The Singapore market loves how it’s made by real people, it’s accessible, it’s adventurous, and I think it’s a really beautiful thing that I’m able to do for people.” 
Adapted from the May Jun 18 issue of Cuisine & Wine Asia.

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