Random Musings

The Demise of the Mailing List?

home wine cellar

Lillian Winery recently made small waves in the wine buying community by doing away with their mailing list and releasing the 2010 Syrah on a first-come, first-served basis.

Maggie Harrison, who learned the craft from Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non, has been making widely-acclaimed Syrah at Lillian since the 2004 vintage. In years past, the wine was always sold via mailing list with a guaranteed allocation based on prior year’s purchases. Although the wine was widely sought after by collectors, I’m not sure Lillian ever had a waiting list for their wines and they did periodically appear at retail. The explanation on why Lillian did away with the mailing list was somewhat convoluted:

“Transactions between wineries and individuals—between you and us—are, in their own way, conversations that inform the basis of our relationship. But the reality is, our relationship has evolved and can evolve further.

To this end, we are doing away with allocations.

It started with a idea; brilliant in it’s crystalinity: If we have 500 cases of wine and 1000 customers, each customer will have six bottles of wine held in his name. Ideas, however, get corrupted, changed. What started out as an idea based on equality and loyalty has morphed into something less noble. Somehow we’ve begun to rely on an overly complicated system that at its best is fairly annoying and at its least attractive, wrought with conceit.”

This does raise the larger question of whether or not other wineries with an allocation release model will also stop their mailing lists. To answer this, I think you first need to consider why Lillian made the decision they did. If I had to guess, I’d say Lillian did away with the mailing list due to time constraints – running a fair and efficient list must be extremely time consuming, wrought with hours upon hours of paperwork and management. It is likely that Lillian can now sell their entire production without dealing with allocations and deadlines.

I highly doubt this is the way of the future. Wineries like Cayuse, Saxum and Carlisle have loyal, passionate mailing list members. In those cases, saving the work involved with list management twice a year would hardly be worth alienating the winery’s customer base.

Time will tell.

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4 thoughts on “The Demise of the Mailing List?

  1. Do you think it has to do with people flipping bottles for higher prices? Kind of sounds like Lillian is upset with it’s mailing list members for one reason or another.

    1. I don’t think Lillian ever sold at a premium so flipping was probably not the cause. What if someone wanted a case but because of the allocation system she could only sell them 6 bottles unless there was a wishlist system in place. In the end I think it is hard for wineries to get this right and it is probably a huge time commitment as well.

  2. Have to admit as someone who is trying to get on closed lists I wish more would go this route and hope it works well for the winery.

    Have to wonder how many people just stay on the lists (especially the tough lists) to flip the wine even though they are not enjoying it anymore? I know I am biased but it would be a lot of fun to at lest have a chance at some of the allocation.

    1. To your second point there are so few mailing list wines that can now be sold at a premium. Sine Qua Non and Screaming Eagle might be the exceptions.

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