Israeli wine service Vinsent disrupts Bordeaux during COVID-19

The Bordeaux system of selling wine had been in place since 1855, but during COVID-19, more and more clients are using Vinsent to buy wine online.

WINE ACCOMPANIES a formal meal at the Montefiore Hotel. (photo credit: Courtesy)
WINE ACCOMPANIES a formal meal at the Montefiore Hotel.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
An Israeli winery is helping to shake up Bordeaux wine sales.
It all started when Gil Picovsky, 49, met Jacob Ner-David, 51, of the Jezreel Valley Winery. The two realized that now is the time to create an online platform, which they called Vinsent, to allow people to buy wine directly from the makers.
Raised in France, Picovsky thought he knew a thing or two about wine, but after meeting Ner-David understood he had more to learn.
“I found something I was always looking for,” Picovsky told The Jerusalem Post. “Here was an international market that combines a powerful industry with a highly complex production chain that was waiting to undergo a digital revolution.” For Ner-David, wine is a lot like hi-tech. “You get a basic product, and with skill and luck, turn it into something different.”
Jacob Ner-David (Courtesy)Jacob Ner-David (Courtesy)
“Look at New Zealand, they export roughly $1 billion worth of wine per year,” Picovsky said, noting that when it comes to wine, both countries had a similar starting point 30 years ago. “Israel could, 20 years from now, sell at this figure; it’s high-value agriculture.”
Wine has been consumed in the Holy Land for thousands of years, but under Ottoman rule the industry dwindled, which is why Edmond de Rothschild decided to reintroduce it as part of his Zionist philanthropy efforts a century ago.
Gil Picovsky (Courtesy)Gil Picovsky (Courtesy)
Rothschild thought Carignan grapes would do well in this hot country, which is why to this day they are the most common vines planted in Israel. In the decades following his efforts, the late Pinhas Spiegel-Roy and other scientists cultivated a new vine based on a European import grape, Argaman (deep purple).
“Argaman has such a powerful color. It was originally used as an addition to other wines due to its thin skin around the grape, which means it can ferment quickly, making it a challenge to work with,” Ner-David said. When Jezreel Valley began producing Argaman wine “people thought we were crazy,” he told the Post. “Now people buy it all over the world.”
“The wine market is worth $350 billion per year,” Picovsky pointed out, adding that “the fine wine industry,” meaning people who appreciate knowing the terroir their wine came from, “is roughly worth $80 billion.”
Bordeaux probably has the most famous terroir in the world because of its unique combination of climate and earth that nourishes the vines. Divided by the Garonne river, Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on the left bank and Merlot on the right. It produces more Cabernet Sauvignon than California.
Bordeaux had been selling its wines in a unique system in place since 1855. Each year, wine tasters come to sample wine when it is still in the barrel being fermented. Their deep knowledge allows them to predict how the final wine will be years down the road, which sets its value.
Good wines fetch more than poor ones and small amounts of excellent wine fetch a high price. So producers can, and do, compel buyers to buy at set prices as a refusal to buy during one year would nix the option of buying in the next one. The annual public wine tasting event did not take place this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.  
When American wine lovers buy wine from Bordeaux, they pay not just the French producers and sellers but also the importer and distributor, Picovsky told the Post. This is what Vinsent has tried to change since 2018.
“We are not an online wine store. We offer people the chance to buy wines still being fermented and form a relationship with the winery.” This puts money in the pockets of the wineries during a crucial time.
Many restaurants and wine stores had to close during COVID-19 even though demand is high. In the US, reported a 283% increase in sales. “People used to think they needed to buy wine in a shop,” Ner-David said. “Not anymore,” he added.
“In the 1980’s there were 30 wineries in the country,” Picovsky said. “Now there are 300. Just as people know Italian wine and Spanish wine, they know Israeli wine, wine from the edge of the Mediterranean.”
Picovsky points out that wine tourism is another big market that nearly ended with the demise of flights during coronavirus.
“American wine lovers are less likely to take group tours in Europe any time soon, so Vinsent brings it to them digitally,” Picovsky added.
Ner-David offers digital wine tasting evenings as part of his deep commitment to the field. “Wine is what connects me to the past, present, and future,” he said. 

Tags wine business