Wine Battles is the drinking game for adults who want to develop their palates and broaden their wine knowledge. Unlike Quarters and Beer Pong, the goal isn’t to get smashed. It’s to get intimately familiar with a particular grape varietal, while showing up your friends just a little.
The founder and CEO Mike O’Brien wanted to create a fun, interactive way for people to better understand wine. He got into it himself after being diagnosed with celiac disease. With gluten-heavy beer no longer on the menu for him, he turned to wine. Over golf, he and his business partner developed the concept for a wine club with a competitive edge. They hadn’t intended to create a new date-night craze, but couples make up a significant part of Wine Battlers. It’s also ideal for a dinner party or guys’ night in.
“Wine Battles is March Madness for wine,” says O’Brien. “Members buy the wines, we ship them, then they follow the instructions: They decant the wines, select a battle sommelier, and spend the battle smelling, tasting, learning, answering questions. By the end of the tournament, they’ve improved their wine knowledge significantly.”
The prescribed questions for each battle might address tasting descriptions, but also more conversational stuff, like: “Would President Obama like wine 1 or wine 2?” or “What vacation would you take this wine on?” Tournaments last one, three or seven weeks, each one focusing on a particular varietal. Right now, there are hundreds of people signed up for battles around the country. Each week, participants receive two very different bottles and materials to conduct the tasting. They pick their favorite and, if their picks match up to the popular vote, they get to lord it over their friends or partner.
In addition to the core varietal-based battles, look for upcoming battles like Merlot vs. Malbec and Walla Walla, Wash. vs. Napa. There may even be a battle featuring famous movie star-backed wines. O’Brien is also considering branching out to host restaurant battles, cigar battles and tequila battles. Apparently, people like that #winning feeling.
“We end up with pretty raging fans,” says O’Brien, adding that half of participants sign up for a second battle and 61% of those do a third. “We asked people to submit photos of their wine battle nights. A lot of people submitting were couples doing battle together… TV off, talking to each other, sharing intimate moments. The most shocking was three people who sent in a photo of their clothes spread over the floor. That’s when we knew we had a successful business model.”
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