Meet the Buyer: M. Nicolas MENDIHARAT, Founder of Palate Club, California, USA

Vinexpo Bordeaux: What is Palate Club? How does your technology work?

Nicolas: Palate Club is a new wine subscription business operating on the US market. We built a unique data science model thanks to the collaboration of wine experts, sommeliers, neuroscientists and mathematicians using 200 traits found in wine with the primary goal of mapping each consumer’s personal palate.

We ship the wines blind by covering the labels with a light sleeve and a secret bottle number. The experience usually starts with 4 red or white polarised half-bottles. The customer rates the wines in our app from 1 to 5* and our algorithms unveil seven main descriptors of their personal profile.

We then ship wines depending on the first results matched to their taste, but they continue to be delivered blind, so that more ratings refine the profile.

The subscription is very flexible, so members can tweak their price range, number of bottles by type, shipping frequency and even their discovery level, depending on their will to take risks or stay closer to their taste. We showcase the winemakers with videos once the bottles are rated.

Vinexpo Bordeaux: Why do you think wine clubs are so popular in the U.S.? 

Nicolas: Wine clubs have mostly become popular since 2005 when U.S. wineries were allowed to ship directly to U.S. customers by a Supreme Court ruling. Most « Wine Clubs » are therefore affiliated to a specific winery.

As for us or other retail clubs using imported wines as well as American wines, the wine club model thrives because of its convenience, purchasing simplicity and curation. But it needed a new experience tackling the main problem the customer is facing: good value for your own personal taste. This is why we built Palate Club.

Vinexpo Bordeaux: Which wines are most popular with your users these days?

Nicolas: As a rule, we consider every customer’s palate is different and make a point of delivering a vast diversity of wines. But obviously with the level of feedback data from the ratings, we start to see « taste clusters » which in certain cases are surprising.

For instance, we see old world and new world type have no particular preference in the U.S., so there are as many customers preferring full-bodied fruity reds as mineral lighter ones coming from Europe. Exotic grapes and blends are also winning because of their strong matching with certain palates. Wines with a lower alcohol level are also enjoyed more than we thought.

We will release some of our findings based on our strong data for the industry pretty soon.

Vinexpo Bordeaux: What will you be looking for at Vinexpo Bordeaux 2019?

Nicolas: We continuously look for excellent quality small wineries that have a special terroir and winemaker touch. Particularly when they’re interested in exporting to the U.S. and are interested in the data of our customer feedback loop.

I will also be seeking innovations and partnerships.