How Wholesalers Can Stretch Sample Budgets While Increasing Sales

Coravin has paved a new way for wholesale sales reps to manage samples, optimize appointments, and drive sales. Now, the brand’s newest systems further expand the possibilities to improve bottom lines

Photo courtesy of Coarvin.
This advertising content was produced in collaboration with our partner, Coravin.

The original Coravin Wine Preservations Systems have become fixtures in wholesale sales reps’ tool bags, with the ability to pour wine without removing the cork and extend the life of a sample bottle for months or even years. But many distributors and wholesale sales reps are going a step further, using the brand’s iconic system to boost case sales in addition to extending the life of their bottles.

Removing waste risk means these reps can now sample high-end or small-batch bottles with even more accounts, increasing the likelihood that these special bottles make the wine list. Further, using Coravin wine preservation systems also means more samples per bottle, and therefore, more bottles that can be sold—a critical issue when supply chain challenges mean there are fewer bottles to begin with. Given the current realities facing the wine and hospitality industries, finding ways to adapt to ever-changing sales conditions is crucial for businesses of all sizes.

With the introduction of the brand’s latest innovations, there is now a preservation system for all bottles and types of wine. With Pivot, users replace the closure with a specially designed stopper, and use the Pivot device to pour samples, preserving the remaining wine for up to four weeks. This opens the door for use with all still wines, regardless of the type of closure. 

Most recently, the company launched Coravin Sparkling, which preserves the flavor and effervescence of any sparkling wine for up to four weeks, a game-changer for the sparkling wine industry. The company also launched Professional versions of its still wine products, the Timeless Three Pro and the Pivot Pro, which use a 30 percent larger capsule and include an ongoing replenishment program. Through the combination of these product introductions, Coravin is setting wholesale reps and brand managers up for even greater success.

Improving the Economics of Wholesale

As it was for importers and distributors across the U.S., the calculus of sampling and selling was different for Skurnik Wines & Spirits before they began using Coravin’s core device, Timeless. But when the company purchased Coravin devices for every salesperson and brand manager, “immediately, it really changed the game for us overnight, because we didn’t have to make these decisions about whether or not it made sense, from a profitability standpoint, to open up a very expensive bottle of wine,” said Gabriel Clary, Skurnik’s vice president and portfolio manager for Champagne, Germany, and Austria, in a recent webinar presented by Coravin and SevenFifty. “We’re able to regularly open up a much larger array of wines.”

Some of Clary’s most memorable sales, in fact, have been a direct result of Coravin allowing him to sample wines that he never would have been able to in the past. He once poured a sample of Nikolaihof Vinothek 2002 for Thomas Pastuszak, then the beverage director of the NoMad, using Coravin. “He ended up putting it on his own Coravin reserve list, and was able to use it for pairings,” recalled Clary.

While Coravin is well-known for having changed how consumers enjoy their wines, and how sommeliers offer and serve them at restaurants, the impact on distributors has been every bit as significant—which, even for Coravin founder and inventor Greg Lambrecht, was unexpected. 

Coming from a medical innovations background, Lambrecht was largely unaware of how the three-tier system operated when he first began selling his invention. “But within a couple of weeks of launch … a distributor came in and said, ‘This could change my life. Our reps schedule their day around when they open a bottle,’” noted Lambrecht. With Coravin devices, concerns over preserving samples are alleviated: The wine would always be fresh.

Coravin has not just touched every aspect of the world of wine, but it’s also changed the very economics of it. And among wholesalers, that impact has been immense. “Control of inventory is really important on the restaurant side, but also on the distribution side, especially mid-pandemic,” said Clary. “We’re not bringing in enormous amounts of the highest end wines … they’re not wines that we have in huge quantities. So every sample that gets pulled, it matters more from a percentage standpoint when you’re talking about the total number of open bottles.”

Photo courtesy of Coarvin.

With the new Coravin Sparkling system, that sample optimization is extended to Champagne and sparkling wines as well, which are notoriously difficult to preserve even in a single day of appointments. (Clary recalled needing to stash extra sample bottles of sparkling at accounts he would be visiting later in the day to ensure that the wines would be fresh.) Distributors can far more easily sample even their highest-end Champagnes—which is particularly important, given the current demand for and shortages of Champagnes at all price points. 

The patented technology not only allows open bottles of bubbly to be preserved at the proper pressure for up to four weeks (assuming proper storage), but the locking mechanism on the stopper is so secure that it will stay sealed even through days and weeks of being toted from one account to another. It took eight years to develop, but the wait was worth it: Coravin Sparkling, like the rest of the line-up, represents a paradigm shift from a sales perspective.

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Reaching More Accounts

With Coravin, entire sales teams can share samples in a way they weren’t able to before. Lambrecht recalled how an Atlanta-based sales rep told him how much Coravin has impacted every aspect of how he goes about his work each day. “He said, ‘Now we have a Coravin wine fridge [at the office], and it’s full of samples that people can take out whenever they want to,” noted Lambrecht. “We have a library. We’ve tracked it, and our sample use cost has dropped dramatically—in half—and our sales have gone up.’” 

It’s also become possible to taste buyers on a broader range of wines without having to risk losing the value of a whole bottle on a sample. In the past, sales reps had to make a huge range of assumptions about which accounts were most likely to ultimately buy specific wines in their portfolios. “‘Now, we no longer make those assumptions, and we serve [more accounts] some of the higher end wines,’” one sales rep said to Lambrecht. “‘It’s remarkable how many of the places that we thought wouldn’t serve them, do want to serve them once they taste them … We’re increasing the footprint of the customer base that serves our higher-end wines.’”

But it isn’t just high-end wines that Coravin allows wholesalers to better preserve and sell; with the new Coravin Pivot, which was released in 2020, sales reps can pour from any bottle regardless of closure type and preserve it for up to four weeks. This means that Pivot is perfect for wines that are likely to be sampled with accounts more frequently while ensuring the last taste will be just as fresh as the first. 

Coravin has also created an entire line of products specifically for wine professionals: Coravin Professional, which caters to the specific ways in which members of the trade use Coravin. Timeless Three Pro and Pivot Pro can accommodate larger Coravin Pure Argon Pro capsules—which contain 30 percent more argon for the same price—and can better withstand the frequent use typical of importers, distributors, and sommeliers.

Like everything that Coravin has designed and developed, there is a constant search for innovation, and to ensure that new products cater to the specific needs of the wine ecosystem. The results have been seismic across the board, and for wholesalers in particular, it has changed the game entirely.


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