By Evan Dawson, Managing Editor
Lenn and I are always leery of new trends in social media and wine, but we also deeply admire the work done by our friends at VinTank and Cruvee. Those guys are working with wineries to reach consumers directly, and in new ways. They know that making consumers happy makes wineries successful, so it's all about access and innovation.
That's where VinPass, a new social game, comes in. The concept of "social game" might sound strange, but it's been around longer than you probably realize. Tens of millions of people play social games already, from FourSquare to Farmville to many others. Some are silly time-wasters, but others have the legs to connect people across the globe.
We think VinPass can work in exactly that way. It's designed for wine lovers at any level, but it's most appealing (we think) to avid but newer wine drinkers. That's because it's set up to help consumers learn while playing the game.
The concept is simple: through Web-based and mobile apps, you unlock passes or earn badges by completing a variety of tasks. And the task always includes tasting or drinking wine.
You can see why we think this is a winner.
VinPass has put together a pass centered on my book, Summer in a Glass -- check out the pass here. You can unlock it by tasting wines from the Finger Lakes producers featured in the book. Simple.
Other passes can be unlocked by tasting roses from around the world, or a handful of offbeat varieties, or simply by tasting wines from specific wineries.
As a reward, those who play the game can unlock discounts on wines, or earn invitations to virtual tastings, or any number of other incentives.
One feature that appealed to us is ease of use. "Ease of use is key," says Paul Mabray, Chief Strategy Officer of VinTank. "There are challenges that we are learning to accommodate. For example, if a platform allows users to write in the wines and they misspell the brand, this makes it challenging but we are creating new solutions every day."
VinPass launched with 47 sponsors and the support of a number of wine personalities. NYCR will actively monitor the social game, and if it goes according to plan, expect more involvement in the future. We think it can expose more consumers to new wines, and it's always a net positive when consumers are seeking new experiences.