How Two Oakland Women Are Rethinking Champagne With A Sparkling Wine Subscription

Food & Drink

These days, there’s a subscription for everything. Order mezcal to your door every month, or refill your toothpaste at regular intervals. Anything you could need, read, drink, or desire can show up on your doorstep.

Including really good Champagne.

In 2020, best friends and bubble-obsessed Erica Davis and Catherine Carter set out to discover a way to bring consumers quality Champagne.

“We would go on girl’s trips to Napa all the time and bring a nice bottle of Champagne,” says Davis. “We would notice that I would often love a bottle and she wouldn’t, or vice versa. Or, we would both love a bottle but had no clue why.”

So they started searching for ways to expand their knowledge on the sparkling wine category. “We found nothing! Access to the category was extremely limited. The more we explored the category, the more we realized there are few approachable ways to actually enjoy sparkling wine and Champagne.”

So they created The Sip, a monthly subscription service bringing bottles of bubbles to customers across the country. The bi-monthly box brings subscribers three 187mL bottles of bubbles or one half-bottle and one 187mL, plus tasting guides and $10 credit towards a full-size bottle.

Since launching, The Sip has pulled in more than $2 million in sales and has a customer base of 25,000 strong, including regular subscribers and corporate clients. Davis and Carter saw revenue grow 400% over the first year. The brand currently has 55 SKUs of sparkling wines in its portfolio.

Products include boutique bottles like B. Stuyvesant (the only Black female-owned champagne company in the United States, based in Brooklyn) and Wachira (the first Kenyan-American winery), as well as legacy bubbles — Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, and the like.

Smaller-format bottles are either pre-sourced from producers or made custom for The Sip. “People and producers are starting to realize the benefits of smaller formats,” says Davis. “On the backs of the popularity of canned wines, wineries have smartened up. We’ve sourced from a combination of producers who already offered smaller formats and producers who make smaller formats specifically for us.”

Why smaller bottles? It allows drinkers to sip several different bottles side by side or in smaller, non-committal formats. “Full-sized bottles of Champagne are a big commitment,” says Davis. “We were spending hundreds of dollars on bottles and sometimes we wouldn’t like them. And unlike still wine, once you pop it you pretty much have to finish the bottle.”

With a recession looming, Davis points out, people can expand their palate while preserving their budget: most boxes ($59.95 per box on a bi-monthly subscription) cost less than a bottle of French Champagne.

“It makes it appealing that we offer single serves so they don’t have to worry about commitment,” she continues. “If they do like the bottle, they can use our $10 offer to go towards the bottle.”

Part of Davis and Carter’s success is The Sip’s ability to appeal to a broad range of drinkers, not just the Champagne-obsessed. Both women are long time fans of subscription-based services. So when building the company structure, they modeled The Sip after their favorite direct-to-consumer services. “For example, we made sure that there was seamless discovery for future products. It sucks if you get a delicious bottle and can’t find it anywhere. We allow our customers to rate and review the product. We then provide further bottle recommendations that fall within that same flavor profile. Through that method, you discover the bottle you love and discover other wines your palate will prefer.”

Beyond monthly boxes, customers can also shop a robust online store filled with one-off tasting boxes — 30% of their business is subscription-based, while the rest is padded out by business-to-business and online shoppers. “We’ve seen a lot of interest from direct-to-consumer as well as business-to-business. Businesses that are trying to keep their employees happy.”

Future boxes will expand towards the sparkling cocktail realm, with smaller-format bottles paired with spirits and cocktail mixers for creating French 75s and other effervescent classics.

“People have the thought process that sparkling wine is for special occasions,” says Davis. “But after everything that everyone has gone through, we deserve sparkling wine.”

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