Published June 2016
Wine + education + fun + engagement + accessibility = win
It’s a simple formula, but one which many companies have tried and failed over the years. Le Petit Ballon reckons they’ve got it sussed.
Formed in France in 2009, Philip McNee of Le Petit Ballon says the company had a simple aim: to help people “discover fantastic wines and learn about wine in a fun, friendly, accessible way.” It’s a wine subscription service but, rather than pushing out a case every month, they delivered a few, hand-picked wines with engaging supporting material. Now they’re in the UK to bring us the same service.
I received a press sample from LPB recently, with a couple of bottles of wine and their booklet: The Gazette. Its stylish design was a combination of wine information, customer content and lifestyle recommendations. It’s more like the FT Magazine than a wine company’s wine info, with mini-features on the wine, a Parisian restaurant review, recipes, a travel guide for the La Cote Chalonaise, a blogger’s recipes, and some music suggestions.
Equally as stylish and informative were the tasting cards. Within 2 sides of A5 was a wealth of detail on each wine that was a joy to read rather than a slog. I especially liked the details on decanting/serving, photo/notes on the winery, the review by one of the founders, food pairing and tasting notes. Were they both perfect? Well, a couple of terms used on the tasting cards didn’t seem to mean much and the layout of The Gazette could see minor improvements, but that was the best I could come up with when I was trying hard to be critical.
I do wonder if the cheaper level ‘apprentice box’ is needed; I’d be tempted to focus on the more expensive ‘master’ level wines. If it’s education you want, and you’re going to the effort to receive two or three chosen wines, make them worthwhile. But I suppose that would lose a lot of its accessibility charm. I’ll certainly give LPB another go, but will be requesting the master box.
Overall, I love the fact that LPB is not dumbing down wine, but still manages to keep it fresh, crisp and enlightening. They appear to be a wine club for the more serious wine consumer, who is looking for knowledge but doesn’t want to sacrifice style and fun. It’s a niche that I think is currently big enough for a viable business. How Brexit will affect this business is anyone’s guess.
I received the sample from LPB, including a bottle of Nicolas Pere & Fils, Essentielle, 2013 and Domaine des Trottieres, Anjou 9 1/2 but I received no remuneration. All opinions are my own.