European winemakers back €1.2m Irish wine subscription service

Six-month-old retail start-up attracts equity from France, Spain, Italy and Germany

Eamon FitzGerald has already signed up more than 1,000 subscribers,  each paying €10 per month for access to WineSpark. Photograph: WineSpark

Eamon FitzGerald has already signed up more than 1,000 subscribers, each paying €10 per month for access to WineSpark. Photograph: WineSpark

Your Web Browser may be out of date. If you are using Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 our Audio player will not work properly.
For a better experience use Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

 

A Dublin-based former Accenture management consultant has raised more than €300,000 from high-end European winemakers to fund an online wine sales service that is aiming to sign up as many as 10,000 Irish subscribers.

Eamon FitzGerald, who is also a former global wine director for the UK-listed retailer Naked Wines, has already signed up more than 1,000 subscribers each paying €10 per month for access to WineSpark. It sells to its members hard-to-find quality wines at, Mr FitzGerald says, “cost price”.

The start-up was valued at about €1.2 million in the fundraising ahead of its official launch six months ago. The funds raised were used to buy WineSpark’s initial stock for its launch. About 60 per cent of the wines it sells to its members are sourced from the European winemakers backing the project.

Among WineSpark’s investors are famed Tuscan winemaker Federico Cerelli, who previously helped produce the so-called “Super Tuscan” wines Tignanello and Solaia when he worked for the large Chianti producer, Marchesi Antinori.

Eamon FitzGerald estimates that wines costing €20-€30 a bottle on WineSpark would cost €40 to €50 from retailers. Photograph: WineSpark
Eamon FitzGerald estimates that wines costing €20-€30 a bottle on WineSpark would cost €40 to €50 from retailers. Photograph: WineSpark

The Irish start-up is also backed by others including Languedoc winemaker, Benjamin Darnault; Stefano di Blasi, another Tuscan former Antinori winemaker; UK-based Amelia Aragon, whose family makes Rioja wines in Spain; and Barolo winemaker, Serena Cordero.

Other investors include Epicure Wines in Spain, Grands Vignobles en Mediterranee in France, and the GP Winery in Germany.

WineSpark is, in effect, an online wine-buying club aimed at securing low-cost quality wines directly from producers for its members, with the monthly membership fees constituting the company’s net revenue. Mr FitzGerald estimates that wines costing €20-€30 a bottle on WineSpark would cost €40 to €50 from retailers, or more than €90 per bottle in restaurants.

Subscribers can order wine by the half-case of six bottles. Mr FitzGerald has outsourced the packing and handling of the wines to a warehouse in west Dublin, while delivery is handled by UPS.

The Dubliner, who worked for Naked Wines for over a decade before leaving it a year ago, says he is solely focused on building an Irish base of subscribers, but could look to expand the concept internationally if he “proves” the model here.

“When I left Naked, I wrote a goodbye email to its customers and about 3,000 of them replied to say that if I was setting up a service in Ireland they’d be interested,” he says. “From that, I eventually had about 1,500 names and emails to target for the launch of WineSpark, which gave me a great start.”

He says he intends to “bootstrap” the start-up, or fund it slowly through its own cashflow with no further fundraising planned. However, he says, if it expands internationally he may look to raise further equity.