‘We Were Intrigued By the Challenge,’ Says Lindsay Held, Cofounder of ReserveBar, Retailer of the Year | Wine Enthusiast’s 2022 Wine Star Awards | Wine Enthusiast
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‘We Were Intrigued By the Challenge,’ Says Lindsay Held, Cofounder of ReserveBar, Retailer of the Year | Wine Enthusiast’s 2022 Wine Star Awards

ReserveBar pioneered the online luxury spirits market.

Imagine being the guy who saw the whole sliced bread thing coming. That’s exactly where ReserveBar was in 2013, when founders Lindsay Held and Jeff Carton wanted to send primo vodka to a college friend across the country, only to find, well, nothing after a thorough Google search.

“It was a typical case of us just heading over to Google and searching for options to send vodka to our friend,” cofounder Held recalls of his and fellow founder Carton’s fruitless quest. “We kept finding random liquor stores across the country, but there was no centralized 1-800-Flowers delivery system for alcohol. We kept calling the stores, and there was no gift box option, no hand delivery. Quite frankly, it felt like we’d be lucky to even get it delivered.”

Serendipitously, the pair, who were roommates at Columbia Law School and shared entrepreneurial zeal and a passion for imbibing rare spirits and resolving thorny regulatory issues, soon discovered that Diageo was looking for a way to get their spirits into thirsty consumers’ hands.

“Unlike, say, Nike, where a manufacturer can sell their goods online directly, or through a retailer, there are a number of constraints for spirits producers,” Held explains. “We were intrigued by the challenge and found a way for them to execute direct-to-consumer sales in a compliant fashion.”

In 2013, ReserveBar launched in partnership with Diageo and a network of retailers across the country, enabling spirits and wine enthusiasts to buy products through ReserveBar and have them delivered right to their door, courtesy of a local retailer.

Within a few months, Moët Hennessy signed on.

“About a yearandahalf later, every major spirits and wine supplier had signed on with us as a marketing partner,” Held reveals. “Then, the craft brands started calling us, simply because there’s clearly a real need in the market for this. They drive traffic to us, and they get their own branded page. Our model allows brands to see the click-through rate. Normally, there’s no way for a brand to track how many people buy a bottle through any form of advertising, but this system is very transparent.”

Brands were fans, but perhaps more importantly, so were wine and spirits enthusiasts.

“It’s a game changer for people, whether they’re giving a gift, or buying a nice bottle of rare whiskey on a random Tuesday,” says ReserveBar’s president, Derek Correia.

Now, almost a decade after ReserveBar launched, the rest of the industry has caught on, and U.S. online alcohol sales have surpassed $6.1 billion, according to a Rabobank report. In the past two years alone, online alcohol sales have grown 131%, and e-commerce is only expected to grow in the coming decade.

ReserveBar pioneered the online luxury spirits market, and since officially launching in 2013, has grown about 100% year-over-year, in part because they’re filling a market need, but also because they keep evolving and innovating.

“We recently introduced the ability to send video gift messages to recipients, and next year, we’re going to be able to offer messages from celebrities for their brands, on-demand delivery within one hour, personalized shopping experiences for everyone based on a quiz and virtual shopping experiences,” Correia says. “You’ll be able to shop from videos you see, photographs of QR codes when you’re out, and there are other projects we can’t talk about yet but are excited to roll out.”

ReserveBar has broken down the divide between the real and digital retail worlds, making every sip available, virtually immediately. 

You’re Invited: 2022 Wine Enthusiast Wine Star Award Winners will be honored in person at The Westin St. Francis on Union Square, San Francisco, CA

For event inquires or to attend, please contact Abigail Turrisi, Events & PR Coordinator, aturrisi@wineenthusiast.net

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