Members-only rare wine site Lot18, already popular in the US, launched a UK version today. 

The site provides its members with exclusive and hard to find wines, offering a small selection which changes on a regular basis. 

I’ve been talking to co-founder Philip James, who was previously CEO of Snooth, about the new site… 

I interviewed you about Snooth in 2008, do you still have any involvement with the site? 

I grew up in the UK, but I’ve been living in New York for the last nine years. I launched Snooth in 2006, and was CEO until 18 months ago, though I’m still on the board of directors there. 

Kevin Fortuna, an investor in Snooth, and I founded Lot18 and launched the US site in November 2010. 

We launched with a team of six people, and we’ve since expanded to 115 with offices in Napa, New York, Paris and London.

Last November we acquired French wine site Vinobest and now we’re moving into the UK. 

Tell me about Lot18…

It’s fundamentally a private sale / members site for wine, though in the US we also sell gourmet and wine-related travel. This is something we’ll eventually add in the UK. 

The site has a really strong focus on a limited selection of wines, with three key propositions: 

  • Access.
  • Curation.
  • Discovery. 

We’ll be selling some hard to find wines, with an ever-changing selection of wine. Some wines will be in very limited quantities, maybe just 10 cases. 

We have a fantastic procurement system globally, buying wines direct from the producers. We also have access to a lot of very good US wines, which we hope will give us an edge. 

It’s a really good way to introduce people to new wines. The average supermarket or wine site has thousands of wines, and people need some guidance in this area. 

We provide a selection of wines, neither cheap nor expensive, which we know are good and that our customers will appreciate. 

Is there a wine club / subscription model? 

You have to be a member, but it’s just a case of registering. There’s no minimum payment. 

That said, in the US, people are buying on a regular basis. 

How do you encourage repeat purchases? 

It’s driven a lot by email, which is why we have people creating accounts so we can get to know which wines they buy. 

Then we’re able to target emails based on a customer’s individual preferences, and we’ll send different product selections to each recipient.