One thing I’ve learned over the past year is that you can’t talk about the metaverse without discussing NFTs. Last week’s podcast brought a fascinating discussion with two entrepreneurs in the space, cousins Dov and Sam Falic who co-founded BlockBar, the world’s first Direct-to-Consumers NFT marketplace for wines and spirits. BlockBar connects consumers and collectors with stockists, offering buyers the opportunity to trade NFTs in return for unique drinks products. In their first year of business, they’ve worked with global brands like Glenfiddich, Hennessy and Patrón.
Naturally, when we think about wine and spirits, we’re likely thinking about the very real, embodied act of drinking and socialising, so it’s not the first space one might imagine bringing into the virtual world. As the younger generation in a family business—Duty Free America—that largely deals with wine and spirits, Dov and Sam saw a great opportunity to enter into the NFT world, to take the business their fathers began into the future.
Sam discussed how fascinated he was with this new technology, but how he saw a lot of limitations, especially for someone trying to get into the NFT space for the first time. For example, you need to set up an account on an exchange, and a wallet, and you need to pay in crypto, and generally speaking there’s not a lot of support or guidance throughout the whole process. So Sam and Dov’s initial goal was to utilise their existing businesses to solve an actual problem in the NFT industry, allowing luxury brands to sell NFTs directly and allowing consumers to pay in credit card.
Dov and Sam’s experience in the wine and spirits space made them uniquely qualified to create a customer-friendly NFT service that solved a number of issues within their industry. They noted how there are various obstacles when it comes to purchasing a high-end bottle of wine or spirits: in the first place, it’s difficult to know where and how to buy it, for example, going to an auction house, which few people know about. Second, if you actually buy that bottle, there’s the question of how to store it at the proper temperature, how to keep it secure from theft or damage, and how to transport it if you move. And then ultimately, there’s the question of what to do if you decide to sell your bottle—how to prove the authenticity of its contents is very challenging. BlockBar helps people overcome these issues using NFTs. Each NFT is tied to a physical product stored in their Singapore facility. Consumers then have the ability to re-sell the NFT on the platform, gift it to anybody in the world, or redeem the physical product. BlockBar has cut out the middleman and simplified the luxury wine and spirit buying process, creating a direct-to-consumer experience, where people can create a relationship directly with the brand if they opt in, and the brand can then offer them exclusive content and access.
Sam and Dov explained how the unusual combination of NFTs with wine and spirits just made intuitive sense to them, since the issues of authenticity and access are paramount when it comes to Italian wine or spirits. In real life, spirits and wine are so collectible because they are themselves nonfungible: you can’t recreate a vintage of wine from a certain year, there are only so many. NFTs linked to these tangible items help with proof of ownership. It also allowed them to side step the difficulty of regulation regarding alcohol, which you normally can’t just trade, unlike other assets, as you need a liquor license. The NFT corresponds to a physical bottle and can be traded without any legal repercussions. In the past, you’d buy a bottle from an auction house, store it at your home, then would have to sort out reselling with the auction house in the future. BlockBar makes it much easier to buy, trade or sell investments in high end wine and liquor.
With their innovative service, Sam and Dov see themselves as bridge builders across generations and industries. Naturally, when we think of those who invest in high end spirits or wine, we think of an older generation, whilst those savvy on NFTs tend to be on the younger side. Sam described them as both “introducing Gen Z to collecting high end spirits and wine and introducing Boomers into the world of NFTs.”
Our discussion revealed all kinds of fascinating insider information about the world of high end wine and spirits, whilst showing a completely original new application for the blockchain when it comes to real world applications. To hear more about how Sam and Dov are bringing their new service to the world, how it stands to democratise the traditional spirits industry, and what the future holds in store for BlockBar, you can listen to our full conversation here.