Text Vinni, the “pocket sommelier” who finds the wines you can’t stop thinking about (but can’t find anywhere) – and delivers them to your doorstep
What do you do when you want to keep having a good time, but you can’t find the wine you’re looking for? Luke Campbell says the answer is simple: you text Vinni, the new subscription texting service that tracks down that sublime, palate-pleasing chardonnay or pinot you just can’t find on the shelves.
It’s not an app, and you don’t have to spend hours browsing the internet or making phone calls anymore – just text Vinni and he’ll do the hard work for you. Founder Campbell says you should think of him as “your pocket sommelier.”
The idea is simple: come across a wine you like and take a picture of its front and back labels and text them to Vinni, the cheeky, unassuming and extremely knowledgeable character on the other end of the phone number laptop that you will receive when you sign. subscribe to a monthly or annual subscription. Then he’ll find it, tell you the price, and ship it to you for free, six or 12 bottles at a time. If he can’t find it, he’ll be happy to recommend alternatives that might “broaden your horizons,” says Campbell.
“He has a real personality of his own. And he’s an efficient little guy,” says Campbell of the amalgamation of nearly a century of wine knowledge that is Vinni. Vinni, of course, is not an actual individual (although interactions will give the impression that he is). Rather, the person answering you will be one of the five experienced sommeliers, including Campbell, responsible for managing the text line.
“Whether it’s a Rioja birth year, and we’ve bought a few, [or] a 2018 Fighting Gully Road, Smiths Vineyard or a Chardonnay from Beechworth, one of our guys will dig it up for you.
Campbell says the wines come from all over the world, from small wineries to well-known vineyards. Furthest away was a cult Georgian creation, the elusive 2016 Pheasant’s Tears ‘Kisi’ from Kakheti, a wine that Campbell says took about a week to find. He says the Vinni team searched “high and low”, combing wine shops and private cellars here and abroad before finally locating it in a private collection in Hong Kong. Six bottles of the rare amphora wine “that really tastes like gingerbread” quickly made their way to the customer in Melbourne.
Connecting wine lovers with their wish lists is something Campbell thrives on. Large format first met the veteran vinophile through his role as cellar manager of Melbourne’s Pearl, an intimate and highly specialized oyster bar tucked away on Bourke Street that pairs rare Chablis with swish seafood offerings, where it organizes one of the largest Chablis wine lists in the world.
Born and raised in the Hunter Valley, Campbell has been immersed in wine culture for decades and trained at the prestigious Wine and Spirit Education Trust in London. His love of wine is contagious, and through his gig at Pearl, hosting his own wine podcast with comedian Luke Morris (Lukes Talk Wine) and Vinified, the private winery management service he’s operated for over a decade he constantly receives texts from friends looking for legendary drops. “Someone is always looking for something,” he says. His answer to these questions is now simply, “Text Vinni.”
Since launching in January this year, Vinni has been chatting with wine lovers in Melbourne and Sydney, but Campbell says the service plans to expand across the country and even internationally in the future.
Campbell adores the “casual and cheeky” interactions with customers and enjoys seeing the various places photos are sent from, from beaches to swanky bars and private wineries.
And it’s not just the “wine people” who hit Vinni. Campbell says many Vinni subscribers get in touch because they’re relatively new to the world of wine — and that’s fine with her. The service is proudly simple and welcomes everyone from seasoned connoisseurs to weekend warriors. Regardless of wine knowledge, Campbell says, “They’re all wine enthusiasts looking for the wine they love right now, and their tastes change quickly, they’re very adventurous.”
In the same way people are traveling closer to home, Campbell says they are also drinking closer to home – and one of the only wines to baffle Vinni was a rare and highly sought-after 2020 Timo Mayer “Dr. Mayer Pinot Noir from Yarra Valley “It was just nowhere to be found.” When that search runs out, Campbell says Vinni will always suggest “something in the wheelhouse instead.”
This elusive Pinot Noir was an exception, however. Campbell says Vinni has very wide connections and is able to source bottles that your average sipper simply wouldn’t have access to. “It’s not a commercial gimmick, it’s usually something [subscribers] have tasted from an exclusive wine list, and our guys will have that basic knowledge of where to find it.