While most of the excitement around NFTs has been in the world of digital art, wine lovers wanting to get in on the action can rest easy. In recent months the wine world has dipped its toes into the arena of NFTs, and this week the first all-NFT wine brand is being brought to market.
If at this point you are scratching your head and asking yourself, “What’s an NFT?” you are not alone. In short, it is a non-fungible token, a digital asset that represents a real-life item including music, art, and videos. Non-fungible means that it is unique and cannot be replaced or traded for another token of equal value, unlike a bitcoin, which is worth the same as any other bitcoin. When an NFT is purchased, the transaction is recorded on a blockchain, providing an indelible record.
Some of the higher profile NFTs that have received a lot of press are recording artist Grimes selling six million dollars worth of images and short videos set to music, Twitter
co-founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet being auctioned off for 2.9 million dollars, and digital artist Beeple’s NFT fetching $69 million at Christie’s. The wine world’s flex into NFTs has not been on such a grand scale, but that may change as more producers get into the market. This past April former NBA player Yao Ming’s Yao Family Wines offered 200 bottles of its 2016 The Chop Cabernet Sauvignon along with an NFT. The bottles can only be bought with cryptocurrency Etherium, and 100 bottles sold immediately upon release. OpenSea, a marketplace for blockchain-based digital items, is now allowing traders to speculate on wine and on futures. Earlier this summer, Bordeaux’ famed Chateau Angelus sold an NFT that offered ownership of a barrel of 2020 Angelus along with 3D artwork based on the Angelus label.
This week sees the launch of the first all-NFT wine brand, Hello Fam, whose opening release is a Syrah Blend from Jezreel Valley winery in Israel. The founders are Jacob Ner-David, who is a partner in Vinsent, a direct-to-consumer wine platform; Adam Ghahramani, who runs one of the largest NFT communities and collections, Untamed Elephants; and Tiffany Wong, a designer who has worked with many wine and spirits brands. Called Genesis Vintage 2021, the inaugural release will not be sold or distributed outside its initial NFT launch.
One Hello Fam Grape Fam NFT is equal to one 6-bottle case of Hello Fam Genesis Vintage 2021, which will be stored in an insured, temperature-controlled facility. Hello Fam has partnered with artist Ha Yael to create individual works of art that can be framed and displayed. “Early bird minting” started on August 31st, and 250 cases were sold on the first day. Part of the excitement may be due to an element of luck added to the launch. As co-founder Adam Ghahramani pointed out, “You might get lucky during our Minting process and get a very rare, golden Grape Fam which could be worth 6-figures.” Ghahramani also added a little foreshadowing regarding the next release, telling us, “We will be launching our second wine in collaboration with one of the biggest charity-driven NFT communities in the world, Untamed Elephants, soon.
We spoke with founding partner Jacob Ner-David about NFTs, Hello Fam, and the future of wine collecting.
World Wine Guys: For the uninitiated, what is an NFT?
Jacob Ner-David: Well, besides being the hottest trend in crypto meets art and culture, NFT stands for non-fungible token, which means a unique digital asset, registered on a blockchain. Much of NFTs are 100% digital, but each one is unique, unlike a currency like Bitcoin, where every coin is the same, and thus fungible. Recently NFTs are combining unique digital art with a physical asset in the “real” world. HelloFam is releasing NFTs where each one is a unique collectible grape illustration, but also represents a very real case of wine being made exclusively for this NFT “minting” by Jezreel Valley Winery, who have consistently received 90+ scores on their wines from [a variety of publications.]
WWG: What is the difference between buying Grape Fam or buying highly allocated wine from a winery with a hard-to-enter list?
JND: The ease in trading NFTs makes them a highly liquid asset. (I can’t avoid those puns.) Platforms like Opensea.io provide a place for the NFTs to trade. In the case of Grape Fam, when you want the wine, you redeem, or “Burn” in blockchain speak, the NFT, and receive the physical wine. Each bottle is also registered for authenticity on the Ravencoin blockchain. When you redeem the NFT, you decrease the amount of Grape Fam tradeable NFTs .
WWG: Do you expect that others will follow suit and that we will see more NFTs in the wine world?
JND: Yes. Investing in wine is becoming more and more popular, through all different pathways. Combining NFTs with wine allows for real value to support the NFT. Many digital art NFTs have shot up in price. Wine backed NFTs will ensure that there is a “floor” as well, which is the market value of the wine. Even without unique artwork, NFTs allow for trading in wine to take place on established platforms, and democratizes wine investing, moving it away from the intimidating existing wine trading sites, many of whom are only open to “professionals.”
Wine has proven itself to be one of the most resilient alternative asset classes over the past 30 years, yet access to investing in wine has been largely restricted to a small group. NFT backed by quality wine represents a major step forward in opening up wine investing to a much larger community.
There already have been some baby steps in this direction. Hello Fam promises to be the largest scale NFT release backed by wine.