Wine and Fashion Share Aspirational Marketing and Self-Identification with Jessica Kogan of Vintage Wine Estates



How will new technology affect the way you buy and learn about wine in the future? What does it take to launch a winery into the digital space? Which aspects of the fashion industry could the wine industry benefit from emulating?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Jessica Kogan, a digital brand marketing executive who has successfully launched brands such as Gucci, Prada, Charles Schwab, Cameron Hughes, and now Vintage Wine Estates.

You can find the wines we discussed here.


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Three of you will win a special bottle of wine from one of the wineries in Jessica Kogan’s portfolio.


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To qualify, all you have to do is email me at [email protected] and tell me that you’d like to win a copy. I’ll choose three people randomly from those who contact me.

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  • What drew Jess to a career in the fashion industry?
  • What were the challenges of bringing a fashion brand online in the early days of the internet?
  • Are there similarities between the fashion and wine industries?
  • How does the wine industry tap into our aspirations and fantasies?
  • What are the major differences between the fashion and wine industries?
  • Why does the wine industry need to do a better job of delivering wine to customers?
  • Why is it important to have transparent ingredient labeling for wine?
  • How did Jess get into the world of wine?


Key Takeaways

  • Chatting with Jessica reignited my marketing brain, both from my past experience at Procter & Gamble with packaged goods like Crisco and Pringles, but also my time in high tech at SGI. I’m fascinated with her observations on how new technology will affect the way we buy and learn about wine in the future.
  • I also enjoyed her insights about launching a winery into the digital space.
  • I thought her parallels drawn between the fashion and wine industries were so smart, especially the ways that the wine industry could benefit from emulating the fashion world.


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About Jessica Kogan

Jessica Kogan is a brand marketing and digital transformation executive with a seriously successful track record of launching CPG brands and DTC businesses that scale. As the Chief Growth & Experience Officer at Vintage Wine Estates (NASDAQ: VWE) her role is to drive the VWE digital transformation roadmap, unifying DTC, eGrocery and Supply Chain enabling customer satisfaction and employee empowerment. Most recently as the Chief Marketing & Digital Officer, Jessica led DTC division growth from $30 million to $100 million in less than 3 years. A respected ecommerce and marketing influencer, Jess successfully launched digital native companies Cameron Hughes Wine, Southern Poverty Law Center and Charles Schwab to critical acclaim. She led the launch of Urban Decay cosmetics with the disruptive brand tagline “Black is Cool”and created the brand reinvention platforms for Chevron “Human Energy” and Hewlett-Packard “The Science of Printing” to re-establish their value and meaning in the global consumer marketplace. Jess has been honored by wine industry peers and publications including Wine Enthusiast “Innovator of The Year” and Wine Business Monthly “Wine Industry Leader.” She is a sought out writer, speaker and commentator on digital transformation, ecommerce and brand marketing strategy. Her insights have been featured in Forbes, Inc., Fox Business, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue and more.




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Jessica Kogan (00:00):
That’s why fashion and wine and industries that are selling discretionary items that you don’t necessarily have to buy to survive, it’s part of a self-identification, and it’s also part of reaching further for yourself.

Natalie MacLean (00:19):
And I find the psychology fascinating, especially with luxury goods. And it doesn’t have to be a snobbery, it can be just, I want to have a sensory peak experience

Jessica Kogan (00:29):
When a person puts a bottle on the table that perhaps another person at the table knows and knows that it is super high quality, it says something about you, right?

Natalie MacLean (00:50):
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations? Well, that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie McClain, and each week I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now, pass me that bottle, please, and let’s get started.

Welcome to episode 234. How will new technology affect the way you buy and learn about wine in the future? What does it take to launch a winery into the digital space? And which aspects of the fashion industry could the wine industry benefit from emulating? In today’s episode, you’ll hear those stories and tips that answer those questions from Jessica Kogan, a digital brand marketing executive who has successfully launched brands such as Gucci Prada, Charles Schwab, Cameron Hughes, and Vintage Wine Estates.

Now a quick update on my memoir. Wine Witch on Fire Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, defamation, and drinking too much. The upcoming book launch in Ottawa sold out in less than 24 hours. Yay. So we are adding a second event likely June 19th. If you’re interested, please email [email protected], as it will likely sell out quickly as well. Meanwhile, if you live in the Maritimes or know someone who does, I’d love for you to join me at the Halifax Book launch on Monday, June 12th at 6:30 PM at the Halifax Central Library downtown on Spring Garden Road in the gorgeous Paul Ogan Hall. And finally, if you or someone you know lives in Calgary, I’m coming your way in June. The date isn’t finalized, but email me if you’re interested, so that you are the first to know about registration. Thank you again for all your support for this book.

If you enjoyed it, please review it on a bookstore website and or post on social media and tag me. You don’t have to have finished the book to do this. If you like what you’ve read so far, I would love to see a picture of the book and your favorite wine paired together. If you haven’t read the book yet, you can still help by posting on your favorite social media channel that the book is on sale now, or you could tell a friend about it. And if you haven’t got your copy yet but would like to support it and this podcast, please order it from any online book retailer no matter where you live. Buy copies for your friends and family. Every little bit helps spread this message. I’ll put a link in the show notes to all the retailers [email protected] slash 2 3 4. Here’s a review from Gina Carvery, who lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I love this book from the very first chapter. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and could not put it down. This is a very informative and thought-provoking book about wine and women in history in a witty, honest, empowering, and very personal story. I especially loved all the quotes and references to so many of my favorite books and how much we had in common. I can’t wait to present this memoir to my book Club. Five Stars. Thank you, Gina. Okay, on with the show.

Just before I introduce our guest, I want to let you know that three of you are going to win a bottle of some really special wine that from one of the wineries that she is in her portfolio. We’re going to talk to her about those wineries, but just let me say it’s going to be worth your while. So please, all you have to do is email [email protected] and let me know you want to win. So three winners, beautiful bottle of wine. Alright, back to our guest. Jess Hogan is a digital brand marketing executive who has successfully launched brands such as Prada and Gucci, Charles Schwab and Cameron Hughes into the online world. She is now the Chief Growth and Experience Officer at Vintage Wine Estates, a collection of premium wineries that includes marque names like Klo, kk, and b Khan among others. Wine enthusiast named her Innovator of the Year and Wine Business Monthly. As a wine industry leader. Jess’s Insights have been featured in publications such as Forbes, Inc, Fox Business, wall Street Journal, and Vogue among others. And she joins me from her home now in San Mateo. Welcome, Jess.

Jessica Kogan (05:38):
Thank you so much for having me. Such an honor actually to be with you. Such an accomplished woman yourself. So

Natalie MacLean (05:45):
Thank you, Jess. My pleasure’s all mine. So you’ve had such an amazing career. So before we dive into the wine part, let’s chat about your fantastic experience, the fashion industry. Now, you launched the prestigious women’s brand of clothing, Donna, Karen, into the online space, but what drew you to fashion, or was it fashion itself or kind of what you were doing? Give us a little bit of the backstory on that.

Jessica Kogan (06:11):
It’s so funny, Natalie, cause I read your background and I actually want to be a journalist and I wanted to be in TV journalism in production. I was an American and English lit major, so love poetry,

Natalie MacLean (06:24):
You’re my people. I

Jessica Kogan (06:26):
Just loved news and the production of news long form, not short form. And I went to NYU to school in New York City and had amazing access to so many broadcast journalists who were professors there, worked at Good Morning America, worked at 2020 as an intern. And I realized that through those internships that at the time, and this is like a hundred million years ago at this point, that it was very difficult for women to break in as producers. And I just realized that the climb and the getting from point A to point B was going to be very long. And so I would say the senior year in college, I was looking for another internship outside of broadcast journalism and through a family friend who had another friend who knew another friend was friends with this woman named Donna Karen, who had just left Ann Klein as the lead designer to start her own brand. And they were looking for free work. And I put my hand up and I’m like, I’m in, I’m in. And so I worked with her the entire spring of my senior year at nyu, and the day after I graduated, I started working with her.

Natalie MacLean (07:47):
Oh wow. Well, good for you to show the initiative. And so what were the challenges in bringing that brand online at the time?

Jessica Kogan (07:54):
So to be honest with you, at the time, this was in 1995, the idea of going online was very threatening to department stores. And so in fact, many designers were told, if you decide to build a website for yourself where customers come by, we’re going to drop you.

Natalie MacLean (08:17):

Jessica Kogan (08:17):
Wow. Doesn’t that sound so familiar? In any case, over time, everyone became just a little more comfortable with what you would look like online. And before I left Donna, Karen, we were building Donna Karen collection just as a stationary site, meaning you couldn’t buy anything, but you could browse and you could look and you could find pieces that you liked and a list of stores of where you could buy it. And the same for D A N Y. And that was a monumental moment for the company.

Natalie MacLean (08:56):
Wow. Yes, we will get to similarities with another industry we both know and love. So apart from people telling you that it couldn’t be done and the threat from these stores that they would delist Yeah, the brand, were there any other challenges and just how did you counter that negativity anyway? Or did you just push forward with the projects and say, oh, we’re just doing it? Well, the

Jessica Kogan (09:19):
Good part is, and it’s still the same in the wine industry, is that I’m not on the sales side. I am on the marketing side that happens to sell. So it’s just a different universe. And so the objections that the sales team was experiencing in the physical world, while we understood them, we felt in a brand marketing world that it was really important to be able to articulate our brand wherever customers want to learn information about the brand. And so that was really kind of the thesis to get over the hump, which was we don’t know how to do anything more than build a website off of a brochure at the time. And so from that perspective, they were like, okay, well as long as you’re not stealing customers, we’re down with it. And behind the scenes, we were all saying not only will we not steal customers, we’re going to expose so many more customers to our products and brands. So I don’t know if that answers your question, but those two universes, wholesale and digital marketing, e-commerce never really unified and came together because wholesale was dealing with very traditional problems, whereas e-commerce really had no rules tied to that universe. Right,

Natalie MacLean (10:46):
Right. Oh, that’s fascinating. But it’s really smart the way you sort of got around it. I mean, if people feel threatened, they’re going to put the wall up, but if you can tell them how it’ll help them, yes,

Jessica Kogan (10:56):

Natalie MacLean (10:56):
And it

Jessica Kogan (10:57):
Did, but then obviously it helped because you expose, I mean, what do we love about the internet? What is it that we love? It has democratized information. If you have access to the internet, which back in 19 95, 96, 97, 98, we were doing dial up, i s p. You’ve got mail. Yes. I mean a different universe. If you have access to the internet, which the majority of us do, if we have a mobile device, you can get information on anything. I think you and I grew up with Encyclopedia Britannica trying to find the definition of something, trying to construct a paper with 20 books open around us, and now you just true.

Natalie MacLean (11:43):

Jessica Kogan (11:44):
Online to a browser, search a topic, and all the information of the world comes up. And so absolutely, the internet is the great equalizer. But also I think as we’re learning, providing transparency of information is a wonderful thing, but it’s also really a wonderful thing to be aware that there are bad behaviors that can happen online.

Natalie MacLean (12:10):
And say more about that in terms of how it relates to either fashion or wine.

Jessica Kogan (12:15):
I mean, it’s obviously access to fakes, which is Oh, I see a big, huge issue. That’s true. And the accessibility of that is just very easy. The second is just the disrespectful discourse that happens that happens behind your computer that we didn’t really consider when we were trying to build communities. And so I think it’s a problem that we’re all trying to wrestle with and understand. It’s just so much good in building community, connecting people, long lost friends, friends who live in a certain area. But it also, for some people, and I think specifically around covid, which was for reason keeps you from meeting in the physical world, which is a really critical part of who we are as animals.

Natalie MacLean (13:07):
That’s true. We are mammals. We are meant to lie on top of each other, have physical contact, and we love the tactile.

Jessica Kogan (13:15):
And it will never go away. It won’t go away in our lifetime and our children’s lifetime and their children’s lifetime, it will not go away. I mean, it will require like a hundred thousand years of evolution for the desire for that instinct, that instinct inside oneself to connect. That’s true. One to one. It won’t go

Natalie MacLean (13:37):
Away. And I see one of the commonalities between wine and fashion. They’re very tactile, both of them. They’re both can be luxury goods. What other similarities do you see between the two industries?

Jessica Kogan (13:49):
First, let’s just start with the fantasy. Okay. Right. So clothing is about selling an image, an idea, yes, a feeling. Something that takes you outside of yourself that you can aspire to. It’s aspirational. And I would say wine is the same. It’s very much the same. The message is, especially with very high end producers, it is aspirational. I mean, why would you buy $145 Cabernet? Logically, it just doesn’t make any sense. So the industry really is dependent on establishing that feeling, that moment, that fantasy of what it’s going to be like when you enjoy that wine with people around you. Similarly in fashion, when you wear that clothing and you walk into a room how you are going to feel, how others are going to see you, it’s literally the same.

Natalie MacLean (14:50):
That’s because if it was just about cost, we’d just wear a whatever potato sack and get cheap booze. So it’s not about staying warm or getting drunk or whatever the buzz there is something, there is a life you want to live and you think you might be able to have it through these things.

Jessica Kogan (15:08):
It really is about reaching into something else. And some people in the negative, I think the negative perspective is it’s very escapist. I actually don’t think it is that. I think it’s, again, aspirational. I think that we have an animalistic need to want to perform, to want to have these very unique and special experiences. We strive for it, and not every single person is that way, but I think a good healthy amount of humans are like that. And that’s why fashion and wine and industries that are selling discretionary items, discretionary products that you don’t necessarily have to buy to survive, it’s part of a self-identification, and it’s also part of reaching further for yourself.

Natalie MacLean (16:06):
And I find the psychology fascinating, especially with luxury goods, and it doesn’t have to be a snobbery or a whatever. It can be just, I want to have a peak experience, a sensory peak experience that I think might happen with this. I mean, I’m all about turning inward and improving what’s on the inside first. But as you said, we are mammals. We do want that camaraderie with other people, and it can happen through a glass of wine or even someone saying, wow, I really love those shoes. And you have a connection. There’s just something that happens there.

Jessica Kogan (16:40):
It’s an immediate moment of like, oh my gosh. Yeah. Oh my gosh. Yeah. But also, I mean, just on the brand front, because you’re a brand person yourself, that’s where you got your training. As you all know, when a person puts a bottle on the table that perhaps another person at the table knows and knows that it is super high quality, et cetera, it says something about you. Yes. Right. We’re looking for that. Again, that self-identification of, yeah, I’m in the know. I know what’s up. I’m the person. And I would say the same thing in fashion and the same thing in beauty. It’s like you walk in and a person says, oh my gosh, I love those shoes. Where did you get those? And you say, Donna, Karen. And back in the late nineties, it was like, how did you find them? How did you get them? And so similar, again, another parallel to our industry where you have highly allocated wines. It’s that idea of everybody knows about it in a certain category, a certain segment of the population, and who know, sit at a table together and they’re like, right, wow, you’re awesome. I’m more interested in the wines that people are excited and delighted by through their own tactile taste experience versus the identification of what is on the table, which is nice. But to me, that’s not the end all be all.

Natalie MacLean (18:12):
Sure. And of course, we all know folks perhaps at times, including ourselves that drink badge wines and it’s whatever. But I think not to sound too elitist or privileged with this 140 or $150 bottle, but I think it also says something about what you think of your friends, that they’re worth the good stuff or they’re worth everything you can put forward. Not everyone can afford that, of course, but that you’re willing to give them the best of what you have. And that can be at any price point. And I agree with you. I especially love when the bottle comes from a story about yourself too, about how you found it. It’s not necessarily 150, maybe it’s $20 and it tastes like 40, and you get to share that story with somebody, and that can be just as special.

Jessica Kogan (18:58):
It could not agree more with you. Again, parallel to the fashion industry, one thing, and I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one Trunk shows are a huge part of the fashion industry and trunk shows are about connecting the customer to the designer, to the brand. And it is the beginning of that journey, the beginning of that story. And I wish in our industry, and I hope to be transformative on this front, which is bringing the winery to the customer, bringing the experience to the customer for them to have unique stories about how they connected with us, not just at the winery.

Natalie MacLean (19:35):
Yeah, that’d be great. A virtual trunk show for wine. That’s great concept. What do you see as the big differences between fashion and wine?

Jessica Kogan (19:44):
Well, you need clothes to exist to go to work. True. I would say for me, the major differences are you find different people in the industries attract from the inside, different workers, different interests I find in the fashion industry and is, I speak from many, many years ago, and I’m sure that obviously things have changed. The industry was very male dominated, but women run. So you had all these fashion designers, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, a lot of male designers at the top and very few female designers. And also in the executive ranks, very few female leaders, mostly male in female fashion, making decisions and choices about women’s clothing. And not that they’re not capable of making those decisions, but there just wasn’t great representation at the executive level. So I would say from that, and I think it’s see in the industry that it is changing.

I would say, again, this is actually more of a unique, a shared problem, not a shared issue that with our del beverage industry is that there are a lot of men at the top and a lot of women in middle management, but very few in the rarefied executive team role. So that’s true. I would say that’s where they’re both similar in the fashion industry. Yes, it really is about the next, it’s very trend oriented. There isn’t a lot of, for me, respect for the history and kind of what it took to make that piece. Whereas in the wine industry, I think that there’s, within the trade, such a deep respect for what it takes to make wine. The complexity of it. Yes, the artistic nature of it, the science of it. And I think we do a really good job talking to each other about it, but not the best job helping consumers understand the brilliance behind that. Whereas in the fashion industry, they do a very good job of communicating why a certain piece is hot and worth it and why you should invest in it,

Natalie MacLean (22:02):
And how could, how they talk in the fashion industry to wine. What would be an example? This garment is hand stitched and whatever. How would you do that in wine?

Jessica Kogan (22:12):
So I mean, pick up on a trend that we’re all super aware of, which is wellness, and yes, what you put into inside your body and staying healthy low, I would say in the fashion industry, what they would say is these pants have a beautiful line, will give you, is made with organic materials that feels silky smooth on your legs and gives you a silhouette that you will walk into a room just ready to kill it. And I think in the wine industry, which we don’t do very well, is say beyond how we made it and where it comes from and it’s history. It’s just great wine and it’s going to taste, you are going to have an experience with this wine that could change your life.

Natalie MacLean (23:15):
And so we just don’t talk about the actual taste of the wine enough or communicate it. I mean,

Jessica Kogan (23:21):
We talk about the taste of the wine, but we talk about it. I was reading some of the things you wrote. We talk about it like cork dorks. Oh yes. We talk about it in a language that consumers don’t understand. It’s true, they don’t. It’s true. They don’t understand. This smells like grass and stone, and they just want to know that this wine is going to knock their socks off.

Natalie MacLean (23:46):
The feelings more about the feelings,

Jessica Kogan (23:48):
So much about

Natalie MacLean (23:49):
The transformative. Yeah, that’s true.

Jessica Kogan (23:52):
So much about the feeling.

Natalie MacLean (23:54):
And yet that’s hard to express. But I think that’s the point of it, how you feel as you’re drinking wine. And again, I don’t mean going to drunkenness, but how it makes you perhaps a little less inhibited, perhaps, how you feel that the conversation’s going because you’re both sharing the wine

Jessica Kogan (24:10):
And how it’s good for your body. Yeah, I mean truly, I don’t know, Natalie, if you’ve been hearing a lot about, we’re so worried the wine industry consumption has gone down and the millennials are not interested in Gen Z, they’re turning to RTDs ready to drink, blah, blah, blah because it’s lower sugar, 95 calories, blah, blah, blah. But the thing is about those generations is that they really want to put good stuff in their bodies.

Natalie MacLean (24:36):

Jessica Kogan (24:36):
There isn’t better stuff to put in your body than wine when

Natalie MacLean (24:40):
It comes to alcohol. Let’s be clear.

Jessica Kogan (24:43):
I mean, when it comes to alcohol, I mean White Claw is, it’s malt liquor. I mean, it’s just like it’s malt with flavor. It’s not really great for you. And it sits in a can whereas, and not, I actually

Natalie MacLean (24:58):
Never had one, so I don’t even know, is it really sweet too,

Jessica Kogan (25:00):
Or it’s not super sweet, it’s just in a can. I mean, it’s accessible, it’s easy, and it picks up on something that consumers really care about, which is I don’t want a lot of calories, I don’t want to waste, and I want to put good stuff in my body.

And I feel that’s where we as an industry have to do a much better job. And we also, from my perspective, and I know a lot of winemakers will poo poo what I’m saying, and I’m not a winemaker. I am, I’m a lucky beneficiary of great wines, and I do some packaging, but I think our job, and I at Procter and Gamble, I know like at p and g, they would do this because they would see this. We have to deliver wine to customers in a way that is easy for them. It’s not just the seven 50 ml and it’s maybe not a cork anymore. Maybe it is a stove enclosure. I mean, yes, Australia figured it out for

Natalie MacLean (26:11):
Sure. I mean, why do we need a special implement to open this beverage? I mean, just that’s so whatever. It should be so eighties that we went. But there’s a whole raft of issues with wine and wellness. I mean, up in Canada, we have new guidelines that say for, I think it’s women and men, two alcoholic drinks a week, which I think is just overboard prohibitionist or whatever, and everybody has to make their own decision. But are you ingredient labeling on or would you put a QR code to the ingredients? I mean, you talk about the Gen Z, millennials want to know they want to put good stuff in their bodies. So are you about that kind of information making that more readily available?

Jessica Kogan (26:56):
Before I answer that, I have a quick question for you about Canada as it relates to cannabis, because Oh, yes. If a message is going out there that two drinks a week is what is prescribed, what are they saying about cannabis?

Natalie MacLean (27:12):
That’s true. Not much. And I don’t know if it’s because it’s new, and of course cannabis can be consumed in various formats, but the smoking part is definitely not good for you. There’s edibles, but yeah, the message isn’t there. Why do you think that is? Is it just because it’s new on the market being legal?

Jessica Kogan (27:30):
Again, I think it all comes back to money. And I wonder, which I don’t know, I haven’t done my own research on this, but I wonder if Canada is collecting more tax on cannabis than they are on alcohol.

Natalie MacLean (27:45):

Jessica Kogan (27:45):
Interesting. Just putting it out there is the thought, because for

Natalie MacLean (27:48):
Example, are lobby lobbyists

Jessica Kogan (27:49):
Here in California, the tax on cannabis is massive. Huh? Just something, a percentage. Yeah. That I find particularly interesting. Right.

Natalie MacLean (27:59):
Yeah. I don’t know.

Jessica Kogan (28:01):
Just something to consider. I don’t know factually what’s happening. I can only tell you in California it’s a lot. And consumption of cannabis has, when it was first deregulated in the state, it went totally up. And now it’s definitely evened out. And I would say that yes, millennials and Gen Z are into C B D, and they’re into cannabis. There are reports that they are trading cannabis for adult beverage. I think that those reports are somewhat limited, and I don’t think it’s fact. But to the point about ingredients, I absolutely think it’s important. I don’t think you have to create an ingredient. I mean, you can follow the format of the FDA and put that on your wine bottle if you want, but I think you can accomplish that by, yes, a QR code, by just having the information on the brand website and being very clear and continuing to hit home the message that this is the most natural stuff on earth. Nothing’s put in here that has a chemical that could potentially affect you. That’s true.

Natalie MacLean (29:14):
But they talk about some, perhaps it’s in the natural wine movement, which I’m skeptical of, but 75 different additives that can be put into wine, including big purple or something, and MOG stuff that’s not grapes. Yeah. So are we just talking low end brands that are pumping up the wine because the basic ingredient isn’t strong enough?

Jessica Kogan (29:35):
Yes. I mean, as you know, mother Nature decides what is going to happen every vintage. It’s true, the strength and intensity of what you’re going to get. And so I think in order to create consistency with certain mass market brands, they do have to put some type of filler in. I would say that the fillers aren’t, they’re not chemically based. They sometimes can be just a blast of sugar. Sometimes it’s just a blast of coloring, but it’s never a word you can’t pronounce. And it’s never anything that your body cannot naturally pass. And again, I’m not a scientist. Some people will say when they have red wine, they have the worst headache of their lives, and they drink vodka and they feel great the next morning. Everybody is different. But I do think that the mix of sugar with spirits is way more potent and less healthy for your body than a glass of wine. I mean, just I think that is, yeah, a fact. We can agree on

Natalie MacLean (30:50):
Absolutely. By volume, if you’re drinking equal amounts, well, of course spirits are higher alcohol or they tend to be, but especially the sugary based coolers and ready to drink drinks, I guess. I mean sugar, there’s more and more research coming out on just what a killer that is. But of course, alcohol, whether it’s in wine or whatever, I mean, it breaks down, I, I’m not scientific either, so I shouldn’t go down this rabbit hole, but I mean, it breaks down in the body, not into sugars, but something else. So we just have to keep it all in moderation. But I agree, if you’ve got a choice between two drinks, I would, I assume I’m biased that the wine is more natural than the sugary concoction of whatever, whether it’s a ready to drink or a cocktail.

Jessica Kogan (31:36):
I don’t feel that the industry’s doing a very good job of putting that message out there of being very clear. And it’s all clocked together. I mean, we had that one report in the nineties, two red wine is good for your heart. And it’s like we’ve been kind of living off of that. And yes, I think now, especially with these trends, these health and wellness trends beyond low sugar wine, beyond low sulfate, as an industry, we have to be like, if you’re looking for health and wellness, it’s right here. It always has been. Yeah,

Natalie MacLean (32:11):
Absolutely. In terms of natural, if you’re going to drink alcohol, because I think sometimes I’m not against low alcohol wines, especially when they help people moderate their consumption of volume of alcohol itself, but the sugar free, the carbohydrate free, I don’t know. But all these versions of wines, I think it makes me wonder if people wonder, well, what’s in all the rest of the wines if these are specialty wines that have taken out? I mean, I think the primary message does have to be wine and moderation is one of the healthiest alcoholic drinks you can have.

Jessica Kogan (32:47):
So interesting. Yeah, I didn’t even think about the boomerang of that.

Natalie MacLean (32:51):
The boomerang, and also when you have organic wines, which I again support, but not so much for the healthfulness of the beverage, but for the impact on the workers at the farm or the winery and the environment. But I have talked to winemakers who are reticent to put organic on their label even though they are organic because they think, well, in a bad vintage, if I can’t because I had to do something that’s not within the regulations of being organic, people are going to wonder, whoa, is this now less healthy for me to consume? Yeah.

Jessica Kogan (33:22):
So I’m totally with you. And what does organic really mean? I mean, there’s just

Natalie MacLean (33:27):
Wine is organic, it’s not a rock.

Jessica Kogan (33:30):
I mean, we could totally go down a rabbit hole with that one. Yeah.

Natalie MacLean (33:33):
Oh, I love these rabbit holes, and I’ve totally lost the script, which is always a good sign. So we covered

Jessica Kogan (33:39):
Fashion. We did, we covered fashion. And a lot of what’s going, I mean, this is the real debate in wine right now. I mean, we got to figure out how to get more people.

Natalie MacLean (33:48):
Well, or the regulators will do it for the industry. Either the industry has to lead or they won’t. And I don’t think it’s a fair comparison to tobacco, but I think if more transparent ingredient labeling isn’t available through, it doesn’t have to be right on the label, because that can be onerous if you’re changing every year to suit nature, mother nature, but at least a link QR code, something

Jessica Kogan (34:10):
Because people want to know. They do. They’re curious.

Natalie MacLean (34:14):
They do. Exactly. And regulators will regulate that more. One, I think if the industry doesn’t lead it well

Jessica Kogan (34:20):
Here in the us, if it’s below 5%, you are required to put FDA ingredient labeling. So many of the moscatos that we produce have FDA ingredient labeling.

Natalie MacLean (34:34):
Huh? I didn’t know that. All right. So how did you get in the world of wine?

Jessica Kogan (34:40):
How did I get in the world of wine? Yes. Such a good question. I want to ask you the same. So I did not grow up in a wine family. I grew up in Washington DC and I met a lovely man in New York City who was working for a very large wine company. He decided to move back to California where he grew up and was kind of toying with the idea of starting a wine company. I decided it was time for me to move out of New York City. I’d been there a long time and just experience another place, another state, another, anything with this possibly was my boyfriend could be potential marriage, I don’t know. So moved out and he was really into wine, and we were having wine one night, a bottle of Bonnie Dune, big house red, and it was like $16 at the time.

So this was back in 2000, and the wine was terrible. Have you ever had that moment where you just are like, I spent how much for this wine and sure, it’s just yucky and so many people, I mean, let’s be honest, so many. And so we both just kind of had this moment of, what if we could do this better? What if we could deliver wine to customers that would never disappoint them, but that may possibly not be totally available. And this is where Cameron’s knowledge of the industry really made a difference, and within the industry called a bulk market. And when we as consumers think of a bulk market, we’re like, Ooh, that’s bulk supply, a hundred million tons of X, Y, z. It does mean that, but it also means small, small lot gallons from wineries that produce meticulously made wine that for some reason will not work in their program.

And so with that understanding of the business, Cameron was like, let’s try this. Let’s see if we can get this business going. And I said, well, I think this is a great idea. This is a great wine for Costco because they love the in and out. They love to have their skews turn. And for the customer who’s seeking value but wants incredible quality, this could be a grape for a Costco customer. And he’s like, okay, I’ll see what I can do on that front. And I said, and because I don’t know how to sell to Costco, I would like to build a website to sell these wines. And this was in 2005. And he said, well, and a big case in the US had just gone to the Supreme Court regarding the blocking of interstate commerce, a result of wine, which was illegal. And so it essentially opened up shipping to the majority of the most important states.

And so he’s like, yeah, I mean, you can set up a wine site for our company, but I don’t think a lot of people are going to buy wine on it. And I was like, okay, yeah, sure. And so I just set out to build a website around our wines that addressed all of the issues that I feel in wine that I feel as a wine consumer, the anxiety, the frustration, the wanting to understand and get to know a wine more than just the label. And so the beautiful part of this is that the internet gives you so much space to talk about does wine. And so we built these product descriptions that were technical notes. We did live videos, we did tape videos, we did in-person meet and greets with customers, and it just really took off. And so the business eventually became more direct to consumer than Costco, and we ended up not selling to Costco anymore and just really becoming what I would the industry. This is what we’ve been called as the Warby Parker of Wine.

Natalie MacLean (39:03):
Why did they compare it to Warby Parker?

Jessica Kogan (39:05):
I don’t know if you have Warby Parker in Canada, but it’s the ability to order glasses, really high-end glasses at a very low price, and it’s fully virtual, and it’s the same idea with Cameron Hughes Wine, which is you can buy wines on the website today,, and you can buy wines that are being sold for $150 a bottle, 4 34 25.

Natalie MacLean (39:34):

Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Jessica. Here are my takeaways. Talking with Jessica reignited my marketing brain, both from my past experience at Proctor and Gamble with packaged goods like Crisco and Pringles, but also my time in high tech at sgi. I’m fascinated with her observations on how new technology will affect the way we buy and learn about wine in the future. Number two, I also enjoyed her insights into launching a winery into the digital space, and three, I thought her parallels drawn between the fashion and wine industries were so smart, especially the ways that the wine industry could benefit from emulating the fashion world. In the show notes, you’ll find the full transcript of my conversation with Jessica links to her website, the video versions of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube live, and where you can preor and where you can order my memoir online now no matter where you live. That’s all in the show [email protected] slash 2 3 4. Email me if you have a sip tip question or would like to be part of the book’s launch [email protected] If you missed episode 37, go back and take a listen. I chat about wine stories from Champaign to Napa Valley with author Telar Maio. I’ll share a short clip with you now to wet your appetite

Tilar Mazzeo (41:01):
And girlfriends and I agreed that Buko is our favorite champagne, and so we used to get together and drink a bottle of wine of an evening, have our husbands drive us home. We were talking one day, and I remembered that V in French, his widow, and it really started with a question where I said, well, was there really a widow clico? And ended up doing research and found this amazing story about a woman who not only became history’s first international businesswoman, but who invented a process, which I know we can talk about, a little bit called Walsh that is still used in the wine industry, and it was really the thing that moved champagne from being a luxury product that was so expensive that only the kings and queens of France could afford it to a luxury product that those of us who are lucky of a weekend can take a sip of.

Natalie MacLean (41:52):
If you like this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone who’d be interested in the wines tips and stories we shared you won’t want to miss next week when we continue our chat with Jessica. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a wine that you discovered online you don’t want to miss. One juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full bodied bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at natalie Meet me here next week. Cheers.