Known for his marketing strategies that brought worldwide recognition to the wines of Napa Valley, Calif., American winemaker Robert Mondavi, is quoted for once having said, “If you go back to the Greeks and Romans, they talk about all three — wine, food and art — as a way of enhancing life.”
Yet, where many might agree with Mondavi’s assertion, Chicago-based Love Cork Screw’s Chrishon Lampley added another element when founding her lifestyle brand focused on wine — relationships.
Launched after a freak flood destroyed her Chicago art and wine bar, Lampley — instead of letting that setback keep her down — turned to her passion project, Love Cork Screw, releasing six varietals in 2013.
Lampley’s motivation in founding the new company came from her years spent working in the wine industry, which she says, brought a lot of things to her attention.
“I had a passion for wine, but I also found I had a passion for connecting with people. I started to connect with people who felt this disconnect from the wine industry,” she explains. “I found that there are a lot of preconceived notions surrounding wine. Wine is fancy, there’s too many rules when it comes to how to drink it, you have to get an expensive wine for it to be good, the names are confusing and overwhelming, and so much more.
“So, through the community I had built in my bar, my blog (called Love Cork Screw at the time) and my experience, I found my new passion — to make wine fun, easy and inclusive,” Lampley continues. “No rules, no pressure, no expectations. Just good quality, easy-to-understand, easy-to-drink wine.”
Diversity is so powerful and important for so many reasons. I want people to see themselves drinking our wine and feel represented and welcome to join the fun.”
— Chrishon Lampley, founder of Love Cork Screw
Standing out from the crowd
Although the current wine market is competitive and only continues to grow, to Lampley what is interesting is that the wine industry has remained traditional, without a lot of change compared with other markets.
“So many other industries actively evolve with changing demands and new generations whereas wine has remained constant for decades,” she says. “This has caused the market to be skewed toward an older demographic when research has shown that younger generations are still wine-curious but feel disconnected.”
Lampley attributes the wide array of options in today’s beverage alcohol space as the main reason for younger generations’ disconnect to the wine industry.
“For starters, there are many more options available when it comes to alcoholic beverages than there were even 10 years ago,” Lampley explains. “For example, alcoholic beverages that are low calorie, ready-to-drink, easily accessible with fun packaging and an approachable image do a great job at reaching Gen Z and millennials.
“Another huge thing is that consumers expect more from the brands they choose,” she continues. “Low price point, convenience and looks are not enough to retain long-term customers anymore. A brand’s mission, values, online presence, transparency, sustainability and community building efforts are what really makes a brand stand out now.”
Alongside the above listed attributes that have helped Love Cork Screw stand out from the crowd, Lampley also points to product labeling as key in helping connect with today’s consumers.
“My product labels and names are a big one. I wanted to make the labels fun and eye-catching with names to match,” Lampley says. “I find that this makes them more approachable to people who maybe wander down the wine aisle in the grocery store and feel overwhelmed. The pops of color on the bottles with names like ‘Good Times Good Friends’ and ‘We’re Movin On Up’ really communicate the mood and vibe of my brand.”
Additionally, Love Cork Screw includes nutritional information on its labels. “Wine bottles are not required to include this and many don’t,” Lampley explains. “I find that being transparent helps to establish trust and attract attention from health-conscious consumers, which is huge right now.
“I am also very proud about being a Black-owned and woman-owned brand,” she continues. “I make sure to put that in the spotlight, which you don’t see a lot in the wine industry. Diversity is so powerful and important for so many reasons. I want people to see themselves drinking our wine and feel represented and welcome to join the fun.”
Reaching a broader audience
With a mission to reinvent the wine industry and create a more inclusive experience for all, Lampley highlights how the brand’s Virtual Wine Tasting has become an active way to not only broaden the brand’s reach, but also bring people together.
“Our virtual wine tastings allow me to create a unique experience centered around Love Cork Screw on a much larger scale,” Lampley says. “Groups can schedule a time with me, I meet with them virtually and guide them through a fun and engaging event.
“Love Cork Screw is all about the ‘mood’ so even though these wine tastings are informative they’re also a lot of fun and I make sure to keep the energy high,” she continues. “One of my favorite things about wine is the way it brings people together, and that’s exactly what I try to achieve with this experience.”
In addition to tasting events, Lampley points to Love Cork Screw’s Pour & Pair platform, bringing recipes and collaborations to consumers to further connect with a broader audience.
“We’ve forged highly successful collaborations with esteemed partners such as Peacock Network and Stella Artois. Our aim is to sustain and build upon these partnerships, expanding the reach of Love Cork Screw to a broader audience,” Lampley says. “It’s a privilege to be sought after by major companies that appreciate and support our mission to diversify the industry.”
Further, Lampley highlights how newly formed partnerships are working with Love Cork Screw to further expand its retail footprint.
“We’ve established fantastic new collaborations with Entrepreneur VC and Crank Creative, poised to elevate Love Cork Screw to unprecedented heights,” she says. “Transitioning from building the company solely through bootstrapping, it’s truly gratifying to now have the backing to expand to a global scale.”
Looking forward to reaching a broader, more diverse audience, Lampley also foresees more minority business owners playing a role in the future of the wine business.
“Black and woman-owned wine brands make up less than 1% of the current wine industry, so I say the more the merrier,” Lampley says. “My mission has always been to make a difference in the wine industry and I think the more minority entrepreneurs continue to break barriers, follow their passions and make space for themselves and their communities in any industry — not just the wine industry — the more diversity, innovation and achievements will be seen in the market.”