The move is part of a long-term strategy to boost the American winery reputation.
The name Robert Mondavi was synonymous with innovation and fine Napa Valley wines that could rival those of Bordeaux’s first-growth houses in the 1960s and 1970s. Due to brand extensions at the low end of the market, it has lost its cachet in recent years. Yes, To Kalon, the company that owns one of California’s most legendary and awarded vineyards, sells wine at Sbarro.
While Robert Mondavi Winery has always produced high-quality wine, it is now on a quest to reclaim its reputation and place among the best wineries in the United States. That transition begins with—what else?—NFTs, in typical 2021 fashion.
NFTs in many categories, from digital art and music to trading cards and memes, have flooded the market this year. In the wine industry, NFTs can actually help combat one of the sector’s oldest and most serious issues: counterfeit wine. The ownership of the wine, as well as the origin of the bottle, is recorded on the blockchain when it is sold with NFTs. (In the future, by providing ironclad proof for specific bottles of good wine, this could make a dent in the $3 billion fake wine market.)
In conjunction with VaynerNFT, Robert Mondavi Winery designed a package of goods related to NFTs. A nod to the winery’s establishment in 1966, there are 1,966 packages available for purchase.
Each NFT is accompanied by an elegant porcelain magnum of 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon from the legendary To Kalon vineyard, as well as a piece of generative digital art (art made by algorithms) orchestrated by artist Clay Heaton. In addition, the purchase grants access to exclusive winery experiences.
NFTs fundamentally represent digital asset ownership, says Avery Akkineni, president of VaynerNFT. We wanted to add something that was new in the spirit of innovation, and give people a piece of this to have forever. That’s why we decided to pair an NFT with these incredible bottles, and took it a step further to bring in a generative artist to design those NFTs.
The NFTs are available for purchase in either US dollars or cryptocurrency.
The wine is a new mix from the legendary To Kalon vineyard named MCMLXVI. To commemorate the anniversary, Robert Mondavi Winery collaborated with Bernardaud, a famous Limoges-based porcelain house, to manufacture unique 1.5-liter porcelain wine bottles. Porcelain bottles are thought to be a first for the modern wine market, as fine wine is normally sold in glass bottles. While the bottles are lovely, they’re also ideal for aging wine since porcelain is opaque, which protects the wine from light while also keeping the temperature stable.
Each bottle takes two weeks to make and requires the collaboration of 50 different artisans. Bernardaud created three bottles: one elegant, matte black bottle and two shiny Burgundy bottles, one with platinum accents and the other with gold.
Michel Bernardaud said in a phone interview that the decoration was particularly difficult since the Burgundy bottles used a difficult-to-produce reflecting color process that it developed for a collaboration with artist Jeff Koons. In just a few months, they created and produced these bottles, which was a quick turnaround for Bernardaud. The bottles can be used as art pieces or decanters after the wine has been consumed. Alternatively, because the wine has a 30-year aging capability, if an owner wishes to sell it in ten years, the NFT will be present to establish authenticity.
So, how does it all come together? It’s the first stage in a three-year strategy to transform the winery’s parent company, Constellation, into a luxury powerhouse, according to Robert Hanson, president of wine and spirits at the winery’s parent firm.
Our intent is to restore Robert Mondavi Winery’s as the soul of Napa Valley fine wine, he says via phone. The brand has atrophied a bit over the last decade.
He also mentions that To Kalon Vineyard is one of the best in the world and one of the most important in the United States. The vineyard not only provides fruit for its own top wines, but it also sells to Opus One, one of the most sought-after wines in Napa Valley. (In 1978, Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Robert Mondavi launched Opus One.) Hanson thinks that the cooperation will bring attention back to To Kalon’s finest wines’ quality and craftsmanship at a historic location.
Although one unique cooperation will not be enough to totally revive the Robert Mondavi brand, it is a buzzy method to bring wine and cryptocurrency fans to the company and shake off its staid reputation.
According to Hanson, the winery and business center will be totally transformed in the coming year, removing the prominent branding of the Robert Mondavi name from its affordable labels, changing packaging and price, and fully transforming the winery and business center.
The NFT packages are now available for purchase on Robert Mondavi’s website, but collectors will have to wait a year for their wine, which needs to rest.