First Blog Interview in the Bag
Ironic timing, but if you’re a Constant Reader here, you know irony is good for the blood.
My last week as a news person just so happens to coincide with my first email interview for the blog! Someone in a chat I’m in at work recommended Maivino, a vegan wine that ships in colorful bags. You know I’m a fan of the bag, both as a superior method of saving wine to drink later and the environmental aspect.
I emailed with Mai Vu, CEO and founder of Maivino, who was kind enough to answer some email questions while traveling to meet with her international winemakers! I paid the regular price for my wine and didn’t receive any remuneration for this interview. Ms. Vu’s responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
Hi Mai! What got you started in winemaking? What's your role within the company: do you consider yourself a winemaker, or do you work with winemakers to make the final product?
I consider myself a wine barista! I’m not sure what to call myself, but I work closely with winemakers to produce wines that are well-balanced. Sometimes I’ll also work with winemakers to blend what is grown on their estate. For example, our Sauvignon Blanc and Rose both have Riesling. When I worked with wine in the Finger Lakes, my winemaker and I would blend things for the fun of it- and found that Riesling adds a nice complexity.
You're based in New York and you don't grow the grapes yourself. This is also common out in Washington, where there are a lot of Seattle wineries that source their fruit from the Columbia Valley region, for example. Do you find there's any stigma or opinions on non-estate grown wines?
It would be nice to own your estate—but unless you’re born into it, or have enough money to purchase a vineyard, you’re out of luck. I think while our wines are not estate grown, our winemakers go out and check on the grapes. They taste them, and will check when it needs to be harvested. So while they don’t own the land, they work closely with the grower to make the wine.
I think at the end of the day, as long as you understand everyone that works with the wine, there is no difference.
Just curious about the process: how does your Chilean pinot noir for example get from Chile to where it is made?
We work with the winemaker directly in Chile to produce the wine. We then ship the wines to New York, where we get it packaged. This reduces wine’s carbon footprint as you use less energy to bring more product in.
Is the wine aged in tanks primarily or barrels, and for how long before it gets bagged?
We age the wines as they were intended to be aged. So our Pinot Noir spends about 12 months in French neutral oak. Our winemakers are constantly tasting the wines to check on it.
You make a point of using vegan fining agents. Have you considered making unfiltered wines and avoiding that part of the process altogether?
We are testing it at the moment to see if there will be any issues with quality control.
Like many other industries, the wine industry needs diversity, both on the production side and on the consumer side. I've read articles about how there's a perception that Black people don't drink wine, for example. Have you found your subscribers skew any particular way demographic-wise? What are you doing to promote your wines to non-white audiences?
Very interesting question! I took a look at our online customer demographic, and it’s actually very diverse—it’s almost reflective of the US census. We are intentional with using language that everyone understands, as opposed to language that wine professionals use. I don't think we go out to promote our wines to non-white audiences, we just promote wine that is inclusive and welcoming. I think the byproduct of being inclusive with language is that you attract a more diverse crowd.
I've also seen articles that say younger people don't drink wine as much. Do you find that to be true of your buyers? Do you think it's due to younger people maybe not having as much discretionary income to spend on wine? If so, can we counter the belief that only expensive wine means it's good.
Our customers are often between the ages of 25-44—so it's definitely not true. I think there is truth that younger consumers don't have as much discretionary income, but that's why we keep our price points affordable. There is a lot of great wine out there. Some of them don't always come from brand name places, but that doesn't make the quality less. Chile has amazing quality wine. It's actually the only place that uses the original rootstock from Europe. Expensive wine is not always good. There is a law of diminishing returns with wine: after a certain price point, you're really just paying for the brand, whether it's a region or chateau. This happens in natural wine as well; piquette, which I see goes for $30 or $35 on shelves in New York, is a second press wine that farmers use to make for themselves after crushing grapes.
Your company specializes in three varietals: pinot noir, sauv blanc, and rosé. Have you found that those are the most popular among your target demographic? What do you like best about those three?
It really depends on the season, but the Sauv Blanc or Rosé probably compete for being more popular. The thing that I like most about these wines are that they are light and dry. I think the younger generation appreciates wines that they can drink with or without food and aren't looking for the classic Robert Parker wines that their parents use to drink.
Do you foresee adding any other products to your line? Why is Chile such a good value for wine, and do you foresee that continuing? Are there any other regions you like that you would like to produce from?
We are adding an Orange wine from 80-year-old vines in Chile and a heavier Red. I'd love to bring in wines from Sicily, Austria, and South Africa. Chile is such a good value for wine because they have a long history of wine making, that came over with the Conquistadors. In addition, the country needs to export their wines. There is not enough demand within Chile for higher end wine that they rely on exports.
Thanks so much, Mai! And how is the wine?
I bought two of their pinot noirs, one “Save the Grape,” from 2019 made from Willamette Valley, Oregon grapes and Batch No. 5 from the Curicó Valley in Chile. The Oregon wine is bright with black raspberry, while the Chilean had a funky earthy nose. Both have tons of acidity. Each bag or “bagnum” holds 1.5 liters, so each is equal to four bottles!
The plastic taps on the bags are much easier to open than the French wine in a box I tried last summer. Just peel the foil off the tap, and pull the plastic tab off. The tap is immediately ready to go and flows freely.
The current price for the pinot noir is $35, or a little less than $9 per regular-sized bottle, and this is darn good for that price. I bought two of each, to have on hand in hopes of being able to do backyard barbecues this year. Definitely great barbecue/burger/pizza/game watching wine.
Also, there’s a sale going on, 25% off to clear inventory to make way for new labeling! Absolutely worth the price then. If you get the rosé or sauv blanc, let me know how you like it! And if you’re a winemaker or seller or wine whatever person, and want to talk to me about it, by all means hit me up.