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67 Pall Mall: Digital wine tasting

Posted on Sep 10, 2021 by FEED Staff

67 Pall Mall is an exclusive wine bar that had to get creative during the pandemic. The result? High-end digital wine tasting sessions

For most people, drinking means conviviality, companionship and colourful imagination; a release from care, boredom and worry, and a feeling that life is good.

But then, the pandemic. 

Pub crawlers were reduced to pacing the kitchen floor, the after-work gab session became people drinking at their computers, staring at their tipsy colleagues on Zoom. At 67 Pall Mall, a members-only club in London, “founded by wine lovers for wine lovers”, the lights went off – but not for long.

67 Pall Mall boasts one of Europe’s largest collections of wines by the glass, and one of its finest wine lists. Founded by former banker and hedge fund manager Grant Ashton, it was designed to give obsessives the opportunity to drink and share the finest wines available to humanity. Rather than being locked away in individual cellars around the world, the club – like a museum – provided a place where a vast selection of exquisite wines could be surveyed and sampled (and secured – 67 Pall Mall is housed in an old bank building with collections stored in the vault). The exclusive venue also makes these wines available by the glass using Coravin technology, which allows single, limited samples to be dispensed from a bottle.

67 Pall Mall is known for its events, with not only wine tastings, but talks and discussions with some of the world’s foremost experts and collectors – often in collaboration with other fine-dining institutions.

“During lockdown, the club dealt with the big challenge everyone was facing,” recalls Yasmine Taherbeigi, 67 Pall Mall’s digital marketing and CRM manager. “But instead of letting members languish or waiving membership fees, the club ramped up the events side of things and did them digitally.”

Bouquet of digital

How do you translate an oenological treasure trove of taste and texture into the flat-screen world of digital?

“67 Pall Mall has access to unrivalled experts. No one else has all these contacts in one place – so we started special Zoom webinars for our members. Alongside that, we used the same technology as wine-by-the-glass to fill 50ml sample bottles for a wine-tasting kit. We sent this to members, so they could sample along with the experts.”

It was clear that Zoom wasn’t going to provide the high-quality experience the club wanted to give its members. The bar was raised – and quickly – with the launch of a 4K OTT channel.

In December of last year, founder Grant Ashton contacted Richard Melman – a man with plenty of experience starting and managing channels, dating back to the launch of Animal Planet and a role as channel director for History.

“I had a phone call from Grant, who said, ‘I’m launching a wine channel,’” recalls a sceptical Melman. “He then followed that up with, ‘Do you want to come and see the two studios we’re going to build in Pall Mall?’”

With Ashton’s enthusiasm and backing, and Melman’s know-how, the team completed the build of two studios during lockdown. Now, they are delivering a formidable amount of programming, shooting in 19 different countries. There’s six hours of programming a day, three of them live, with everything available on demand, too. It’s available for non-members to watch, with the option to upgrade to a 67 Pall Mall membership, which gives you access to purchasing wine-tasting kits.

“One of the important things about 67 is the quality of the brand. Everything we do should reflect that quality,” says Melman – hence the decision to go with 4K from the start. “We went to a lot of time and trouble to get it set up properly.”

Melman went with Blackmagic Design cameras and took advantage of as many opportunities for automation in the studio as possible. The shows use LiveU units to stream live footage from any location straight into the studio. “When I first started doing this, I needed a 60ft satellite truck and about 30 people. Now it’s reduced to the size of a backpack.”

Iconik media management store and exchange the studio’s footage in the cloud. Melman adds, “Using Iconik, as soon as we finish a programme, we upload our rushes to it, and the editors can download proxies from where they are. As soon as they’ve done the assembly, we can review it instantly, mark up the screen, and even draw little pictures for when I want something zoomed in or taken out.”

The company uses Veset for scheduling, and the programming is output via Red Bee’s OTT platform. “We use a white-label broadcasting platform from Red Bee that is very adaptable for our needs. It’s incredibly exciting – you press a button and your channels are being viewed in almost every country in the world. We’ve become very, very digital and that’s worked enormously in our favour,” he says.

Wine 360

Most members of the London club are from the UK and Europe. But some US members use the club as a fine-wine weigh station when crossing the pond. New clubs in Singapore and California’s Napa Valley look set to increase membership, and spread the gospel of wine appreciation. Melman is building identical studios in both locations, which will be fully integrated with shared comms and workflows.

Knowledge of this niche audience allows the channel to stay focused in its content offering – the 67 Pall Mall brand appeals to the desire for luxury.

“How deep can we go with this channel? We haven’t scratched the surface; it’s an amazing subject. We feel there should always be a glass of wine in the shot, or at least the impression there’s one just out of frame. So we are looking at travel, food and everything synonymous with enjoying wine.”

This article first featured in the Autumn 2021 issue of FEED magaine.

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