Harnessing the power of digital advancements such as blockchain, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and the metaverse, wine membership platform Crurated is providing a unique experience for collectors by connecting them with a global community of producers and fellow enthusiasts to share, discover and collect. Founder and CEO Alfonso de Gaetano speaks with Belinda Craigie about marrying his passion for fine wine with technology.

Are you able to briefly share some of your career experience and how you landed in the wine industry?

With more than 10 years as an executive at Google, I have extensive experience in relationship development across publishers and brand advertisers in the EMEA markets. Prior to Google, I spent most of my career in strategy consulting and M&A.

It’s fair to say I am as passionate about tech as I am about wine, and the two converged with the decision to set up Crurated. I had the desire to create a community of fellow connoisseurs that could come together virtually and physically around the globe to discover, learn and acquire wine from the hands of the best domaines themselves. All while ensuring quality and provenance.

How did the idea for Crurated arise?

As a collector myself, I struggled with the fact that I was buying bottles in shops or at auction and I had too many experiences where the quality of the wine was below the expectations, and the price paid for them.

I wanted to create a system that adds authenticity and traceability from the moment the bottle leaves the producer’s cellar, adding value for both restaurants that are selling these bottles to their clients, and for private clients that will either enjoy the bottle with their friends or decide to resell to another collector —for a multitude of reasons. Here at Crurated, we see this becoming the industry norm in the future.

Can you explain what the Crurated experience entails?

We believe it’s time for the industry to rethink the relationship and the services it offers to customers and collectors — that’s where Crurated comes in. From the ability to access new releases directly from the vineyards and distilleries and the option to store collections for free in our state-of-the-art warehouse facility in Burgundy, to the addition of NFC labels and NFT certification — allowing users to have the full history of each bottle, from the moment it is released from a producer.

We have recently announced the launch of Crurated’s metaverse, which will offer members the opportunity to ‘see’ and ‘learn’ about all their bottles purchased in VR and access real-time information about the bottle or the NFT certificate, simply by touching the bottle in their virtual cellar. Future iterations will offer the possibility to converse with experts and producers, immediately bottle and ship new purchases via a specially curated metaverse shop. This level of personalised experience will set a precedent for what consumers will expect in the future. Whether our members already consider themselves aficionados or are just at the beginning of their journey in building their wine or spirits collection, we have different memberships available extending to a personal wine  advisory service, unlimited storage as well as collection previews and priority access.

What were some of the challenges you faced in creating a dedicated metaverse?

The Crurated Metaverse uses some of the most advanced technologies available. This is absolutely a positive, but it can come with many challenges. There are many moving parts, meaning there was lots of back and forth to ensure functionality was as we wanted it to be, whilst also ensuring the design was as impactful as possible. The initial launch in spring will be the first iteration, but development on the next phase of the metaverse has already begun — it’s an ongoing project to ensure we’re constantly improving customers’ journeys by adding new features, expanding existing ones and finding new ways to embellish the enjoyment of fine wine.

How are your suppliers responding to Crurated’s digital-first approach?

We are a digital-only platform with no physical stores, but we are very aware it’s essential we connect with collectors and producers.
To ensure we’re constantly in touch with producers, collectors and
potential new members, we host events throughout the year — whether it’s intimate dinners or larger tours, our clients can meet other collectors and producers whilst tasting unique bottles directly from producers’ cellars and learning about the wine and winemakers.

In what ways can a digital-driven collecting experience foster engagement and community within the investment space?

Technology is our main differentiator from other premium wine clubs, more than half of our staff work in our tech team, bringing with them decades of experience. We were the first to launch an infrastructure fully integrated in blockchain, and now are giving clients the option to virtually immerse themselves into their own cellars through our metaverse — a unique experience that attracts not only those interested in tech, but wine lovers interested in exploring the tech world.

We’re able to offer our clients instant access to their bottles — at the click of a button via the Crurated App, they can simply click and ship their bottles wherever and whenever they wish. The same infrastructure also enables additional services that we are planning to release in the future.

But we believe that to succeed we need to play a role in nurturing our clients’ passions and support their education, whether it’s with
a novice looking to start a collection, or an established collector looking to explore investment opportunities — we have dedicated team members on hand to support all client needs. As mentioned, we do organise both online and offline events to ensure we’re offering our clients the full Crurated experience (digitally and in person).

What’s next for Crurated?

Curating more exceptional wine and spirit collections. We continue to expand the list of producers we work with and will be targeting around 150 top producers in 2024 who will be showcased on our platform. The curation is at the core of what we do — it’s part of our brand DNA. We will only ever offer bottles from incredible producers that we would want to drink ourselves.

We will also be focusing on expanding our spirits offering this year. We hit 4,750 members after being in business for 30 months, and many of them started asking for our recommendations on rare spirits that are difficult to source through traditional channels.

We launched Crurated Spirits in November 2023 and mainly focus on special releases directly from the distilleries we partner with.

Within the Metaverse, we’re developing new experiences that focus on three very disruptive technologies: metaverse, blockchain and artificial intelligence. The combination can create a wow factor and enrich the experience for passionate collectors.