A month before the pandemic hit the United States and quarantine began, a startup social networking app called Clubhouse emerged on the scene. The invite-only platform is a form of talk radio in which conversations take place in rooms hosted by moderators and disappear when chats are over. You can’t message or email from the app. The goal is to listen, chat, and maybe learn something.
One year since its launch, Clubhouse now hosts over 10 million users whose conversations can range from how to raise venture capital for startups, to which comedians are overrated. Recently, the app was valued at $4 billion.
The platform hosts thousands of clubs, many of which are dedicated to beverages. Search wine, and you’ll find over 75 clubs. Search beer and spirits, and you’ll discover over 100 additional clubs.
Part of Clubhouse’s general appeal is that, over the past year, it has given those stuck at home an opportunity to network in a new way. “I’m an entrepreneur. I like networking, and this is how I networked during the pandemic,” says Kimberly Hard Washington, founder of Beviam wine consultancy and special events.
Wine professionals including sommeliers, viticulturalists, and journalists are using the app as a vehicle for discussions about consumer consumption, natural wine, soil, and to generally geek out about wine with like-minded individuals from all across the globe — an unexpected perk of conferences and events going virtual this past year. “Through Clubhouse, we have the ability to speak with other wine professionals no matter where they are in the world. So much of building the business of wine is being at the right place at the right time. Clubhouse lets you share ideas and have the same feeling,” says sommelier and wine educator Renée Sferrazza.
And the conversations about what is currently happening in vineyards and at wineries have proven to be interesting not only to those in the industry but also consumers — giving the wine community a unique opportunity to converse with those they may not typically interact with in the trade. Consumers are joining these conversations, learning by listening, actively asking questions, and conversing about wine in a more approachable setting. “[O]ne of the things I love about Clubhouse is the interaction,” says Ken Pettus, wine consultant and co-host of the Sunday Night Wine Club. “Where can you find wine industry people, winemakers, and consumers in the same space and at the same time? This is what makes Clubhouse different. You never know who is going to come into your room to chat.”
Unlike other social media platforms, Clubhouse is entirely audio-based, giving users the opportunity to hear each others’ tones as they communicate. Clubhouse also allows users to listen in on discussions about topics that interest them without having to comment. In addition, the platform allows for freedom of language and expression, allowing users to use slang and curse without being flagged for their use of language. “We talk wine in a space where we can just be us. No pretense. We organically came together,” says Pettus. “It’s a space where people feel comfortable about the industry of wine, the business of wine, ask questions, and sit in on a conversation.”
Is Clubhouse simply filling the void of much-needed social interaction? If so, will the platform maintain its relevance in the wine world once the world opens back up? Will the recent launch of Twitter Spaces — the app’s own Clubhouse-like feature — put a dent in Clubhouse’s users? Only time will tell who will be listening as downloads of the app have recently dropped significantly. But many of the platform’s avid users, especially those in the wine community, don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. “I see Clubhouse setting a new standard of social connection. Clubhouse as a platform and channel is here to stay,” says Hard Washington.
6 of the Best Clubhouse wine clubs
A very lively chat about wine that includes professionals and consumers. Topics can range from celebrity wine culture to hip hop music.
Hosts: Ken Pettus, Terrell Khan, Deej Alston, and Taylor Dom, Chelsea Stephens, and Taylor Walker
Time: Sundays, 7 p.m. ET
A networking club that includes weekly wine trivia questions and giveaways.
Host: Kimberly Hard Washington
Time: Mondays, 7 p.m. ET
The name says it all: This club is about all things Italian wine.
Host: Stevie Kim
Time: Wednesdays, 2 p.m. CT
A club about wine and spirits where hosts recap what’s been in their glass all week.
Hosts: Mike Shapiro and Kat Stark
Time: Conversation times change weekly. Follow the club for more information.
In my club, we discuss the wines we are drinking, wines we look forward to drinking, and food pairings. We talk more about the fun of wine and less about the business of wine.
Host: Julia Coney
Time: Fridays, 6:30 p.m. ET
Weekly themed wine talks on subjects ranging from importing, interviews with winemakers, wine region geography, and how to taste like a professional.
Host: Renée Sferrazza
Time: Saturdays, 8 p.m. ET