How Two Oakland Women Are Rethinking Champagne With A Sparkling Wine Subscription

These days, there’s a subscription for everything. Order mezcal to your door every month, or refill your toothpaste at regular intervals. Anything you could need, read, drink, or desire can show up on your doorstep.

Including really good Champagne.

In 2020, best friends and bubble-obsessed Erica Davis and Catherine Carter set out to discover a way to bring consumers quality Champagne.

“We would go on trips to Napa all the time and for our girl’s night, we would order a nice bottle of Champagne. We would notice that most of the time, we would order a bottle that I loved and she didn’t, or vice versa. Or, we would both love a bottle but had no clue why we loved them. When we were searching for a way to discover sparkling wine or Champagne, we found nothing. Access to the category was limited! When we started researching the category, we realized there are few approachable ways to actually enjoy sparkling wine and Champagne.”

So they created The Sip, a monthly subscription service bringing bottles of bubbles to customers across the country. The bi-monthly box gets subscribers three 187mL bottles of bubbles or one half-bottle and one 187mL, plus tasting guides and $10 credit towards a full-size bottle.

Their products include boutique bottles like B. Stuyvesant (the only Black female-owned champagne company in the United States based in Brooklyn NY.) and Wachira (the first Kenyan-American winery), as well as legacy bubbles — Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, and the like.

Why smaller bottles? It allows drinkers to sip several different bottles side by side or in smaller, non-committal formats. “Full-sized bottles of Champagne are a big commitment,” says Davis. “We were spending hundreds of dollars on bottles and sometimes we wouldn’t like them. And unlike still wine, once you pop it you pretty much have to finish the bottle. It makes it appealing that we offer single serves so they don’t have to worry about commitment. If they do like the bottle, they can use our $10 offer to go towards the bottle.”

Davis and Carter saw revenue grow 400% over the first year. Since launching, The Sip has pulled in more than $2 million in sales and has a customer base of 25,000 strong, including regular subscribers and corporate clients. The Sip currently has 55 SKUs of sparkling wines in its portfolio.

A percentage of each box goes towards providing clean water to the East Oakland Community Project. The Sip has donated 2,5000 gallons of water to date through donations.

Part of Davis and Carter’s success is The Sip’s ability to appeal to a broad range of drinkers, not just the Champagne-obsessed.

“We’ve always been a member of subscription services. So creating The Sip, we made sure that there was seamless discovery — if you get a delicious bottle and can’t find it anywhere, well, that sucks. So we also allow our customers to rate and review the product, so we can give further recommendations that fall within that same flavor profile. It’s discovering the bottle you love and discovering other wines your palate will prefer.” With a recession looming, the brand points out, people can expand their palate while preserving their budget: most boxes ($59.95 per box on a bi-monthly subscription) cost less than a bottle of French Champagne.

Outside of subscribers, the subscription service also offers a robust online shop for one-off tasting boxes — 30% of their business is subscription-based, while the rest is padded out by business-to-business and online shoppers. “We’ve seen a lot of interest from direct-to-consumer as well as business-to-business. Businesses that are trying to keep their employees happy.”

The duo work with a variety of producers large and small to create smaller-format options. “People and producers are starting to realize the benefits of smaller formats. On the backs of the popularity of canned wines, wineries have smartened up. We’ve sourced from a combination of producers who already offered smaller formats and producers who make smaller formats specifically for us.”

Future boxes will expand towards the sparkling cocktail realm, with smaller-format bottles paired with spirits and cocktail mixers for creating French 75 and other effervescent classics.

“People have the thought process that sparkling wine is for special occasions. But after everything that everyone has gone through, we deserve sparkling wine.”