October 12, 2012

Fine Wine, Anytime

Columbia Business School alumni are proving that the wine industry is ripe for innovation.

Amanda Chalifoux

For Tom Flickinger ’87, a personal touch is key.

“We will not sell a wine that we have not physically touched and seen,” says Flickinger, whose online store, Flickinger Fine Wines, features fine and rare wines from established collectors in the United States and major wine merchants in the UK and Europe. “We interview the consigners to make sure we know where each wine is coming from.”

Giving customers high-quality products — when they want them — is crucial. All wines featured online are available for immediate delivery. “We focus exclusively on retail,” Flickinger explains.

“Rather than having to wait for the next auction, customers get immediate availability.”

For Flickinger, finding a career that fit was a lot like finding the right wine for a special occasion. After marketing stints at General Foods, Quaker Oats, Life Fitness, and Arthur Anderson, Flickinger found himself at KP&G focusing on audit and tax marketing.

“I’d always loved wine,” says Flickinger, recalling annual trips with his father to California during his early professional years. “We’d end up in wine country on the weekends, tasting California wines. Since graduating, those trips helped build a large collection.”

Those experiences stuck with Flickinger, so much so that when a friend coaxed him away from KP&G to sell wine, he jumped at the chance. Today, his enthusiasm for offering the best prices and customer service for top-shelf products remains high. “Since we started this business, I’ve never looked back,” Flickinger says. “It’s fun to go to work every day.”

Decant with care — “Older wines need to be decanted carefully to remove the sediment. How you handle a bottle of wine really depends on the vintage.” Before you uncork, Flickinger recommends checking CellarTracker.com, a database of tasting notes for a range of vintage wines.

Keep it low-key — Flickinger’s number one piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: “Don’t spend a lot of money on flash. I believe in starting small and building from the ground up — not getting too big too fast.”

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