Fermenting the Next Great Wine Seller

The Wharton Wine Club is one of the largest on campus for good reason: It provides an excellent educational opportunity for oenophiles, potential entrepreneurs in the space and wine novices alike.

By Matthew Brodsky

When second-year MBA student Valdis Lenss came to Wharton, he was a wine novice. Then he joined the Wharton Wine Club.

“I thought this would be a great chance while I’m at school to brush up on wines,” he says.

The club was also a chance to meet friends, some of who now serve alongside him as co-presidents.

One of his peers is Janine Mandel, an MBA who joined the club last year in her first year on campus because of its active reputation and her interest in wine.

Under their watch, the club is already enjoying a banner 2012-13. With 330 members per Lenss’ count, the club is the one of the biggest MBA clubs beside Pub.

“We are still growing like gang busters,” says co-president Mandel.

They recently had a highly successful “Wine 101 course,” with the former editor of Wine & Spirits Magazine coming to campus to speak and teach the basics of bouquets, legs, regions and varietals.

Valdis Lenss

The Wine Club will continue to host different events throughout the year, including once–a-month socials and dinners at local BYOBs. Highlighting the calendar are the near-weekly tasting events with wineries that bring several of their bottles to campus and accommodate  50 to 60 members with a tasting.

“It is great marketing for the wineries. We’ll hopefully serve as future clientele for them,” Lenss says.

The events are tailored to reach the full spectrum of the membership, from the aficionado to the novice. All events provide a window into a world of wine that even the more experienced members might not have ever experienced before. Recent visiting speakers includeda representative from Bordeaux’s Chateau Margaux and Chateau Pichon Longueville.

Janine Mandel

“What we do offer people is the opportunity to taste truly exceptional wines that you wouldn’t be able to afford for many years after business school,” Mandel says. “Some of the best wines in the world.”

Future events include a partnership with the Scotch Club and a potluck with the Food Club.

After more than a year with the Wine Club, Lenss now feels more comfortable at restaurants with wine menus, mostly because he can recognize many of the names from the wineries that presented atclub events.

Could his experiences lead the major in entrepreneurial management and finance to launch a wine-related business down the road, joining the likes of Anthony Hamilton-Russell, WG’90; José Manuel Ortega Gil-Fournier, W’89, C’89; Jim Knighton, WG’84, G’95; Douglass Tomlinson, WG’99 ; and Stephane Girard, WG’06?(All of these alumni were featured in “Uncorking a Dream Business” and other wine-related articles in our new Fall 2012 issue.)

Lenss won’t say no to the question, but no matter what happens, he can continue to pursue wines as a hobby, if not a new passion.

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