I’ve got a bit of an etymology fetish, so when I looked into the history of the word “innovate”, I discovered that the original Latin meaning was ‘introduce as new’ or ‘restore’. So less ‘invent the wheel’, not even ‘reinvent the wheel’, more ‘wow I just found these wheels at the back of the garage, they were a bloody good idea, I’m going to start using them again’.
When in Rome hasn’t thought up an app (yet), nor made an electric car (though on that point I can’t help reflecting that the venerable 1970s British milk float was a lot more useful than a Tesla). But I think we’re an innovative company in the original sense of the word.
To see how, take a look at these holiday snaps from a recent trip to Italy of a good mate of mine. The subject is “le buchette del vino di Firenze”, or the wine portals of Florence, a quick and efficient way for Florentine bankers and wine merchants to flog their delicious wine to customers about 300 years ago. People brought along their own bottle (“fiasco”), passed it through the portal, had it filled and took the wine home to drink with dinner that evening. Fab idea, though sometimes the glassblower messed up and the wine bottle didn’t fit in the portal properly. That’s the origin of the word “fiasco” in English. I told you I had an etymology fetish.
In the same way that most visitors to Florence walk past these portals without noticing them, still less knowing anything about their origin, 97% of wine sold in the UK still comes in single use wine bottles. And nobody really knows why. Even I knew nothing about these portals when we started When in Rome, but I absolutely love the idea and it makes me far less terrified of our mission to change the wasteful way the UK drinks wine today. We’re not innovating at all, we’re just reminding people what a good idea wine portals were.
This summer I’m going to take my phone to Florence, bring up our wine portal at www.wheninromewine.com on the browser and take a picture of our wine portal inside a wine portal!
The last snap of course isn’t from Florence, it’s from another beautiful city founded by the Romans – Bath. More specifically Wolf Wine (www.wolfwine.co.uk ), who in their heroic embrace of wine refills are following in the footsteps of the great Florentine wine merchants who started these portals, many of whom are still in business 300 years later. Together, and thanks to our customers, we’re trying to make Wine Portals great again!