Growing up in Toronto, wine was not part of family dinners for David Kong. The Chinese-Canadian entrepreneur only discovered a love for wine after watching the Somm documentary and developing an interest in blind tasting and appreciation for how wine glasses can completely change the wine-drinking experience.
“Good glassware is essential for drinking wine,” Kong says. “The right glassware will always make good wine taste even better. It’s the easiest way to get more out of every bottle you’re opening.”
In 2019, Kong left a hedge fund job where he was miserable to start Glasvin as a direct-to-consumer wine glass brand that launched in February 2020 with a mission to deliver handcrafted glasses at affordable prices. He keeps the prices low by cutting out the middlemen, creating partnerships directly with glass artisans in Asia and Europe, and slashing his mark ups. Glasvin works continuously with the artisans to improve products and makes sure that they are paid above industry standard.
Glasvin is already used at many of the top restaurants in the U.S., including 14 Michelin Star restaurants across the continent. These include Gabriel Kreuther Jungsik, 63 Clinton, and l’abeille in New York, Kato in Los Angeles, and Quetzal in Toronto. It is also the stem of choice for Christie’s Wine Auction.
David Bérubé, beverage director at l’abeille, is most impressed with how elegant and light the glasses are. He uses the Universal glass for most wine pairings, including aromatic white wines and high end champagne. For white and red Burgundy wines, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and high-end chilled teas from Royal Blue Tea, he opts for the Expression glass. “They are extremely high quality for a pretty valuable price point,” Bérubé says. “We’re proud of our wine list, and these glasses help us showcase our wine at its best.”
Glasvin currently offers seven different types of wine glasses and recently launched a GV Home collection of even more durable glassware, including cocktail glasses. The Universal, an ultra-light all-purpose glass, is Glasvin’s bestseller, perfect for every red and white wine. The Champagne glass has a broader rim than the typical flute, with a similar egg or tulip shape that competitors like Riedel and Sophienwald also adopt. Both are less than $80 for a pair.
“The Universal glass was my first creation,” Kong says. “I looked at all the options on the market and decided what I liked about each one. I tried to create something that looked different from the leader, Zalto, but still simple enough that it can fit in every restaurant or home.”
Kong is fastidious about his pricing and bringing value to his customers. On his website, he breaks down pricing for all hand-blown glass competitors and highlights price increases in recent years due to inflation.
At this time, despite being one of the top hand-blown wine glass brands in the United States, Kong has no employees. He runs Glasvin as a one-man show, outsourcing production and fulfillment while personally overseeing design, sales, and customer service. “If you email me, I usually respond within a few hours,” he says. “I’m always working, but I try to keep it flexible. I don’t count the hours.”
He says that cold call sales are his least favorite part of the business, but luckily his product speaks for itself. After sending samples to some fellow wine aficionados on WineBerserkers, as well as some restaurants, and press, chefs started reaching out directly with interest. Currently, Kong says that around 60% of his sales are direct-to-consumer, while wholesale clients make up around 40% of sales.
Jungsik’s Wine Director Cameron Dellinger first heard about Glasvin through industry colleagues and uses their Champagne glass at the contemporary Korean two-star Michelin restaurant. “The shape of the glass wonderfully bridges the gap between a more traditional flute glass with that of a more modern Champagne glass in which you would find a slightly larger bowl to help bring out the aromas of the wine,” he says. “They are elegant, lightweight, and hand blown without the price tag typically associated with glasses of this quality.”
Recently, Kong launched a glassware rental program in New York City, which he is considering expanding to other cities based on projected demand. International expansion is on the horizon as well, and he sees growth opportunities in the new GV Home line, which is meant to be an even more durable and affordable option that can compete with machine made glasses, still hand-blown, but thicker and heavier than the Glasvin glasses.