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Verticals that can engage certain demographics on a socio/geo basis and drive loyalty and conversion are the basis of our Marketplaces research program.  A new one that has caught our eye is WineTwits from founder Steve Gilberg.  Three years ago, HappyHours and Lawn and Garden Search were among the first verticals that made us think there was another side to marketplaces beyond the big classified categories.

Gilberg tells us that the development of WineTwits started a year ago when his team was fooling around with Twitter to see what it could do for the online wine retailers that he works with. “We quickly had a few thousand followers, and we were moving cases of wine. In one 24-hour period, we sold $16,000 of wine,” he says.

As the site comes out of beta, it now has 45,000 followers. It is currently poised to promote wine more aggressively, and work local channels to promote wine stores, specials and wine events. “Our business model is to create a platform that will organize conversations around wine,” says Gilberg.

The WineTwits platform is essentially made up of two products: “WineTwits Mobile” and “WineTwits Live.”  Mobile allows event planners, retailers and restaurants to create lists of wines being tasted at specific events, and build a feedback community,  like a specialized version of Foursquare. WineTwits Live allows event producers to project the tweets on screen, and upload interstitial advertising.

The platform has already been applied in November at The City Winery event in New  York, where it was called “Spit and Twit.” The company  is also in discussion to apply the tech for the San Francisco Vintners Market event in April.

The ultimate vision, says Gilberg, is to apply lessons from the WineTwits experience to several adjacent products.  “CigarTwits,” “RumTwits” and “TequilaTwits” are all on the horizon.

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