At long last, I bring you my third and final installment of my Club W series. Between summer travel and other matters, it’s been awhile since I checked in on this online wine distributor. If you missed the first two posts, you can read them here, and here. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
A few things have changed since my last Club W post.
- First, a company name change and rebranding. Club W is a part of Winc (Wine, Inc.), and the decision was made to drop the Club W name, and identify solely as Winc. This transition is still in process, and the clubw.com website is still fully functional.
- Secondly, the minimum purchase requirement has increased from three bottles to four. To qualify for free shipping, you always had to order four bottles, so now all orders are shipped for free. On the bright side, if you enjoy reds and whites equally, this allows you to select two reds and two whites as your default setting. (You can also select any combination of four – all reds, all whites, or three of one and one of the other.) Nevertheless, this also means that instead of $39 per month, plus $6 shipping for a total of $45, the cost for continuing, regular membership is $52 per month.
- Third, the company has implemented an incentive to encourage customers to rate their wines. When you rate 10 wines, you get a $10 credit. Unfortunately, this is not retroactive, so the seven bottles I’ve already rated don’t qualify. In addition, as I’ve mentioned before, the rating system at Club W/Winc is simply a 1-5 star system; there is no option to enter tasting notes or other feedback.
If you’ve read my first two posts, you know that with both of my first two orders, I ran into some hiccups. (If you haven’t read them, why not? The links are right up there in the first paragraph!) You also know that customer service quickly and efficiently resolved the problems; said solutions including credits and free wine. Always a good thing! For my third order, I decided to let the Club W/Winc algorithm do its thing and select the wine for me, based on the preferences I entered when signing up, and enhanced by my previous orders and ratings. This time, my order was processed and delivered without a hitch! Third time’s a charm, right?
I received my order confirmation e-mail, and within a couple of days, the box of delicious goodness arrived at my office. The box included exactly the four bottles identified in my confirmation notice; two reds and two whites. Also included, as always, were glossy pages with information about the wines, tasting notes, and suggesting recipes for pairing.
Below are my reviews of the four wines from my third Club W order. All wines are $13.00:
Wondeful Wine Co. San Luis Obispo County White Blend 2014
Enjoyable white blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Viognior, and Muscat. Straw color with aromas of elderflower and pineapple. On the palate, flavors of white peach, with elderflower, pineapple, and apricot. Pleasantly dry with light acidity and fruit-forward profile, giving it a sweet sensation. Nice on its own, but also pairs well with foods, like baked chicken.
3.5 out of 5 stars (85 – 87 points)
Chommie Pinotage 2015
My first Pinotage. Purple color with a ruby rim. Aromas of raspberry and earthy musk. On the palate, bright red cherries and fresh raspberries excite the tongue with fresh acidity. The wine is medium bodied, with dry tannins and a medium finish. The finish is sour cherry and spice, and a return of the earthy/musky notes. It paired nicely with smothered beef & lamb patties.
3.0 out of 5 stars (82 – 84 points)
Più Gioia Pinot Grigio 2015
Straw color. Aromas and flavors of white peach and golden delicious apple. Light to medium body with a supple mouthfeel and balanced acidity. The finish is floral, white peach, and a bit of mineral. A nice Italian PG, better than the 2014 vintage (reviewed in Club W – Part II). Served well chilled.
4.0 out of 5 stars (88 – 91 points)
Nouvelle Ère Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux 2014
Ruby color in the glass. Aromas of blackberry bramble, black cherry, and cedar. On the palate, there are flavors of blackberry, raspberry, cherry, and spice. There is also a mineral/earth terroir note common in Right Bank Bordeaux. Medium body with bright acidity. Tannins show late, and are firm and tight, but soften with air. The finish lingers with dark berry, cedar, and spice. As with most Old World wines, it’s good on its own but is best with food – in this case a seared sirloin.
3.5 out of 5 stars (85 – 87 points)
So while the overall experience has improved, and was seamless with my third order, my opinion of the wines is pretty much the same. Good but not exceptional. There are a few gems worth repeating, but overall, there are comparable wines available for less money at retail wine shops. Let’s review the pros and cons, as I see them:
- Supporting the little guy
- Info cards with recipes
- Exploring unusual varietals
- Availability of International wines
- Personalized, hand-written thank you note!
- They have some unique features that other online retailers and clubs do not. For example, it appears that once you’ve placed a bottle in your basket, it’s yours – even if you don’t complete and ship the order for a couple of months, and it otherwise sells out in the meantime.
- Their customer service team is prompt, courteous, and efficient.
- You can easily skip a month, or several, without cost or penalty.
- Their packaging is exceptional.
- Inability to review wines; only assign them a 1-5 scale rating. It has been my experience that, for me, writing a review and describing the flavors and elements in the wine enhances my enjoyment of the wine. Rather than simply knocking back a glass, I become more attentive and contemplative, and enjoy the wine more.
- I’d also like the ability to communicate with the independent winemakers. Placing a face, personality, and story with the name on the bottle makes enjoying wine a much more personal experience.
- While their customer service team is very good, the fact that I had contact with, or from, their customer service team three times in my first two orders is telling. Hopefully it’s just growing pains and they’ll get the kinks worked out.
In conclusion, I do think Club W/Winc is a good place to experiment for those just getting into wine. Based on their marketing materials, their target audience is clearly Millennials who fit that category. They allow you to receive different wines from around the world (depending on individual state shipping restrictions) on a regular basis without having to put any thought into buying decisions. Nevertheless, those who have a broader, deeper level of wine experience may find these wines wanting for complexity and depth. If you’re new to wine, and like the simplicity and ease of this business model, I heartily recommend Club W/Winc!
Have you purchased wine from Club W/Winc? Let me know about your experience in the comments.