Winc's Wine Club Strives to Pair People With Bottles They'll Love, and This Reviewer Raves About Its Accuracy

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Winc wine club
Photo: winc.com

Wine is a delicate business. The process of making it is arguably an art form, and even just tasting it can turn into a grand study that takes sommeliers on a years-long journey. In short, wine can be intimidating, and it definitely isn't the most accessible drink. But one wine club is working to change that by pairing people with affordable bottles tailored to their tastes, and that wine club is Winc.

Wine was the alcoholic drink I was most familiar with by the time I was old enough to drink legally. My parents are big wine people, and thanks to their exposure, I know that I prefer a bold, dry red above all else, will settle for a dry white, and loathe sweet or semi-sweet wine. So, I mainly buy cabernets and red blends—not much else makes it in my shopping cart. Still, I can't help but wonder: What am I missing out on? Is there a white wine or even a rosé that will tickle my fancy but is totally off my radar?

That's why I was so excited to try Winc, the California-based wine club started by sommelier Brian Smith. It may sound high and mighty, yet the club is anything but pretentious. Rather, Winc exists to help you find a bottle of wine you're almost sure to love and that won't break the bank.

The key to the service lies in the ″Palate Profile″ quiz. Upon signing up for Winc, you'll answer five short questions so that the algorithm can learn your tastes. Fast forward two to five business days, and a box of wine bottles based on your answers arrives at your door—no more liquor store roulette.

I wanted to see just how accurate Winc is at pairing people with wine, so I tried it out myself. Below is my honest review of every aspect—from the quiz to the last drop of a bottle.

How I Tested the Service

Taste testing wine isn't much of a chore, though four bottles' worth was a bit daunting for me to do alone. That's why I enlisted some close friends to drink them with me, and they were more than happy to help. But while five of us knocked out three of the bottles in one sitting, I made sure to save the lone white wine for me to test on my own. I wanted to see if I would actually enjoy it without any outside influence, especially given that it's not my go-to selection. I also wanted to pair it with an appropriate meal to see how that may enhance the experience.

My overall rating for Winc: 8.7 out of 10

Pros:

  • Selects wines based on your palate preferences
  • Exposes you to wines beyond your local grocer's stock
  • You don't need a membership to buy its wine (though it is cheaper with one)
  • You can customize your cart before you check out
  • Your recommendations evolve with each bottle you rate
  • Prices are on par with grocery stores and there's no member fee

Cons:

  • You have to sign for your delivery in person
  • Credits system can lose you money if you don't keep track
  • No refunds, only store credit
  • Need to correspond with a representative to cancel
Winc wine club
winc.com

Signing Up for Winc: How It Works

Signing up for Winc's wine club begins with a simple quiz. It's only five questions, but it uses your answers to build what's called a "Palate Profile." And the questions aren't answered with a simple yes or no—not everything is black and white, least of all your personal taste. You either choose your answer from a spectrum or check off various options for a more exact profile.

From there, you'll enter your email and date of birth (gotta be 21), and the algorithm will match you with four bottles of wine that are meant to suit your taste preferences. Winc also provides three descriptive terms for each bottle to clue you in on what's to come. But if the selection isn't to your liking, you can also opt to choose your own wines before checking out.

Your Palate Profile isn't set in stone either. As you try more wines, you'll have the option to rate them on the website or on the app, where you can also make purchases. Winc will then use your feedback to inform future recommendations as it continues to learn your preferences.

Winc Wine Club: Expanding Your Palate

Winc has plenty of wines to choose from in its online store, including red, white, rosé, sparkling, and even vegan options. Oh, and Winc makes all its own wine, too. The service uses data from customers to find out what they like and then partners with vineyards to make more of those blends. The result is a wine club that values its members above all else, and the great-tasting selections don't hurt either.

Winc wine club
winc.com

The Winc Wine I Received: Three Solid Reds and a Wildcard White

I took Winc's Palate Profile quiz before receiving my four bottles on the house. As I mentioned earlier, I'm a red wine lover through and through, but I'm open to a white as long as it's good and dry. And since I know I don't like sweet wine, I was pretty conservative when selecting flavors, avoiding most fruit options (except raspberry and blackberry because, come on, they're delicious) and enthusiastically approving the likes of tomato leaf and bell pepper.

My results were three reds and one white, courtesy of the algorithm designed by Winc's wine experts and programmers:

2018 Pacificana Zinfandel: Dark fruit, velvety, balanced

2018 Rose Obscura Red Blend: Jammy, rich, food-friendly

2020 Far + Wide Arinto: Perfumed, crisp, Portuguese

2019 Yé-Yé Carignane: Complex, elegant, flavorful

Winc wine club
Courtesy of Allaire Nuss

Winc Packaging and Delivery: Plan Ahead

My first shipment of Winc wine arrived in a charming yet sturdy cardboard box. This packaging made me happy for a few reasons. First of all, every bottle was intact. But I was also pleased to see that the materials were recyclable.

Winc typically delivers your wine within a week of receiving your order, though the service is not immune to the shipping delays currently sweeping the country. It's also important to note that someone 21 or older must be home to sign for the wine. Carriers will not leave packages unattended under any circumstances, even if a signature is on file. I learned this the hard way when I missed my shipment and had to track it down later. There are a few solutions though, such as signing up for text updates on your wine's delivery status, scheduling a pickup time at your local FedEx, or shipping your order to your leasing office or place of work.

Since Winc ships alcohol, there are some areas where it cannot be delivered. This is due to certain states having laws or limitations on shipping wine directly to consumers. If you live in Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Dakota, or Utah, you are unable to sign up for Winc due to these restrictions.

Winc wine club
Courtesy of Allaire Nuss

Winc Flavor and Quality: Perfect for My Taste

I recruited an army of five friends to help me tackle my Winc wine selections. The tasting happened to be on my birthday, which added a layer of festivity to testing out the various bottles. We're your typical lineup of 20-something girls, meaning we love a good wine night, but don't know much about what we're drinking. Our amateur status made asking my friends for quotes about the experience a comical exercise, but hey, there's no better wine pairing than genuine laughter.

The five of us knocked out three of the four bottles before hitting the town (needless to say, it was a good birthday). Anyway, here are our honest reviews of each wine:

2018 Pacificana Zinfandel: Upon tasting this Zinfandel, my friend Caitlin remarked, "This one tastes very…red." A simple observation? Sure, but it also holds some truth: There wasn't much flavor to this wine. I'd put it on par with your trusty boxed wine that you can whip out any weeknight and enjoy without much fuss or thought. Winc described it as "balanced," and after tasting it, the verbiage signaled to me that nothing about it is meant to stand out. Still, the delicate texture made it go down easily. So for a quiet night in with Netflix or a good book, this wine will do just fine.

2018 Rose Obscura Red Blend: Now this wine was the star of the evening, at least according to my posse. Cait again had the most notable comment, proclaiming that she does not like red wine, but she loved this red wine. Everyone else agreed it was delicious. It was the sweetest of the bunch (but not too sweet) and noticeably jammy. My green-lighting raspberry and blackberry almost certainly led to this bottle, as berries are used in jammier wines. It wasn't a dessert wine, but it would have shined with a sweet treat.

2020 Far + Wide Arinto: I'll be honest, I had never heard of Arinto before this wine appeared in my Winc recommendation. But a simple inspection of its Winc page let me know that it's dry and light in body, yet full of nuance. That was enough for me to trust I could like it. I drank this one on my own with turmeric chicken and baked cherry tomatoes. The latter's acidity complemented the wine perfectly, and it turned out to be a great pairing. But since I am so partial to red wine, this still wouldn't be my first choice when opening a bottle at home. That said, it was wonderful with my Mediterranean meal, so I still enjoyed it.

2019 Yé-Yé Carignane: This wine was my personal favorite out of the four bottles. I love a good Spanish wine (the more robust, the better), and this Carignane scratched my sweet spot. Its flavor was much bolder than its comrades', and I loved the layering of berries and spices. My friends were indifferent to it, but hey, it's all subjective. And that just meant there was more for me.

Winc Wine Club Price: Quality Wines at Grocery Store Prices

Winc's extremely reasonable pricing makes it a force to be reckoned with among wine club competitors. First of all, there's no member fee, and signing up gives you discounted prices at the online store, starting at $13 per bottle. That price tag is on par with standard grocery stores, which is unheard of for wine clubs, plus Winc tailors its wines to your taste. You can fill your cart with as many bottles as you like, though orders of three bottles or fewer include a $9 shipping fee. Otherwise, shipping is free, making Winc an even sweeter deal.

Orders aren't automatic, meaning you'll have to review your cart each month and confirm the order yourself. The plus side is that you never get a wine you don't want. But here's where the caveat comes in: Winc still charges you $60 per month (approximately four bottles' worth), which automatically transfers into credit.

The formula is simple: $1 equals one credit, and you'll cash those in for bottles of wine. You can also save credits on purpose to buy wine in bulk on a later date. Either way, your credits will always carry over, so your money isn't wasted as long as you use them. That said, you can still skip a month's payment or pause your membership. Just make sure you do so at least 48 hours before your payment processing date, which depends on when you first signed up.

Winc Customer Service: Helpful but Limited in Scope

Winc has multiple modes of customer support, all of which are accommodating but limited. Help is available through either the live chat function or by calling 855-282-5829. Just make sure you do so during the hours of operation: Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT and on weekends from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT.

What happens when you get a wine you don't like? Winc's customer service will work to make things right, offering credit equivalent to the price of the wine. Winc will also take these flubs into account with your Palate Profile so you don't get similar bottles in the future. If it were up to me, refunds would be an option, too, but I just write the reviews.

If you want to cancel your subscription, you must do so through a customer service representative via either the live chat function on the website or over the phone. But no matter which route you choose, it has to be during the working hours listed above. I always appreciate it when I can easily cancel a service by clicking a button—no correspondence necessary. In my mind, if you can skip a month without reaching out to customer support, you should be able to do the same when canceling.

Winc Wine Club Reviews: Mostly Positive, but Limited

Winc's customers appear to be overall satisfied with the wine club service, though there are a few exceptions. But first, the positive buzz. People love the wine, which is, of course, the most crucial component of a wine club. And we have the algorithm to thank for that, as it continues to learn our preferences with each bottle. Here's what some customers had to say:

Liz S. on Yelp said, "I love that you can choose which wines to get, switch out something you think you may not like, or be surprised. It's introduced me to new wines that I thought I'd never like and changed my 'taste.'"

Subscriber Janice F. wrote, "We are able to get bottles of wine for what we would pay regularly from the store, and we don't have to spend lots of time trying to decide which wine to get!"

Still, some members haven't had the best experience, especially regarding payment. Many people didn't realize that Winc automatically charges them even when they don't order wine, leading to some understandable frustration.

One anonymous customer wrote a complaint to the Better Business Bureau, stating, "Recently I discovered that I was twice again charged by Winc for $59.95... I did not authorize either of these payments, nor did I receive any product or service in return for these payments. I would like to have my money returned or the goods delivered." A Winc representative promptly responded by explaining the company's credit system, but still initiated a refund for the two charges.

Winc Wine Club: My Take

Overall, I had a very positive experience testing out Winc's wine club. As someone who generally knows their way around wine types, but is far from name-dropping notes, I found Winc to be an accessible tool for this curious semi-novice. I enjoyed each wine recommendation and even loved the last one. And I especially appreciated that your Palate Profile constantly evolves with each wine you rate. My only hesitation is with the credits system, which may be useful for those who often entertain and need to stock up on wine, but for me, it sounds needlessly complicated. Still, I'd probably just spend my full credit each month and avoid the carry-over entirely.

In short, Winc is a wine club I'm happy to recommend. It's perfect for those who enjoy wine but aren't sure how to pick out a bottle on their own And based on my shipment, it's a pretty reliable service.

Who This Service Is Good for:

  • People in their 20s who are still learning what they enjoy in wine
  • Novices looking to enter the world of wine
  • Those who want wine tailored to their tastes
  • Those wanting more options than what's at their local stores

Who It Isn't Good for:

  • Those who don't have the patience and/or budget to take a chance on wine bottles
  • People who like wine but only indulge every so often
Factors What it means Numerical ranking (1-10)
Taste Wine features delicious flavors that go down easily. 9
Quality of the wine The wine is on par with or exceeds its value.  9
Customization There's flexibility in choosing your wines. 10
Wine Variety The service highlights a wide range of wines. 10
Availability The service is widely available for consumers in various locations. 6
Price The price is fair based on the quality of the service. 10
Subscription The subscription plans are fair and flexible. You can easily cancel the service. 7
Shipping Shipments arrive on time and in good condition. 9
Customer Service Representatives are readily available and respond to inquiries promptly with helpful solutions. 8
Social Impact Products are ethically sourced. Packaging is recyclable or sustainable. 9
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