Is your spidey sense tingling about that $15 for 3 bottles offer from Firstleaf wine club? That’s because the Firstleaf introductory offer simply seems too good to be true, isn't it?
You’re probably wondering...
- Is Firstleaf really sending award-winning wines for $5 a bottle?
- Do these $5 bottles represent the typical Firstleaf wine shipments at their regular price of $13 a bottle?
We address these questions, and some other important details about Firstleaf wine club in the review below, but we have found that there are plenty of affordable wine club subscriptions available that offer good value and low prices. Some even have great introductory offers, too.
Firstleaf Promise #1
Buying great wine should be simple
If only. Did you know that every year there are 300,000 different wines made around the world? It’s easy to see why there are so many wine clubs who claim to comb through all those wines and deliver only the best, but why should we think Firstleaf is any different than any of the others?
That’s why we here at WineClubReviews.net review hundreds of wine clubs to see who’s keeping up with the promise of delivering great wine.
If you want to skip the hype and join a wine club where you’ll consistently get great wine with minimal effort on your part, we suggest one of these three top-rated wine clubs.
Firstleaf Promise #2
The only wine club tailored to you
That’s a lie. Do you trust a company who’s marketing pitch is a blatant lie?
In our experience, personalized wine clubs are not all-knowing and have limited potential at Firstleaf’s "tailored wine club" competitors like Winc, TastingRoom, and Bright Cellars — all of which offer a “palate profile” feature and customize your wine selection according to this profile and the wines you rate during your membership.
Here’s how "personalized wine clubs" typically work:
- The wine club identifies a handful of typical wine profiles like “jammy reds,” “sweeter whites,” “high acid,” “earthy notes,” etc.
- The wine club buys or produces wines that experts think fit these standard profiles
- You get the wines that most closely match your taste profile with the wine club’s inventory
- You rate the wines you receive so they can get a better idea of which flavors and aromas you really like and hopefully send you better wine in the future
Each wine club has their own way of categorizing you, categorizing wine profiles, and determining matches. Most of them are, at best, mediocre at the beginning but get better with time. Here are some highlights:
- Winc makes recommendations and lets you pick every wine you receive from Day One. This means that you don’t have to rely on their palate profile quiz results if you know what you like or a know a little bit about wine and want to cruise their wine list.
- TastingRoom.com ships you a case of wine that has nothing to do with your tasting kit experience and then starts getting better at matching based on wine ratings. Like Winc, you can swap out any bottle from your box for anything they have in inventory.
- Bright Cellars, in our opinion, didn’t do a great job of matching wines we liked. They definitely improved with time based on our ratings. One thing we do like about Bright Cellars is that you can tell their wine concierge to leave certain kinds of wine out of your boxes so that you can do less work and enjoy more of what you receive.
Among the three personalized wine clubs mentioned here, Winc has the best wine by far (read our full Winc review). We're not sure about Firstleaf's sourcing because they don't talk about it (though we suspect they make most of their own wine), Winc definitely makes or has a hand in making all of the wine they sell. This is why Winc tops almost all of our Best Wine Clubs lists.
It's worth noting that Firstleaf recently wrote a blog post about the data science behind their wine selections. It's an interesting read to be sure and certainly has all of the marketing buzzwords one would hope to read in such a post. Despite their own critiques of quizzes as a means of selecting the first shipment of wine, this is in fact what they do... they're asking you for general wine preferecnes which mean your first shipment can't be all that personalized...
We're pretty familiar with both data science and wine (Jess is a wine-loving programmer who majored in Mathematics), but we keep coming back to the concept that data-driven wine selection misses something important here — you sense wine, you don't compute it.
Firstleaf Promise #3
Award-winning wines in every box
On the Firstleaf Winemaking page, they highlight one “great” winery and two “great” wines. Let’s check those out in a minute, but first, let’s talk about wine competitions…
In general we’re not big fans of using wine competition awards as a way to judge whether or not wine is good — mostly because they bias larger wineries and those with big marketing budgets. This leaves out smaller wineries where, in our opinion, most of the better wine is produced. In short, the only wines that compete are the ones that get submitted. Read more about wine competitions at Palate Press.
Note: We make an exception for the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition because it has an excellent reputation.
We were able to verify all of Firstleaf's claims regarding their wines. The bulk of the claims are regarding the Hawthorne Grove Winery 2015 Pinot Noir from Monterey County, California. Real people at Cellar Tracker and Vivino didn’t agree with the competitions’ awards for this wine. Also, Penrose Hill (Firstleaf's parent company) submitted the wines to the competitions.
Now, who DO we trust to pick out "award-winning" wine? If that’s what matters to you, try this list:
About the Firstleaf Introductory Offer
Now, let’s finally circle back to the detail that brought you here in the first place — can Firstleaf's $5 bottles of wine be both good and representative of their regular wine club shipments? Maybe, but their regular prices are $13/bottle and we know there are great wine clubs with introductory offers in that price range ($13-15 per bottle).
We also recommend these similarly-priced wine clubs that don’t have a heavily-discounted introductory offer.
- 90+ Wine Club from Wired For Wine ® — An International selection of 12 bottles for $14.16 per bottle, delivered quarterly. All wines are rated 90 points are better by good wine critics (not ones that take money for ratings).
- Case Club from The California Wine Club — A mostly-California selection of 12 bottles for $14.42 per bottle, delivered monthly, every other month, or quarterly.
- Light & Sweet Wine Club from Wired For Wine ® — Exactly what it sounds like, all white wine club for folks who like fruity and off-dry wines (think Moscato, Gewurtztraminer, and Riesling) for $15-17 per bottle, delivered quarterly or semi-annually.
And in related news... it's Rosé season!