Editor's Note: Winc Membership is the wine club formerly known as Club W. You can read our older Club W Review or continue reading our new Winc review.
Overview of WINC
Buying wine at a store can be fun, but it can also be a hassle. Wine bottles are heavy and the "wall of wine" can be intimidating if you don't know much about wine. Choosing a wine because you like its label or its price sometimes works, but most of the time ends up in wine you don't love.
Enter Winc. Winc is a wine delivery service (sometimes referred to as a wine club, a wine of the month club, or a wine subscription box) which eliminates the need to worry about which wines you're buying and conveniently offers home (or office) delivery.
Winc works hard to redefine what it means to be a wine of the month club:
- First up, you complete a palate profile quiz. Its goal is to figure out which wines you're most likely to enjoy based on your taste preferences in other areas. The quiz asks you questions about your preferences for coffee, salt, citrus, mushrooms, and berries, as well as inquiring about how adventurous you are with what you consume.
- Each month Winc recommends 4 bottles of wine for you to have delivered based on your palate quiz and how you rate wines you've previously received from them. The Scoop: They get better at predicting your preferences over time, just like Netflix. Why 4 bottles? Well, there are a multitude of reasons, but our favorite one is this: It means you always have at least one bottle of wine on hand for each week in a month.
- In order to make wine affordable and fun, Winc wines start at $13 and they offer a broad selection of wine at this price. You'll never have trouble finding 4 bottles of $13 wine. Plus, shipping is free!
- Winc, being primarily an online company (you can buy their wines at some Whole Foods stores), is hyper-focused on strong ecommerce. This means that they send email reminders about your box so you can customize it before they ship it if you want, they send notice when your wine has shipped, and they work with UPS MyChoice so you can always control your delivery schedule.
- To help you learn more about your wines, each shipment includes a description f the wine, what makes it special, what makes it taste the way ti does, serving instructions, and a chef-created recipe to pair perfectly with the wine.
What to Expect from Winc
Winc's regular subscription is aimed at the casual wine drinker who is interested in discovering new wines at an affordable price point. They've gone to great lengths to produce boutique-quality wine at large-scale production prices. They have several ways of achieving this, but Winc is now the largest winery in the US, so you can imagine economies of scale play into the pricing.
Sometimes you want more than just a $13 bottle and Winc has you covered here, too. At the time of this review, round 30% of the wines they offer were priced over $13. These wines are special and may or may not come back again the following year, so it's always a great idea to check them out. Some of our recent favorites: Paper Crane™ Blanc de Noirs bubbly for $30, 2012 Porter & Plot Pinot Noir for $25 (we order this one again and again), and Dime® 100 Meritage (a Bordeaux Blend) for $32.
We especially love their fun brand, with labels worth talking about (like the Copycat® line of red wines), their Objet d'Art line, and of course a wine labeled "1 2 3 4 I declare a thumb war." We've always been big fans of their white wines, but recently their $13 red wines have started to impress us, too. The Ye Ye 2014 Monsastrell (that'd be Mourvedre from Spain) was a delight once it opened up (hint: decant your red wines and serve them chilled to get more enjoyment out of them) and the "So this happened..." red California blend also showed how they're improving their winemaking.
Winc is Committed to Sustainability
This may not matter to you, but if you drive a Prius and recycle everything with the recycling symbol on it, you should feel great about signing up for Winc, as the company is committed to increasing sustainability in the wine industry at every step of the supply chain.
Beginning with wine transport, they move wine from different bottling facilities to their packaging facility in reusable totes instead of bottles or barrels. This lowers the amount of fuel it takes to ship the same amount of wine.
Next up, they've recently done away with wine capsules (that bit of plastic or metal covering the cork at the top of the bottle). The no-capsule program helps keep costs down, but more importantly it saves tons (literally) of nonrecyclable material from ever getting to a landfill.
Another aspect of their sustainaibility program is their commitment to sustainabile farming. Winc actively supports "growers and winemakers that practice sustainable farming an winemaking. Whenever possible we opt for organically grown grapes and minimal intervention in production. We feature a number of biodynamic, vegan and otherwise sustainably farmed and vinted wines. Look for the grape leaf icon on wines that emphasize natural farming and winemaking practices."
WINC Wine Club Ratings
At WineClubReviews.net we take an objective approach to our star ratings system. Our written reviews are very much subjective, based on our 8+ years of wine club review experience and our own ideas about what good wine and good value mean. The star ratings are based on 11 attributes that we feel define what a wine club should be. Here is how WINC Wine Club stacks up on these traits.
Note: This rating is our objective analysis of Winc’s satisfaction guarantee—not our assessment of whether or not you’re guaranteed to be satisfied with their wines.
From their FAQ page:
"What do I do if I don't like my wine?
Winc takes pride in offering some of the best products available for our members. In the event that you are dissatisfied with the quality or taste of the product, please contact us immediately. We will gladly credit you the full value of your bottle towards another wine of your choosing in your next shipment. It's that simple. ... Restrictions apply. Please ask a Winc Concierge for more details. We reserve the right to deny Satisfaction Guarantee to customers who abuse the policy."
There are few clubs that have elevated the wine-buying experience to truly convenient (let’s face it, shipping logistics can be a major hassle), but Winc is one of them. They have a reasonable level of anytime-you-want-it online control of your account—change your number of bottles and your selection of wines easily online. They have a "Skip a Month" feature which is useful for vacations, but you can't cancel your membership without picking up the phone or using Live Chat.
You'll get email notifications to remind you to pick the wines for your next box, as well as reminding you the date your wine will ship, and a delivery reminder the day before it arrives.
A personalized wine club used to mean you picked the color of your wine and maybe how often you received your two-bottle selection. These days, companies like Winc, Lot18, and invino are all targeting the wine drinker who only wants to receive wines they’ll love. There’s something to be said for “no surprises” but the adventure of trying wines you wouldn’t have picked yourself has its charm, too. Regardless, Winc does a pretty good job of recommending wines for me. I always pick some of my own wines, too, because I always want to try new things.
Over time, the recommendations improve, IF you use their wine ratings tool. Just go online and tell Winc your opinion of a wine by clicking on up to 5 stars.
We've been drinking Winc wine on a regular basis for 5 years now. If you like sweeter wines and interesting whites, this is a terrific wine club for you. You'll love choices other than Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc (though they offer those, too) and you won't find a better value at the grocery store.
We have been surprised by the quality of an increasing number of $13 red wines from Winc, but sometimes their reds are not too different from what I could get at the grocery store or Trader Joe's. If your budget allows for more than $13 per bottle, we highly recommend trying their more premium selections. We find their premium reds to be a far greater value in red wine for the price than we can get anywhere else—including our winery wine club memberships from the same California wine regions where Winc sources its wine!
Wine prices are always a subject of much debate, especially in the industry. For most consumers however, the price is set by what they think a bottle of everyday wine should cost—most commonly around $10-15 and not infrequenlty under $10. It's nearly impossible to produce great wine in this price range, though it's a lot easier for white wines.
Winc's prices are exceptional. Most of their selection costs $13 (which includes shipping if you select four or more bottles for your monthly box). Given that it's notoriously difficult to produce a good red wine at that price, they also include some more expensive options for red wine lovers. At the time of this review, there were seven red wines priced $19-$32. Since you pick your own wines, you don't have to worry about being surprised with a more expensive wine if it's not in your budget, they'll never recommend a wine over $13 with their basic subscription.
We look at three areas when evaluating the discount opportunities offered by a wine club. Is there an introductory offer to sweeten the deal? Are there discounts available for buying more of wines you loved in your shipments? Are there special discounts only available to members?
To the general public, Winc has a great introductory offer right now (it changes a few times a year): Your first bottle is on them! BUT if you're a WineClubReviews.net reader (hint: you're on our site right now), you get $25 in credits toward your first shipment—they have promised us this is their best possible incentive for new subscribers!
Reorder or members-only discounts are nothing new at Winc, and they definitely reward their loyal customers. Save 10% on orders $75+ and 20% on orders $150+ (this is not a special deal, it's a regular offer).
If you've come to love Winc and you plan to stick around for a while, you can pre-purchase credits at significant discounts. Let's say you plan to continue subscribing for 3 months. You'll spend at least $156 on wine in that time period (because you want your free shipping on 4 bottles or more!). If you pre-buy your credits, you'll save $10 and the credits never expire. If you're a devoted Winc fan, you can pre-buy up to 600 credits (up to a year's worth) at a time and you'll save $100 on wine. Buy pre-buying credits you might get access to their Premier Membership and even get bonus gifts like Riedel stemless "O To Go" wine glasses.
More ways to save on wine at Winc. They have two referral programs. The first is their "Give a Box" program. Each month you earn invitations to send a nearly-free box of three wines to your friends, they just need to cover tax and shipping. If you'd rather earn credits for your referrals, you can use your personal referral code instead. Your friend gets $13 in credits on their first order (1 free bottle), and you get up to $26 in credits in your account ($13 when your friend places their first order and $13 when your friend places their second order).
Even more ways to earn credits at Winc! They really want you to rate their wines, so if you rate 10 wines, you get a $10 credit. Rating is easy and improves their monthly recommendations for you. Also, if you give someone a gift of Winc membership, you'll get 10% of the purchase price in credits for yourself. Spend $150? Get $15 in credits! One quick note... if for some reason your recipient spends more than the amount you've given and they need to enter their own credit card, they will automatically be enrolled in Winc membership. They're warned about this, but sometimes in the excitement of picking their wines they miss the notification. You might want to be sure and tell them so they're surprised by it.
If you like JetBlue, as a loyal Winc member, JetBlue will reward you with 1,000 TrueBlue points for every 24 bottles purchased.
You will occasionally get offers to join other companies' programs—like Plated or Hello Fresh (companies that send ingredients and recipes for you to cook at home).
Winc has a hit-and-miss customer service record. While we haven't received direct complaints from customers, there are many websites detailing customer service foul-ups. Usually this is because people seem confused about the fact that they've signed up for a monthly subscription service; the other chief complaint is that the wines aren't sophisticated or high quality. Our response to that is typically, "What exactly did you think you were getting for $13/bottle delivered? Opus One?"
Important Note: You DO have to CALL (or use LiveChat) to cancel. You cannot cancel your account online.
Winc's curation process starts with the winemakers they select to work with. Their service runs on rating wines for your palate, so they try to make wines to fit easily-defined profiles. This may not excite experienced wine drinkers who expect nuance and a long finish. Their wines are all designed for low-fuss enjoyment.
Then, the magic happens. This is essentially a double-curated club—first by professionals, and then by YOUR TASTE PREFERENCES. Stick with their Palate Recommendations or go off-book and create your own wine-tasting experience—either way, you win(e).
Personalized wine clubs like Winc are still pretty rare so they get high marks for being unique. Winc defines their niche by delivering exceptional value at an-almost-too-good-to-be-true price-point by redefining the entire wine distribution process, cutting out middlemen and shipping costs during the winemaking process. Their target market is 25-34 year old females, so their branding is saucy and fun, lively in tone and aesthetics, and always friendly.
The education style for Winc is different than other wine clubs. At other clubs you get a glossy (or not) printed brochure detailing how the wine was made, a bit about the wine region, the winemaker, and the winery. This is usually accompanied by food-pairing recipes and other trivia.
In addition to the beautiful pre-printed cards you get for each wine in your box, Winc also offers a video with a cheerful sommelier explaining what you smell and taste, how the wine represents its region, and how it's different than other wines made from the same varietal. The way they film these videos, it's like having a professional wine tasting in your home—by watching these videos when you crack open a bottle, your wine knowledge will be enhanced in an easy-to-digest manner.
If detailed information about the vineyard, the winemaker, or the winery is critical to your wine club experience (mostly wine geeks like this), then this isn't the club for you. Winc does provide some information about the winemaking, but limits information on the winemakers and vineyards because these are often deals made with the expectation of anonymity—it's part of how they deliver such great value. Think of it like Hotwire or Priceline, where brand name hotels offer rooms at far below their published rates so they don't hurt their brand by becoming associated with bottom-of-the-barrel prices.
We think Winc makes a fantabulous gift idea. (Yes, we know we made up that word.) Most wine clubs are great last-minute gifts because you can print out a gift notice and stick it in a card, but if you plan ahead by as little as a few days, you can deliver a gorgeous, wax-sealed gift card announcing the fun that is to come.
You can pick how much you want to spend (a minimum of $60 and then in $50 increments from $100 to $600), and your lucky wine-loving recipient gets to choose their own wines!
See how fantabulous Winc makes gifting for yourself!