As soon as you say “wine education” some people’s eyes roll back in their heads. No matter how schooled you want to get, this Wine Folly subscription will get you there. Every shipment is themed to help you learn varieties, styles, regions, producers to trust, and winemaking techniques to give yourself a foundation of great wine knowledge.
It can be a challenge to fit four wines to a theme, for example Pinot Four Ways, but every wine selection is really well thought out to support the lessons on offer. Plus, there’s loads of content to support you at your own pace.
I have no complaints. I wish they offered gift memberships so you can give others this amazing wine.
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Wine Folly has become one of the most prominent sources for wine education on the planet. One thing that really stands out, beyond the approachable and fun way the knowledge is doled out, is that the information is completely free (no subscription required). If you’re not already familiar with Wine Folly, please go check them out!
Delivered every other month, each $120 shipment of four bottles (shipping is included) fits a wine education theme. Past themes have included Bold Red Wines, Aging Vessels, Blends, Off the Radar, Warm Climate Wines, and Pinot Four Ways. The latest shipment, the one I received, is called Repertoire Builders. I go into more detail on this in the Wine Review section.
Madeline Puckette — the friendly and quirky sommelier who brought the WineFolly.com empire to life — has at long last curated a wine club she feels is worthy of her outstanding reputation. Madeline Puckette is a winner of the International Wine and Spirit Competition “Wine Communicator of the Year,” a James Beard award-winning author, and the co-founder of Wine Folly. Madeline creates the wine club’s curriculum goals and helps select each shipment’s wines.
The Wine Folly Wine Club was created through a partnership with Wine Folly and Wine Access. Your club purchases will be managed on wineaccess.com.
Wine Access, helmed by Vanessa Conlin, a Master of Wine, and her team of amazingly qualified sommeliers and Master of Wine candidates, is one of our favorites! Vanessa offers exceptional guidance in the tasting videos provided with each shipment. She also sources interesting wines around the world to offer the club.
In addition to an overview of the selection and descriptions of each wine which arrive in the box, there is a wealth of detailed information online. Wine Access produces video tasting notes for every wine in every one of their wine clubs. Pssst… You can enjoy these videos for free on YouTube without a membership.
Wine Folly being all about wine education produces their own accompanying content to complement the details provided by the Wine Access tasting notes.
Lastly — and this one’s for the wine geeks — even more detail about each wine is available through Wine Folly’s website. These pages, powered by Global Wine Database (a part of Folly Enterprises), include growing conditions, harvest information, winemaking details, aging/maturation, pairing suggestions, and a full breakdown of the nose, palate, and appearance.
The Wine Folly Wine Club is relatively new and so far I have reviewed one four-bottle shipment of the subscription. I am actively reviewing their service and most recently received a shipment in May of 2022. This review incorporates my Wine Folly Wine Club experiences and my experience with more than 100 other wine clubs.
Any wine subscription service is about more than just the wine and this review covers all aspects of the service. The key things I look for in a wine club are: How was the wine sourced? Is the wine selection personalized or curated? How often does it ship? How well does the company communicate about shipping and billing? Do they offer a satisfaction guarantee? Are the shipment sizes and wine selection flexible?
I also examine what kind of wine education they offer with their bottles and whether or not a service is set up for good gifting. These aspects are not core to a wine club being worthwhile, but they are important for many would-be members.
My Wine Folly Wine Ratings
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The shipment I received is called Repertoire Builders. I was keenly interested to try a shipment themed like this because I believe this is the core value of a club like Wine Folly — to teach me fundamental knowledge about classic wine styles that I can use in the real world.
This selection of four wines was designed to express what any particular grape or region is most classically known as (the wine industry calls this typicity and it’s part of the wine ratings system used by critics, and me).
Something I really love about the selection of wine I received is how perfectly they were curated: an old-vine Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc), a Chablis-like Chardonnay from Chile, a prototypical high-quality Pinot Noir from Monterey, and a perfect Cabernet Sauvignon for those who prefer something other than Napa cabs.
We brought this wine out to dinner to celebrate our wedding anniversary. I wasn’t sure what I’d be ordering, but I had a pretty good idea it would involve seafood, so I thought this would be the perfect wine from the shipment to bring along.
One of the joys of fine dining in the desert is that as soon as the wine comes out of the bottle (from the chiller), it starts warming up. You don’t have to wait long for aromas to start popping and complex flavors to emerge from a high-quality wine.
I already experienced this wine as I received it in Wine Access’ Decanter Magazine wine club. I had so many mixed thoughts about it (read the sanitized version in my review), but I was curious to see what the husband thought as he unfortunately missed this wine on the first go around. (He liked it.)
What surprised me was how different it tasted than the first time I had it — specifically what had been mouth-puckering and bracing acidity had mellowed into what, I believe, had Decanter Magazine so enamored they gave it 96 points and called it a Wine of the Year. Which leads to the key takeaways for this wine:
Like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir hails from Burgundy and the Burgundian style is what a lot of wine connoisseurs seek. The new world versions tend to be fruitier, more full bodied, and sometimes spicier depending on where it came from and what the winemaker’s style preference is. Keeping all that in mind, it’s difficult to quantify a “classic” Pinot Noir, but somehow Wine Folly & Wine Access found a wine that checks all the boxes, making it perfect for this “lesson.”
Cabernet Sauvignon is yet another example of a grape whose classic style is defined by its French origin, this time in Bordeaux. A key distinguishing factor between new world and old world Cabernet is that in the old world, it’s typically blended with something else (Merlot in France or Sangiovese in Italy), but in the new world, we tend to bottle it on its own. As Pinot Noir benefits from blending, so does Cabernet Sauvignon, and also like Pinot Noir, most single-vineyard Cabernet does a good job of expressing its terroir and climate.
My Wine Access
The Wine Folly club is accessible enough for a wine newbie and, uniquely, advanced enough for anyone not already enrolled to become a Master Sommelier themselves. Educators Vanessa Conlin (a Master of Wine) and Madeline Puckette (a Certified Sommelier) are tops in their field and access to their knowledge is worth more than the cost.
I recommend Wine Folly for most wine drinkers, particularly those who would prefer to be presented with a point of view/lesson in each shipment rather than go out and find their own wines.
Wine Folly’s club would be especially useful for anyone who earnestly wants to learn more about wine but doesn’t really know how to go about doing it without shelling out a lot of dough (and committing a lot of time) to start working on a WSET Diploma or Sommelier certification.
At this time the Wine Folly Wine Club is not set up for gift memberships. If you want to give this as a gift you’ll instead need to sign up and make the payments until you decide it’s time to cancel.