Thursday, 28 January 2016

Brand review - WineFriend

Kia Ora!

Who loves wine? I know I do! I found this subscription by WineFriend on Facebook (I think), and immediately jumped on it. I hate trying to buy wine in the supermarket, I end up buying the one either with the best discount, or with the most awards on the bottle. Not the best way to choose. I love the idea that someone else will pick my wine, and I just have to drink it. You may have seen me on my Facebook and Instagram enjoying the bottles that were chosen for me. (Disclaimer right from the outset: I spent my own money on this, and was not sent anything for free. I was treated as any other customer). My partner and I ordered this subscription to share, and as we have different taste preferences there may be some things we disagree on - which makes things a little more interesting.

How does the subscription work:
Firstly, fill in a survey about your tastebuds. Then sign up for a subscription. You can choose 5 red and 1 white, or 3 red and 3 white, or 5 white and 1 red. I chose 5 white because I'm a big fan of white wine, and do not really enjoy red wine.

Next choose your price range - $99 per month (or per two months) for Easy Everyday, $149 for the Treat Yourself option, and $249 for the Icons and Innovators. We picked the $99 option, as we aren't connoisseurs, and also not filthy rich. This option works out to be about $16.50 a bottle, which is about what we would spend at the supermarket anyway. You can have your wine delivered monthly, or bi-monthly. I chose bi-monthly to start with as I wasn't sure how fast we would drink it. (I've since changed to monthly, because we drank all the wine quite quickly).

Last of all pick a delivery location. I've chosen to get mine delivered to my work, as it must be signed for (by someone over the age of 18). This worked out very easily, as it was delivered just about to my desk! I ordered just before Christmas, and WineFriend was able to change the date of delivery by a few days so I could get it when I needed (and didn't miss out because of the holidays). Even before delivery I was impressed with the customer service.

The wine came packaged in a sturdy cardboard box. It was easy to carry, although heavy, and I had no trouble getting it home. There are tags around the neck of each bottle, with notes about the wine and it's winemaker. It's a great way to know more about the wine and where it came from!

There was a card included that shows you how to rate the wine, how to taste and a few other tips about wine and the WineFriend service. It also had a handwritten note, which is a neat touch!

This is an example of the neck label that each bottle had. These neck labels have some tasting notes for each wine, as well as a little bit about the winemaker, and the winery. It was interesting to know a little more, and things that won't normally be printed on the bottle. It made the service seem a bit more personal.

One bottle is included as a "wild card" - something outside of your comfort zone and is designed to expand your palate. This Vin Gris was our wild card, and continue on to see what I thought about it (I'm not going to do tasting notes as I'm rubbish at identifying flavours in wine, but will give other thoughts on the bottles).

Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

I'm not a red wine fan, but this bottle surprised me. I loved it! I put it on my Instagram as soon as we opened it, and ended up drinking the whole bottle that night (shared with my partner) because it was so good! I was surprised to see a cork, and we had a bit of a mad scramble to find a corkscrew, but it was worth it! When smelling the wine I could smell the tannin's, but I couldn't taste them as strongly as in other red wine I've tried.

Blackenbrook Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2015

I'm a huge fan of Savvy Blanc's, so I was excited to see two bottles in my case. It's usually the type of wine I order at restaurants (that or bubbly). This bottle was ... ok. It wasn't bad, but I felt like saying "I've had better". It was still a nice wine, but not entirely to my tastes, although I can't explain exactly why. I didn't decide to do a wrap up review like this until after we were three bottles into the case, so I don't have detailed notes about it unfortunately.

Caythorpe Family Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Honestly, I don't remember drinking this one. It was around Christmas time, when there was a LOT of wine flowing. It didn't stand out to me, in good or bad ways, so I can't really say much. Sorry guys, I was on holiday and clearly not concentrating on anything but actually drinking the wine ...

Leveret IQ Premium Brut NV

Bubbles are my favourite kind of wine, so I was pretty sure I would like this bottle, and I did. My partner wasn't a fan of this one, so I had the whole bottle to myself (score!). It wasn't sweet at all, which I quite liked, and tasted great. My usual go-to with bubbles is to order whatever my aunt orders (when we are out, and she knows what tastes good), or to just buy a bottle of Lindauer. Not the most sophisticated of wine drinkers, but this was great!

Wairau River Malborough Rose 2015

I like rose, sometimes. Often it tastes too much like red wine, but this was a great bottle. I liked the blend and we drank it pretty quickly. I think we had it before Christmas, and it was the first one we opened. After trying some, my partner and I looked at each other, and promptly decided that this was a great service, and we would be getting lots more wine from Winefriend!

Quest Farm Alpino Central Otago Vin Gris 2014

I wasn't sure at all about this bottle when I saw it. White wine made with red wine grapes. Hmmm. But once we opened it (at my partner's birthday BBQ and promptly posted on Instagram) I couldn't help but love it. It had a bit of a different flavour - which for the life of me I can't describe - but it went down a treat. We did share this one with family members, and everyone seemed to love it so it was clearly a great pick.

One of the best things about this service, is the feedback form. It's located in your account on their website, and is simple to use. You type the brand, type or any key word into the search bar, and click on the right wine when it pops up. Then you can rate it with a happy smiley face, a medium face, or a sad face. There is also an ability to write comments (which you can see I've used a couple of times above). I love that this is an option, and that it will help tailor future wine deliveries more towards my tastes. Be aware though that if you share a subscription (like my partner and I), then there will be long discussions about which kind of face each bottle warrants. My partner would have preferred a 5- or 10-step rating system for more accuracy (he's an engineer and all about accuracy).

And that's the subscription. I truly enjoyed getting some delicious wine, without the stress of wondering if the wine was any good. Despite not liking (or remembering) every bottle that came in the case, I can say that each bottle was of a better quality than what I usually buy. I experienced types of wine that I would never try on my own, and loved some of them a lot more than expected.

Some of the best things about this subscription:
  • Price is reasonable (price per bottle is about what I'd pay at the supermarket).
  • Delivery to you at work - no fear of the case being stolen or left in the sun.
  • Wine is great quality!
  • They tailor your wine to your taste profile.
  • There is room for your feedback! 
  • You will step outside your comfort zone. 
  • Neck tags that tell you a bit more about the wine/winery/winemaker.
There are some other awesome things that WineFriend offer (which I haven't had to try out yet). One of these is a refund/replacement of wine if you really hate it, as they want to send you wines that suit you specifically. To this end the feedback will hopefully increase the ability to match wine to individuals, and will get better over time. They will replace broken in delivery wine bottles, although with the packaging I doubt that will happen often. They also offer to sell you more of the bottles you particularly enjoy. You just have to email or call them to sort it out (and get a quote). 

One thing that I think could be improved is what the customer is able to do in the 'My Account' portal. Currently you have to email or call WineFriend to update details like delivery address, type of subscription, frequency of subscription, or pausing (if you're on holiday). The customer service is excellent, so contacting the company isn't a big drama, but it would be nice/easier to be able to control some of this myself. However, this is about the only thing I could say wasn't amazing about this whole experience.

I can highly recommend WineFriend. I've loved every aspect of the experience so far, and I received my second box of wine just minutes before posting this blog post, and I can't wait to get home and try one of them out! It's hot and humid here in Auckland today, so a chilled glass of wine will be wonderful later on.

Until next time ...