One of my absolute favorite parts of being a wine lover is the thrill of discovering new things. While my preferred method of discovery is through travel and visiting various wineries around the country but unfortunately that is pretty limiting. Sadly, I don't have an unlimited travel budget and so even wineries in Washington State and Texas escape my immediate plans, while New Zealand, South Africa, France, and Spain are even farther in the future. While I'm lucky to have some fantastic wine stores with talented staff here in San Diego, wine clubs like Firstleaf are a great option if you just want to try some different options from around the world and avoid spending a ton of money doing so.
There is absolutely a time and place for premium high dollar wines but I feel like that community sometimes scares people off. Wine is a beverage that millions of people around the world enjoy, not just the elite. For Americans though, we don't really have a wine culture like our European brothers. Instead, we've built our own communities with merchants creating new ways to bring people together to explore affordable wines in a comfortable environment. Across the board, I am extremely pleased by the emergence of various online wine clubs. Firstleaf however, was particularly impressive with how easy it was to navigate and find a great set of wines that matched not just my flavor profile but also allowed me to explore new regions too.
Perhaps what impressed me most was the packaging. That might seem like a strange place to begin a review of a wine club subscription service. However, while most online wine clubs focus on simply finding wines their customers might like and shipping, Firstleaf has created a fantastic box that they ship the wines in with custom printed directions of one what to do, information about the wines, and basically feels more like the delivery itself is a special experience even before you try the wines.
One of Firstleaf's strengths is that it has a very nice online tool to discover what wines you might be interested in. These elements above and below are two out of nine different questions that they use to help identify what you like. It offers a very nice and approachable interface that adds a bit of humor while keeping things serious enough to help put together a collection of wines that match your interests.
However, they also have a Wine Concierge who can help you find the perfect set of vintages as well.
Then, before presenting the recommendations, it offers you a chance to add your existing preferences to the equation. Don't worry, if you don't know what some of these are then you can leave it blank. However, this helps direct the algorithm to help make the right choices. In my case, I was looking for some nice fruity reds that were not sweet and I also love whites with good citrus notes while not being fond of oaky California Chardonnay.
This is what the computer thought I'd like and frankly I tend to agree that it was a great set of recommendations but just because I like to customize stuff, I chose to look for some alternative recommendations too. This is very easy by simply refreshing the choice.
I was actually quite impressed with both the recommendations as well as the alternatives presented. Without a doubt I would be happy simply letting First Leaf pick and send wines each month. There's enough variety that you won't be disappointed. My ultimately choice of swapping out the French Grenache for the Spanish Grenacha was that while I have had many French wines ... I haven't tried many Spanish ones.
That's the fun of clubs like this. Since you are buying a few bottles at a time without the pressure of having to buy the "perfect bottle" for a romantic dinner or party somewhere, you can try random stuff and find out if you like it or not.
NOTE - my promo rate for this review was $1 but you can sign up and get a six bottle pack based on the Firstleaf Wine Quiz for only $39.95.