What's Up with Wine Ratings?
Why they don't mean as much as you think
What do wine ratings really matter?
I’ve been thinking about writing up my thoughts on this issue for some time, but I had always thought it was just too simple an issue; something that might be summed up in a few sentences, but perhaps I was wrong.
The issue of course is wine ratings — we hate them and we love them, but are they really worth anything? It would be sad to realize that something so many people become emotionally invested in is actually not worth the effort, but to a large extent that is what I believe.
Before going any further, let me just say that I use the 100 point scale, or about 30 points of it, when I rate wines and I find that it is a useful way to gauge how much I like one wine versus another wine of similar type. I don’t believe it is some absolute scale, and have always felt that its accuracy was something better than plus or minus five points. That is, my 90-point wine could be your 85-point wine or your 95-point wine. Now, considering that most people use about 20 points of the 100 point scale, scoring wines between 80 and 100 points, that also means that they are not of much worth, and that my friends is entirely true.
In the abstract they are generally worthless. You can have two 90-point wines that are qualitatively equivalent, but so completely different as to make their equivalency useless. And you can also have two tasters, each with a different palate, assign points scores that are so divergent that you really have to ask who has lost their mind. Might it be us, those of us who use point scores to begin with? Maybe we have lost a bit of our minds.
Read more why wine ratings aren't what you think they are.
— Gregory Del Piaz, Snooth
The Guide To Making The Perfect Wine Spritzer
The wine spritzer has been around for centuries, and it’s not just a beverage for soccer moms and crazy great-aunts anymore. Recipes abound, sometimes featuring trendy ingredients like Lillet or passion fruit and it’s a great way to add bubbles to your wine with just the simple addition of club soda.
With their mix of ice cold wine and bubbles, spritzers are refreshing in every sense of the word, and the ideal beverage for sultry days and occasions where drinking is frowned upon, like baby showers and christenings. Plus, you can day drink for 12 hours, and still tackle a 4-floor walk-up with ease.
Inspired by warm weather, I couldn’t resist getting a panel together to craft and taste popular spritzer recipes. After a case of wine, many failures, and some surprising boozy delights our group (composed of 2 sommeliers, 1 winemaker, and several avid drinkers) came up with some guidelines to reaching spritzer Nirvana.
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Start with wine you enjoy.
The best place to pour mediocre wine is the sink, or maybe a crockpot that’s about to be ignored for 12 hours, bad wine shouldn’t ever be used as a mixer. Bitter, astringent or just plain unpleasant wine won’t get better with a splash of club soda and lime, so it’s best to start out with wine you enjoy on its own. Generally, the best varieties for spritzers are Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Grenache–all four have strong aromatic qualities, lots of fruity flavor, and very mild tannins.
If you’re whipping up a big batch of spritzers, try using boxed wine or magnums. Large format means more wine, and more chances to fix a spritzer after a heavy-handed soda pour.
Don’t take the pre-bottled shortcut. Make your own.
Spritzers have become so popular, many companies are starting to sell them pre-mixed. Avoid this option. As an example, Bon Affair, an electrolyte-infused and no-added-sugar spritzer from Southern California, caught our eye thanks to its Shark Tank fame and sexy bottle. Plus, we figured the juice had to be decent with a $15 price tag. We were wrong.
This “real wine” spritzer was watery, and left a bizarre, artificial aftertaste on our palates. Tasted blind, we couldn’t tell the difference between the brand’s Syrah spritzer and blackberry club soda.
Find a formula.
The biggest problem with Bon Affair was the watery flavor, but beware: this can happen easily with even your own recipe. The key to a satisfying spritzer is finding balance between wine, bubbles, and other ingredients, and not letting the non-alcoholic ones steal the show.
Grab a measuring cup and build your spritzer slowly. Start with wine, then any fruit or liqueurs, and finally top with the bubbles. Most spritzer recipes combine equal parts club soda or Sprite and wine, but be sure to experiment to find the right balance for you–overall, we preferred a ratio of 2/3 wine to 1/3 bubbles.
Consider it a cocktail.
The most iconic spritzers rarely include club soda, and instead combine liqueurs with sparkling wines for a complex cocktail that tastes great but isn’t as strong as a Long Island Iced Tea. The Aperol Spritz and French 75 are perfect examples–both combine sparkling wine with an aromatic, yet slightly bitter liqueur and a hint of acid for something absolutely refreshing.
Bitters, liqueurs and citrus fruit also add aromatic qualities, which are especially refreshing with mild wines like Grüner Veltliner. Our favorites were Peychaud’s Orange Bitters, St. Germain, Suze, and Aperol.
Don’t take the diet route.
With bikini-clad models gracing every billboard right now, it can be tempting to swap diet soda into spritzers for sweetness sans calories, but don’t do it. Powerful, fake sweeteners like aspartame will overwhelm the fresh, fruity nuances of a wine leaving it tasting like Diet Sierra Mist with fruit instead of a spritzer.
Mysterious chemical ingredients (Ahem, electrolytes) can also give spritzers a sour, artificial taste like Sweet Tart candies mixed with concrete, which is less than refreshing.
The best part of a spritzer party? Hydrating while you drink and thwarting the hangover headache without even trying. Bring on the bubbles.
Best ever recipes for leftover red wine
Take a look at our nine recommendations for cooking with red wine. Whether it's a small side dish or a main dish to feed the family, this collection provides recipes full of flavour for whatever your occasion might be
Published: July 26, 2016 at 3:00 pm
Guinea fowl hotpot
A delicious alternative to chicken, guinea fowl makes this hotpot heavenly. This recipe combines button mushrooms and Charlotte potatoes with garlic and thyme, simmered in red wine.
Sausages braised with fennel and red wine
This recipe for sausages braise with fennel and red wine makes an easy, comforting meal for the family
Braised red cabbage with apples
John Torode’s braised red cabbage side dish is spruced up with apples, smoked bacon, cinnamon and orange zest, and given a boozy red wine hit for a festive feast.
Best ever tex-mex style chilli con carne
Our most popular chilli con carne recipe EVER! Made Tex-Mex style with aged minced beef, chipotle powder, red wine, 70% dark chocolate and semi-dried tomatoes. The texture of good-quality beef mince goes perfectly with the kidney beans. Enjoy alongside corn tortillas, refried beans, avocado, fresh coriander, corn on the cob and Tabasco for a Mexican feast.
Braised lamb shanks with crushed herb potatoes
An easy-to-make comfort dish of braised lamb shanks cooked slowly in one pot and served with crushed new potatoes. This is a really economical casserole that just looks after itself.
Chorizo al vino
This recipe for chorizo al vino comes from Lobos, a tapas bar in Borough Market. It’s really simple but combines classic, bold Spanish flavours and is ideal to serve as part of a tapas spread.
Healthier beef bourguignon
Eating healthily doesn’t mean you have to deny yourself delicious food. This skinny beef bourguignon is packed full of classic flavours and is low-calorie. You’ll forget you’re being virtuous.
Steak and onions with celeriac mash
This steak and celeriac dish is quick and easy, yet delivers big flavours meaning that you can cook something imaginative midweek. Earthy celeriac is a great alternative to chips and works perfectly with the rich red wine sauce.
Chorizo and sunblush tomato penne
This colourful pasta dish is low-Gi but watch the portion size as too much will cause a faster rise in blood glucose! Add a tin of chopped tomatoes instead of the sunblush tomatoes if you like more sauce.
How to Pick Wine *Not* Based on the Pretty Label
We're not really sure when the transition from drink-all-the-vodka-sodas-you-can-muster to we-should-probably-just-order-a-bottle happens, but it does. But when it does, unless you're like Hallie from The Parent Trap who grew up around vintages and varietals, you're left kind of fumbling around, swirling whatever you ordered at the restaurant in the glass and smelling it in an attempt to seem like you know what the hell you're doing. Even worse? The wine store, where all wino knowledge goes out the window in favor of a bright bottle with some cool calligraphy on its label. (That means it's fancy, right?)
BUT NO MORE. You are an adult, goddammit, and you should A) at least have a working knowledge of varietals, AKA the type of grape used for the wine, lest you become one of those poor fools who, thanks to Waka Flocka Flame, goes into a bar to order Moscato only to realize it's a sweet wine, and B) talk about something you imbibe on the regular with some kind of authority.
We caught up with Michael Turley, manager and wine director of NYC's Irvington restaurant, for the easiest-to-remember tips on choosing a great wine. ('Cause we know you're not going to write this down.)
*Read* the label
I know, I know. We just said we're not going to look at the label, but we're not talking about looking for a cute font. Read, young grasshopper. While wines that say "table wine" or "California wine" might be perfectly delicious, they also raise red flags. "These wines are composed of grapes from a very large region (a state or even an entire country) and, although sometimes just fine in quality, tend to be noticeably bland or unbalanced," says Turley.
Recognize why something's on sale
While your local wine store might just have crazy deals all the time, most stores put wine on sale for two reasons, according to Turley. 1) The ideal consumption window for the vintage has come and gone, or 2) the wine just isn't selling and the store wants to clear out inventory. Neither of these things necessarily equal a bad wine, but it's something to look out for before stocking up on that Pinot Noir just because it's marked down 10 bucks.
Know your adjectives
This is a big distinction&mdashespecially for those who say they hate "sweet wines." "There is a difference between a sweet wine and one that is fruit-forward," notes Turley. "Sweet wines, like a port or some Rieslings, tend to be more syrupy, which is wine's way of exhibiting sweetness. But a wine may have a nose of tropical fruit and honeysuckle but, upon tasting, are crisp, clean and wash out the mouth in a quick flush." So stop with the vague terms, friends. (And know which one to ask for.)
Choose easy pairings
Pairings&mdashthis is when things get interesting. As Turley notes, there are two schools of thoughts when it comes to wine and food pairings: complementary and contrasting. Neither is wrong. (So if someone tries to argue with your Twinkies and Gewürztraminer, remind them that it they are both sweet and pull a Jan from Grease: "It says right here, it is a dessert wine.") If going the complementary route, just remember light with light and rich with rich. Meaning seafoods and chicken pair amazingly with crisp white wines and red meats and cheeses pair well with full-bodied reds. As for a great contrasting pairing? "Classic oysters with a New World Sauvignon Blanc, such as a great option from New Zealand," says Turley. "The salty brine of the oysters is balanced by the fruit-forward expression of this grape. Think of it like peanut butter and jelly."
When in doubt? Go for a rosé
I know you're probably saying "whaaaaat?" but it's true. "A crisp, dry rosé will have refreshing acidity and lively effervescence to help accent most dishes," says Turley. "Rosés also work especially well with cheese plates." Turley recommends a *sparkling* rosé. (Ooh la la.)
If all else fails, download an app
"I am a committed fan of the Wine Spectator app, which has a comprehensive database of wine ratings organized by price points and varietals," says Turley. "Comparing ratings with prices can help make the decision a no-brainer."
A Pragmatic Approach to Wine Ratings
How Wine Ratings Came to Be
Wine Ratings were first popularized in the 1980’s by one writer who went against the grain to rate wines for consumers. His name was Robert Parker. Today, Parker is the most recognized wine critic and his 100-point system is generally considered the standard scale by which the critics rate wine.
Wine Ratings Explained
Wine ratings don’t necessarily indicate how delicious a wine is. Instead, wines are scored based on production quality and typicity. Typicity is how much the traits of a particular wine ‘typify’ the style and region it’s from.
The 100-point Scale
How Wine Ratings Are Like Dog Shows
- The winning dog is the one that most typifies its breed.
- If a dog has unique markings or funny legs not typical for the breed, it won’t be rated as high.
The 100-point scale actually starts at 50 points (and some raters never include wines below 80):
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- 50-59 wines are flawed and undrinkable
- 60-69 wines are flawed and not recommended but drinkable
- 70-79 wines are flawed and taste average
- 80-84 wines are ‘above average’ to ‘good’
- 85-90 wines are ‘good’ to ‘very good’
- 90-94 wines are ‘superior’ to ‘exceptional’
- 95-100 wines are benchmark examples or ‘classic’
It’s interesting to see that the average rating is a bell curve around 87-89 points.
The Problems With Wine Ratings
Problem #1: Critics have different opinions
While experienced critics can easily agree on production quality of a wine, they start to disagree with each other when wines get into the 90+ range. There are basically two schools of thought when it comes to grading wines in the 90+ category:
- The critics who prefer wines that are complex and bold
- The critics who prefer wines that are complex and subtle
Solution: Size up the source
If you’re going to buy based on ratings, you should look into the source. Some critics are known for typically giving lower ratings to wines than other critics do. It’s good to know this, because you might really like an 87-88 point wine that you wouldn’t have normally considered.
Problem #2: Equally rated wines from different regions taste very different
If you love Napa Sauvignon Blanc and buy an equally rated Pouilly-Fumé –a Sauvignon Blanc from France– the rating doesn’t guarantee you’ll like it. This is because each region tastes remarkably different.
Solution: Use ratings to just regions you know
The best way to consistently buy wine you like is to learn about what you like and why. Ratings can help you find quality wines from new regions but you’ll have to do your own leg work to read in between the lines to factor in personal style. Start learning about the wine regions you like and go beyond just scores.
Problem #3: There is more unrated wine than rated wine
Some individual wine critics will taste up to 700 wines in just a few days and Wine Spectator rates a whopping 16,000 wines a year. While these numbers are astounding, they are a drop in the bucket of all the unique wines that come out each year, every year.
Solution: Don’t worry if the wine isn’t rated
If you’re trying to decide between 2 equal looking wines and one is rated and the other is not, that doesn’t necessarily mean the rated wine is better.
Problem #4: Low ratings are never published
When was the last time you saw a wine on the shelf that proudly stated “79-points!” While low ratings do exist, you’ll never see them. It’s not easy to freely look up this information because wine rating sites charge for access. The reason for this is because retailers are willing to pay for access to ratings in order to sell wine.
Solution: Use alternative resources for opinions
One alternative tool is to look at crowd sourced rating sites like cellartracker.
Problem #5: Each site’s rating scale is slightly different
If you actually go to the trouble to look up all the major wine rating sites’ standards, you’ll see that the numbers above are not a standard. Each reviewer weighs their point scale slightly differently. A perfect example of where this goes wrong is below:
- Wine & Spirits Magazine says: 86 to 89 — highly recommended
- Wine Enthusiast Magazine says: 85-89 — Very good. May offer outstanding value if the price is right.
‘Highly recommended’ sounds much more appealing to ‘very good… if the price is right.’ Who would have thunk that an 89-point wine from W&S should carry more value than an 89-point wine from WE.
Solution: We need a standard rating system.
Let’s get everyone together and standardize this.
Problem #6: Ratings shape the growth of regions
If you’re a winemaker and your neighbor gets a 100 point rated wine, then you might start emulating them to grow your business. While this isn’t a bad thing, it does cause homogeny over time in a wine region. Homogenous agricultural regions are highly susceptible to problems like disease, drought or economic downturn when market preference changes.
Solution: Drink outside the box
Never stop exploring new wines, you can start by looking at an infographic that arranges wine by taste.
Wine ratings can be very useful when paired with your ability to be curious and seek more knowledge.
What You Should Know About the 15 Top-Ranked Red Blends at Total Wine
Red blends make up a massive category in the wine industry for a few reasons: Most importantly, they’re fairly inexpensive, and appeal to a range of audiences. Bottles below $15 tend to be sweeter and richer wines that are juicy and easy-drinking. Above $15, bottles tend to have more structure and less residual sugar, appealing to wine drinkers looking for accessible, yet more serious wines.
According to the data firm Nielsen, red blend table wine (excluding Chianti) has grown to nearly $2 billion in off-premise sales in the U.S. over the last year, from almost $1.7 billion just four years ago. It’s a bigger category than sparkling wine, which is at $1.75 billion, and rosé, at $576 million. VinePair’s own internal data confirms that consumers are deeply interested in the category. Per VinePair Audience Insights, consumer interest in “red blends” is quickly rising, with drinkers searching for the term as if it were a variety. Red blends were the third most popular “variety” in VinePair’s wine rankings in 2019, up from ninth place in 2017. Google Trends shows similar findings.
And retailers around the country are seeing the same. “It’s a huge category but it wasn’t always that way,” says Alex Poreda, director of sales at ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, a Florida-based retail chain with 124 stores. Poreda says that red blends from the United States make up the majority of the category, and that they are a leading seller across the chain. “It’s really easy for people to take a chance on a bottle of wine under $12, but it did take a while to build,” he says.
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To get a sense of the wines leading the red blend category, we looked to Total Wine, one of the country’s largest wine retailers, for its top customer-ranked bottles. Here’s what to know about the biggest red blend brands and bottles.
15 Best-Ranked Red Blends on Total Wine
Kendall-Jackson Napa Valley Vintner’s Reserve Red Wine Blend
When the Jackson family purchased a pear and walnut orchard in 1974, little did they know the eventual winery would become one of the most influential in California. It is still family-owned to this day. Vintner’s Reserve is the flagship range. This blend is made up mostly of Syrah and Zinfandel, displaying rich fruit, spiciness, and lush tannins. Average price: $15.
Robert Mondavi Oakville BDX
Another trailblazer in the California wine industry, Robert Mondavi winery was founded in 1966. BDX stands for Bordeaux — this is a Bordeaux-style blend with a majority of Cabernet Sauvignon. While many red blends are from larger AVAs like Napa Valley or California, this one’s grapes come specifically from the Oakville sub-AVA. It tastes like black plum, blackberry, baking spices, and cocoa. Average price: $52.
Witching Hour California Red Blend
The Witching Hour is a spooky-sounding red made by The Wine Group, the folks behind big brands such as Cupcake, Franzia, and Benziger. It’s a classic Bordeaux blend, showing dark cherry fruit and vanilla. Average price: $8.
Radius Washington State Red Blend
Radius was founded in 2008 and makes wines from both California and Washington, but it’s a wine from the latter that made it onto this list. The Washington Red Blend combines Bordeaux grapes like Cabernet and Merlot with Syrah. It’s red-fruit-forward, with hints of cocoa and tea. Average price: $12.
A3 California Red Blend
The three As are “anytime, anyplace, anyone,” a nod to enjoying the moment with a good glass of wine. A3 is a brand by Trinchero Family Estates, which owns Ménage à Trois, Sutter Home, Joel Gott, and many more. The red blend has flavors of red fruit as well as sweet, spicy oak notes. Average price: $7.
Crimson Thread California Red Blend
Crimson Thread is in the portfolio of one of the wine industry’s largest companies — see a pattern here? E&J Gallo was established in 1933 and is still family-owned today. This red is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, and Zinfandel it’s rich, with dark cherry and blackberry flavors rounded out by spice and vanilla. Average price: $8.
Ancient Roots California Red Blend
True to its name, Ancient Roots focuses on making wine from old vines, which tend to produce fruit with much more intensity and concentration. This bottling is no exception, exhibiting dark cherry and vanilla, with a plush mouthfeel. It’s a Cabernet-Malbec blend. Average price: $8.
Big Six Bourbon Barrel Red Blend
The Big Six wine is notable for being aged in bourbon barrels for three months prior to bottling, adding some oomph in the form of spice, vanilla, and caramel to the Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel fruit, which show off cherry and blackberry flavors. Plus, this wine is vegan. Average price: $16.
San Antonio Cardinale American Sweet Red
San Antonio is an urban winery in Los Angeles founded in 1917. It now also has locations in Paso Robles and Monterey. The Cardinale is based on Cardinal, a relatively unknown grape mostly used for sweet reds. Despite the residual sugar, this wine is described as juicy and refreshing. Average price: $8.
The Prisoner Napa Valley Red Blend
The Prisoner is one of Napa Valley’s biggest success stories. Star winemaker Dave Phinney created it in 2000 it would become so popular that the brand was sold to Huneeus Vintners in 2010, and then to Constellation Brands in 2016. The ripe and smooth kitchen-sink blend has mostly stayed the same, led by Zinfandel and complemented by Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Charbono. Average price: $47.
Cooper & Thief California Red Wine Blend
Here’s another wine aged in bourbon barrels — a trend! — and also for three months. This Cooper & Thief wine is a mix of several grape varieties, including Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s jammy with velvety tannins, and is 17 percent alcohol. Average price: $25.
Vinestone California Sweet Red
Vinestone is another sweet red on this list that exemplifies interest in this subcategory. The reviews for this wine note that it is quite sweet. Drink it as a dessert wine, or pair with spicy foods. But it also has a juicy and refreshing quality from cherry and peach flavors. Average price: $10.
19 Crimes Australia Red Blend
This is another roaring success in the world of red blends, but this one hails from Australia. Each label of 19 Crimes depicts a famous convict who comes to life and tells their story when processed through the winery’s augmented reality app. The bold Red Blend displays Irish separatist John Boyle O’Reilly and is a blend of Shiraz, Grenache, and Mataro. Average price: $9.
Melodramatic California Red Blend
Launched in 2016, Melodramatic Wines leans heavily into its retro-style, performance-art-inspired branding. The Red Blend allies Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet. Its flavor profile centers on cherries and blackberries, with a touch of black pepper. Average price: $12.
Pour Haus California Red Blend
Wine in boxes and cans is also a growing category. This medium-bodied and smooth Pour Haus wine comes in a 3-liter box and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir. Average price: $16 for a 3-liter box.
The Best Wine Clubs of 2021
- Best Overall:Williams Sonoma Wine Club
- Best Budget:Wine Awake
- Best for Entertaining:Martha Stewart Wine Club
- Best for Date Night:Winc
- Best for the Health Conscious:Dry Farm Wines
- Best for Artisan Wine:The California Wine Club
- Best Non-Traditional:Orange Glou
- Best for Oregon Wine:Cellar 503
Best Overall : Williams Sonoma Wine Club
At Williams Sonoma Wine Club, chefs and sommeliers travel the globe to handpick exceptional vintages from top estate and boutique wineries. Choose the Explorer Wine Club for beverages from around the world, or go with the Entertainer Wine Club to receive six unique, age-worthy wines.
Member benefits include satisfaction guaranteed, perfectly-paired Williams Sonoma recipes and tasting notes, plus a discount on all wine store purchases.
The Explorer Wine Club delivers six bottles for around $90, plus shipping. It includes value-priced bottles from around the world, making it the ideal subscription for someone wanting a broader familiarity with varietals and regions.
The Entertainer Wine Club costs approximately $210, plus shipping per six-bottle order. The options are complex and include food-friendly wines from a diverse range of countries, regions, and varietals.
Best Budget : Wine Awake
Wine Awake, a monthly club from Elma Wine & Liquor offers vino at a value price.
Members receive a mix of well-known varietals and regions as well as lesser-known varietals from unique wineries around the world. The budget-conscious, wine-lover will receive bottles that cost around 20% less than retail and are often about 40% less than shelf prices.
The club delivers two carefully-selected wines from around the world. Their goal is to raise awareness and knowledge, while still providing great value. The selections are a mix of classic grapes and styles, as well as an introduction to lesser-known varietals, regions, and brands.
Choose from red, white, or both. Red wine costs about $25 per month and white is approximately $20. Or, opt for both red and white bottles for around $45 each month and receive four bottles.
Best for Entertaining : Martha Stewart Wine Club
Martha Stewart is famous for her entertainment skills, so who better to handpick wines for entertaining? The Martha Stewart Wine Club ships bottles hand-selected by Martha Stewart, along with her exclusive serving, pairing, and entertaining suggestions.
Choose from six bottles every six weeks, or 12 wines shipped every eight weeks. Both memberships include free shipping. The six-bottle option costs around $9 per bottle, while 12 bottles cost about $8 each. Pick red, white, or a combination of both. If you’re unhappy with the vino, they’ll replace it for free.
New members all receive the same curated collection of wines, as a comprehensive introduction to their cellar: a 2017 La Reference Sauvignon Blanc from France, a 2016 Les Chartrons Bordeaux Rouge from France, and a 2013 El Macho Reserva Red Blend from Spain.
For gift-giving, send a year of wine to someone you love. Choose the number of shipments, and whether you’d like to send reds, whites, or a mixed selection. Make a single payment, and Martha Stewart’s favorite bottles will be sent, along with serving suggestions, pairing, and entertaining.
Best for Date Night : Winc
Your wine journey at Winc starts with a six-question quiz to get to know your tastes and preferences. Based on your responses, they’ll send four wine choices each month.
Then, you’ll review the bottles, and your preferences will be fine-tuned even more. The goal is to cater the experience to your tastes, so that you can spend less time choosing the best wine, and more time enjoying it.
Founders Xander Oxman and Geoff McFarlane joined forces with winemaker and sommelier, Brian Smith to create a personalized wine club that offers online membership.
The subscriptions are flexible, allowing members to skip a month or cancel at any time. Satisfaction is guaranteed, so if you’re unhappy with a bottle you can receive a refund. Subscriptions start at around $60 per month, plus shipping for three bottles. Or, receive free shipping with four or more bottles.
Winc’s recommendation for the best wine for date night: Try the 2018 Porter & Plot Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendocino, California. Harvested from the CCOF-certified (California Certified Organic Farmers) Cox Vineyard, this bottle is bursting with dark fruits and spice.
Decant and drink now, or age further in the bottle to enjoy later. This exceptional bottling shows just how special Cabernet Sauvignon can be. For Winc members, it’s only around $29.
Best for the Health Conscious : Dry Farm Wines
Whether you’re living a keto or paleo lifestyle, or just prefer your vino as natural as possible, Dry Farm Wines is a natural, health-focused wine club.
The blends are biodynamic and keto- and paleo-friendly, with all wines lab-tested for purity. They’re also natural, additive-free, naturally sugar-free, and low in alcohol.
Choose your shipment for every four weeks or bi-monthly. For approximately $159 per shipment, you’ll receive a unique selection of six bottles of red, white, or mixed blends. Or, for about $299, you’ll get 12 biodynamic natural wines sourced from small farms around the world.
Each shipment includes different grape varieties and styles from varying countries. The company’s Happiness Promise guarantees satisfaction with your selection.
If you’re unhappy with your order, the company will replace or refund any bottle and cover all costs.
Best for Artisan Wine : The California Wine Club
Since 1990, The California Wine Club has delivered blends from working wineries.
Whereas some clubs offer their own wines or private label vino, they only feature real-working wineries with “the intent of helping small, family wineries share their wines with wine lovers all over the country.”
The California Wine Club prides itself on the quality of the handcrafted bottles it features. Each bottle is hand-selected, and the company does not outsource.
There are a variety of levels for choosing a subscription. The Pacific Northwest Series features two bottles of handpicked, artisan blends from Oregon and Washington’s best family wineries for about $77 per shipment.
The Premier Series features a different winery each month and delivers two hand-selected, handcrafted blends, a guide to the winery that includes tasting notes and insights, access to a personal vino consultant, their Love It guarantee, plus VIP touring and tasting at any of the small family wineries they feature.
The Premier Series offers a pay-as-you-go system, where you pay around $41 indefinitely until you decide to cancel.
Best Non-Traditional : Orange Glou
Natural wine sommelier, Doreen Winkler loves orange wines so she created the subscription club, Orange Glou. The business sources highly-allocated orange vino from around the world through a monthly subscription and events.
For Winkler, nothing beats the versatility, drinkability, and sheer deliciousness of skin-contact wines. Yet, despite growing interest among wine lovers, it’s not always easy to find these vino options.
Winkler developed relationships with winemakers over the years, in addition to working harvests at vineyards in many of the world’s best wine-growing regions. Her experience led her to create the subscription service providing highly curated, personal selections of the most distinctive blends in the world.
Each month, subscribers receive three-to-six bottles selected by Winkler. The bottles arrive with descriptions, tasting notes, vinification information, and food pairing suggestions. The three-bottle subscription costs about $105 per month, while six bottles of orange wine are priced around $195 per month.
Best for Oregon Wine : Cellar 503
Cellar 503 is a wine club that showcases unique, high-quality, and affordable wines that represent the range and diversity of Oregon vino.
Founder and CEO Carrie Wynkoop handpicks each bottle she sends to her members, featuring boutique producers (often making under 2,000 cases per year), unique varietals, and undiscovered regions across the state.
With monthly themes like "women winemakers" and "unique vessels," Wynkoop includes detailed notes about the vino, winemakers, and regions, making Oregon wine-discovery personal, seamless, affordable, and fun.
Members can choose from a red-only club, a white-only club or a mixed club, sent monthly or quarterly. Gift memberships are also available. To uncover the magic of Oregon wine, memberships start at around $45 per month, plus shipping.
What Is a Wine Club?
The term “wine club” can mean a few different things: a loyalty or members’ club at a winery, a group that gets together to drink wine, or in this case, a digital club that brings wine to your doorstep. Typically, the selections are made up of a wide variety of bottles from different producers around the country or the world. Take Winc, for example, which offers many different styles from diverse regions across the globe, with the bottles in your box based on your personal tastes. Other clubs, like Orange Glou, have more of a niche focus—this club exclusively offers skin-contact wines.
How Much Do Wine Clubs Cost?
The cost of any wine club depends on a variety of factors: number of bottles, delivery frequency, add-ons, shipping, and more. The more approachable clubs are priced between $20 and $30 per month, while the more premium (read: expensive) clubs can cost you upwards of $299.
How Do I Choose the Right Wine Club for Me?
Choosing the right wine subscription for you is all about determining your preferences and searching accordingly. If you’re looking for a mix of reds and whites specifically from Oregon, for example, you’d go with Cellar 503, which focuses exclusively on wines from the state. If your goal is to explore new varietals and find unfamiliar wines that suit your tastes, you’ll want to try something like Winc, which is based on your palate preferences and designed to help you try new things.
How To Cook With Wine – Cooking With Wine
“If you do not have a good wine to use, it is far better to omit it, for a poor one can spoil a simple dish and utterly debase a noble one.”
– by Julia Child (1912-2004), American chef, author, and television personality
The first and most important rule: Use only wines in your cooking that you would drink.
Never – ever use any wine that you would not drink! If you do not like the taste of a wine, you will not like the dish you choose to use it in.
Do not use the so-called cooking wines! These wine are typically salty and include other additives that my affect the taste of your chosen dish and menu. The process of cooking/reducing will bring out the worst in an inferior wine. Please promise yourself never, never to stoop to such a product! Linda’s rule of thumb is – I do not cook with something I will not drink.
An expensive wine is not necessary, although a cheap wine will not bring out the best characteristics of your dish. A good quality wine, that you enjoy, will provide the same flavor to a dish as a premium wine. Save the premium wine to serve with the meal.
How To Cook With Wine:
Wine has three main uses in the kitchen – as a marinade ingredient, as a cooking liquid, and as a flavoring in a finished dish.
The function of wine in cooking is to intensify, enhance, and accent the flavor and aroma of food – not to mask the flavor of what you are cooking but rather to fortify it.
As with any seasoning used in cooking, care should be taken in the amount of wine used – too little is inconsequential and too much will be overpowering. Neither extreme is desirable. A small quantity of wine will enhance the flavor of the dish.
The alcohol in the wine evaporates while the food is cooking, and only the flavor remains. Boiling down wine concentrates the flavor, including acidity and sweetness. Be careful not to use too much wine as the flavor could overpower your dish.
For best results, wine should not be added to a dish just before serving. The wine should simmer with the food, or sauce, to enhance the flavor of the dish. If added late in the preparation, it could impart a harsh quality. It should simmer with the food or in the sauce while it is being cooked as the wine cooks, it reduces and becomes an extract which flavors. Wine added too late in the preparation will give a harsh quality to the dish. A wine needs time to impart its flavor in your dish. Wait 10 minutes or more to taste before adding more wine.
Remember that wine does not belong in every dish. More than one wine-based sauce in a single meal can be monotonous. Use wine is cooking only when it has something to contribute to the finished dish.
Sulfites in Wine:
All wines contain some small amount of sulfites, as they are a natural result of the same fermentation process that turns grape juice into alcohol. Even wines that have not had any sulfites added during the wine making process contain some amount of sulfites. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is used by winemakers to keep freshly pressed “must” from spoiling. It keeps down the activities of native yeast and bacteria and preserves the freshness of the wine.
When cooking with wine containing sulfites, you do not concentrate them as you would flavor, but rather they evaporate like alcohol. The sulfite goes through a conversion in the liquid of the wine to produce sulfur dioxide. This is actually the compound that prevents the oxidation. It also is a gas, and when subjected to heat, it dissipates into the air. All that remains is some salts, but they are so minute in quantity that they have no affect on flavor.
Storage of Leftover Wine:
Leftover wine can be refrigerated and used for cooking if held for only 1 or 2 weeks. If you have at least a half bottle on wine left over, pour it off into a clean half bottle, cork it, and store in the refrigerator. Without air space at the top, the rebottled wine will keep for up to 1 month.
Wine Reduction for Pan Sauces:
1/2 to 3/4 cup raw wine = 2 tablespoons of wine reduction
For ultimate flavor, wine should be reduced slowly over low heat. This method takes more time and effort, but will achieve a superior sauce because the flavor compounds present in the wine are better preserved.
Questions and Answers About Cooking With Wine:
QUESTION: Will recipes taste better if I use a premium or expensive wine?
ANSWER : A good-quality wine will give the same fine flavor to a dish as a premium wine or expensive wine. Save the premium wine to serve with the meal. Remember – only use wines in cooking that you would enjoy drinking.
QUESTION: What is “cooking sherry?”
ANSWER: Cooking sherry usually has salt or chemicals added to make it unpalatable as a sipping wine. Sold in small bottles, it is generally more expensive than regular sherry. I do not recommend using anything labeled “cooking wine.”
QUESTION: Can I use leftover wine for cooking?
ANSWER: Yes. To save leftover wine for cooking, pour into smaller bottles, cork tightly and store in the refrigerator.
QUESTION: How much wine should I use in a recipe when cooking?
ANSWER: This question depends upon the flavor intensity of the wine and the foods you are cooking. Proceed slowly in adding additional wine than the recipe calls for. Wine needs time to impart its flavor. If you’re not sure whether to add more wine to a dish, let the dish cook at least ten minutes before tasting again. Adding more wine than the recipe calls for won’t necessarily make it better. Wine does not automatically turn an ordinary dish into a gourmet dish. Use it with discretion.
Suggested amounts to add:
Soups – 2 tablespoons per cup
Sauces – 1 tablespoon per cup
Gravies – 2 tablespoons per cup
Stews & Meats – 1/4 cup per pound
Poaching liquid for fish – 1/2 cup per quart
QUESTION: Since I can not drink alcoholic beverages, I can’t use them in my cooking. Do you have some ideas for substituting other liquids in place of the wine?
10+ Best Canned Wine Brands to Stash In Your Picnic Basket
We taste-tested 50 wines in a can to find the ones worth buying.
Canned wine is not the first thing that comes to mind when you're thinking of vino for your next party. But this wine trend means that some really good wines are now available in containers that fit into your purse. (Think of the possibilities!) Canned wines also come in many varietals, including Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, so if you're looking for something to pair with your favorite burger or grilled chicken, there's a can for you.
Other than the fun factor, canned wine has a definite advantage over glass: cans are lightweight and relatively unbreakable. Another plus: the smaller sizes are enough for a single serving (especially handy if you keep track of your calories), while the 375-mL is the equivalent of a half bottle, perfect for sharing (or not). And should you choose to cook with your wine in addition to drinking it, you don't have to worry about it taking up precious fridge space.
New canned wines are becoming available all the time, and not just in wine shops &mdash they're in your local supermarket as well. We tasted over 50 red, white, and sparkling wines to come up with our list of 10 favorites. Here are the best canned wines of 2019:
The Vivino Wine Rating System: Credibility of The Crowd
As the season of celebration nears, the last thing you have time for is endless research on what wines to serve or bring to your holiday events. That’s where Vivino comes in - a five star wine rating system based on the opinions of people like you who have bought and tasted the wines you’re considering. Our community of millions of wine lovers really knows their stuff, and is passionate about sharing their knowledge. Learn about Vivino's wine rating system including how our ratings compare to scores from experts like Robert Parker and Wine Enthusiast.
While wine experts have traditionally used a 100-point scoring system, in which 90+ point wines are superior wines and 95+ point wines are extraordinary, Vivino uses a 5-star rating system in which users can rate any wine 1 - 5 stars. This kind of rating system is familiar to consumers as it is commonly used across user-generated websites and apps, popularized by companies like Amazon, TripAdvisor and more. When Vivino was founded, this was the system that resonated best with wine drinkers around the globe.
We have heard the question time and time again - can wine ratings from a collective community of wine drinkers themselves really work? We of course knew the answer but wanted to have quantitative backing. We looked at more than 100,000 expert ratings and analyzed how they compare to Vivino ratings - what we found is a 4.0 Vivino rating correlates with a 90 point expert rating. Here’s how Robert Parker, Wine Enthusiast and other critic ratings compare to Vivino ratings, collectively.
Unlike many wine review sites and critic ratings, Vivino ratings are based solely on the ratings of the crowd - wine drinkers just like you - and are never increased or decreased by advertising, sponsorship, or other factors.
We love reading what experts think of wines, but we think our community’s ratings do them one better. That’s because out of all the world-class wines in the world, only about 20 percent have an expert rating. By comparison, the vast majority of the world’s wines have been rated on Vivino and new wines are added every single day.
Another advantage our ratings have is that our community members are honest, sometimes brutally so, with their ratings. Many experts opt not to publish poor ratings, assuming that wines that are lacking will eventually take themselves out of the running. But with Vivino, you’ll find a wide range of ratings, letting you know what you can buy with confidence and what wine might not be the best fit.
Insider tip: Right now, the average Vivino rating is a 3.6. That means any wine you get with that rating is going to be a nice, everyday wine. Wines that are rated 4.0 are less common, as they are ranked better than 85 percent of the 9.5 million wines in the Vivino database. Wines rated 4.5 are even more extraordinary, as they are better than 99 percent of the wines you see on Vivino. A rating above 4.5 means you’ve found something truly rare and special.
We hope you’ll join in the fun and rate the wines you purchase on Vivino, too. Not only will this help us make sure we’re connecting you with wines you’ll love, but you’ll be paying it forward by sharing your newfound knowledge with the community. Who knows, maybe you’ll help someone find their new favorite wine!