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Main Differences Between Firstleaf vs Vinebox
The Main Differences Between Firstleaf vs Vinebox are:
- Firstleaf selects wine based on customer reviews and an algorithm, whereas Vinebox selects wine by monthly themes and features.
- Firstleaf offers monthly shipments, whereas Vinebox subscriptions are quarterly or annually.
- Firstleaf ships wine by the bottle, whereas Vinebox provides wine by the glass.
- Firstleaf comes with a wide range of places, whereas Vinebox offers wine from select small vineyards.
Though both countries abroad and individual states are starting to lift restrictions, still many are staying at home during the pandemic or limiting their exposure. A recent article in Vogue mentioned several wine subscriptions that are enjoying increased popularity, including Firstleaf and Vinebox, but also Winc Wine Club, Martha Stewart Wine Club, Plonk, and Wine Awesomeness.
Ordering from a wine subscription is also a way you can help support the industry. Winemakers are relying more and more on online sales to stay afloat during an uncertain time, trying to stave off billions of dollars of potential losses.
But the wine industry aside, services like Firstleaf and Vinebox offer wine and a way to enjoy and unwind in time many of us especially appreciate it.
The challenge? Figuring out which wine subscription service is the best for you.
This review will compare Firstleaf vs Vinebox in terms of quality, service, and overall value. I’ll tell you everything you need to know before you sign up for a subscription and if I recommend Firstleaf or Vinebox for you.
1. What’s the first thing I should know about Firstleaf vs Vinebox?
The first thing I always do when analyzing a wine delivery or subscription service is to get a sense of what the company stands for and its main priorities. When it comes to Firstleaf vs Vinebox, both are subscription-based delivery services that promise quality wine delivered to your door.
Firstleaf touts itself as personalized service, with a stock of award-winning wines curated from customer ratings and a powerful algorithm. What I immediately noticed is that their ethos is very much related to customer service, with an emphasis on flexibility, personal selections, and wine at fair price points. The site itself is clean but bright and appealing.
Vinebox has a less detailed description, with a simpler and minimalist interface. Instead of the technology-driven service, Vinebox emphasizes how easy the service is to use, but also how using their service can lead you to discover new wines. Fine wine around the world as their leading appeal is a different feel than the accessibility of Firstleaf.
My Take: Firstleaf immediately seems most focused on overall customer service and delivering accessible wine, while Vinebox appears most interested in offering a wine experience.
2. What subscription options are available for Vinebox vs Firstleaf?
With any subscription service, it’s important to understand terms, conditions, and options–not just for your lifestyle but also to make sure the price and value add up.
Vinebox offers a quarterly wine club subscription. As the name suggests, there is not much flexibility in terms of when and how many shipments you’ll receive.
- The club costs $79/ shipment
- Boxes ship every three months with nine, single glass wines or you can opt for an annual subscription
- Over time, members receive credits towards full-size wine bottles. However, the credits you receive depend on membership; (fifteen dollars for quarterly members and thirty dollars for annual memberships). Also, you cannot use these credits after the quarter is up.
- You do have an option to skip packages as needed
Firstleaf With Firstleaf, you can order a la carte or sign up for their membership, which provides both discounts and monthly shipments.
- Shipments cost $90 (bottles are $15) for six full-sized bottled
- You may choose your own shipping frequency
- You can cancel online at any time before the next shipment
My Take: There are some notable differences with Firstleaf vs Vinebox shipping models. I was immediately struck by how, despite first appearing cheaper, Vinebox is actually more expensive than Firstleaf, due to shipping you wine by the glass vs the full bottle. I also liked the flexibility of Firstleaf more, as being able to choose your own shipping frequency lends itself to more versatility and a variety of lifestyles.
3. What should I know about shipping and handling for Firstleaf vs Vinebox?
Shipping and handling can make or break a subscription service, especially when you want to receive the best wine possible.
Firstleaf ships to 43/50 states (there are some states that have legal restrictions against shipping alcohol) and also to Washington, DC. All deliveries are shipped via UPS Ground or FedEx, and you can easily track your order online; you’ll also receive an email upon ordering. You must be present, but now Firstleaf offers contactless delivery, which means you must show your ID but do not have to come into close contact with the delivery driver.
Vinebox ships to states without legal restrictions for alcohol shipments. You will need someone of legal drinking age to sign, and they also offer similar features for tracking your package. Shipping is free, as it is with a full membership with Firstleaf.
My Take: Both Vinebox and Firstleaf have reasonable shipping and handling policies. While I appreciate the contactless delivery option with Firstleaf, most research suggests the risk of contacting the corona virus via delivery is minimal. Of course, for individuals at high risk or concerned about the safety of delivery packages, Firstleaf could be an appealing choice.
4. How does Firstleaf vs Vinebox handle cancellations or damaged packages?
Even the best delivery services can run into problems, and that sometimes is on FedEx’s end rather than the company itself. In any case, it’s always important to investigate policies both for canceling orders and receiving refunds for any damaged or missing bottles.
- Firstleaf has a policy of refunds, for any reason, within 30 days. If you ask for a refund, you’ll get credit for another bottle. However, while you will be refunded for damaged bottles, you are subject to a restocking fee for not liking the bottle or missing delivery three times.
- Vinebox offers refunds for damaged or missing items, but you must provide a photo of the damaged package as proof. Unlike Firstleaf, Vinebox does not appear to offer refunds for not liking a certain product.
My Take: While both Vinebox and Firstleaf offer refunds, neither are perfect. Firstleaf restocking fee means that getting a refund for a single bottle you didn’t like wouldn’t be worthwhile. On the other hand, Vinebox refunds appear limited to damaged packages, so Firstleaf comes out ahead in terms of customer service here.
5. How is wine selected?
I mentioned before that Firstleaf seems to focus on customer curated options, whereas Vinebox focuses on bringing new wine to try, and that resonates as you look into the wine curation process.
Firstleaf combines your feedback and other customers’ feedback with an algorithm-driven system.
- You begin with a quiz, where you’ll be asked a series of questions related to your wine preferences, all of which are directed towards consumers who already have a good sense of what they like. Questions include if you prefer more red, white, or a mix of wine; sweet to dry; and even about specific wine types.
- Firstleaf then ships an ‘intro’ package. You’ll get this at a reduced price and be asked to rate the wines you receive
- Your ratings are entered into a system with other customer ratings, and there you will be sent your first regular shipment. You continue to rate wine and add to the algorithm-driven selection system.
Vinebox also starts, however, in much the same way: with a short quiz to get to know you and your wine preferences more.
- The quiz will likewise ask you about preferences, including taste preferences.
- Shipments from there combine personal preferences but lean most heavily on seasonal features. Every box will have unique wine for that season
- You can preview previous vine boxes on their site, but, unlike with Firstleaf, you want to know what wine you’ll be getting. There also isn’t an a la carte option.
- The glass model idea is that you get to try more types of wine and work up credit to purchase full bottles
My Take: It depends on what you hope to get out of a wine subscription service, but I prefer the Firstleaf model. While I appreciate that Vinebox may expose you to the wine you otherwise wouldn’t have tried, the Firstleaf approach is more personal and you’re simply more likely to end up with wine that suits you.
If you are looking for a wine subscription service mostly because you want to discover new wine, I do see the appeal to Vinebox, but with the Firstleaf algorithm and rating system, I argue you can still get this. Here is a little hint to read how more similar services work: Firstleaf vs Winc and Firstleaf vs Bright Cellars.
6. How does the quality of wine compare for Firstleaf vs Vinebox?
Of course, the price point is not everything. Though I was initially impressed by Firstleaf and how relatively budget-friendly it was, I wondered if the wine was of good quality and what selection they had on offer, especially vs Vinebox, whose key selling point was offering ‘wine around the world.’
Firstleaf wine may be budget-friendly when you sign up for a membership, but I was relatively impressed by the catalog on offer. One of the best features of Firstleaf is that, due to their emphasis on customer service and ratings, you can actually see nearly all the wine they have in stock at any given time.
- Each wine includes detailed descriptions, such as tasting notes, acidity, level of residual sugars, the region and winery it comes from, and even food pairings
- It’s easy to shop for the wine you want if you’re ordering a la carte or customizing, with filters for grape type (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling); color, and even region
- Wine comes from Italy, France, New Zealand, the United States, Argentina, Portugal, Australia, Chile, Spain, and North Macedonia; many wines are in fact winners are various awards
- Wine inventory is in flux–which could be bad news if you love something that leaves, but it also means that the higher-rated wines are the ones they keep in stock
- You won’t find much in the way of aged wine, or anything of great value, but overall it’s a nice selection of mid-range wine.
Vinebox, alas, offers precious little insight into their wine. Your best bet is to skim the latest Vinebox to get a sense of what they carry. Vinebox claims that its wine is curated from small vineyards, which would be admirable, but there is no way to confirm or deny this.
My Take: Firstleaf, by far, offers more information if nothing else. While I do understand the appeal of a surprise from Vinebox, I’d like to see more information about the wines they’ve selected in the past. Without this, it’s hard to tell the quality before you order, and if the price point aligns. While you want to get the most expensive wine or the most unique wine from Firstleaf, it’s still somewhat vetted wine, with an impressive catalog of flavors, regions, and types.
7. What are some specific wine bottles Vinebox vs Firstleaf offers?
There are far too many wine varieties to list, but the following are ones that caught my eye, and fairly representative of each:
- Vinebox offers signature series. You’ll see oak-aged vintages such as Tempranillo; fresh 2019 French Rosé; light malbec with creamy berries and hints of vanilla, like Petit Côt; crisp white whites such as Vigne Galante, with zesty citrus and tropical fruit with notes of honey; and barrel-age red vintages, like Bordeaux and Barolo from 2015.
- Firstleaf focuses on accessible wine. Expect lighthearted summer wines, such as Pinot Noir from the Tailored Republic, a sprightly and playful Rosé, and the tannic, leathery, and bold fruit flavors of Devil’s Advocate Cabernet. Also of note there are classic American wines, such as Gilded Leather Zinfandel, with notes of chocolate and black pepper; and a pleasantly acidic Rakes Point Merroir with splashes of lime, pineapple, and melon.
7. What about company reputation?
Even if my personal experience and preferences seem to align, another way to get an insight into a delivery or subscription service is to see how it’s delivered for others. My first go-to is normally the Better Business Bureau, which can alert you to complaints, both resolved and unresolved, and sometimes show red flags.
Firstleaf has some bad news when it comes to company reputation. It’s not accredited with the Better Business Bureau, which is not completely uncommon for a mostly e-commerce business, but it does also hold an F rating based upon unresolved complaints.
On Reviewopedia, other customers gave it an average rating of 2.5 out of 5 stars (based upon about 60 ratings). Customers consistently downrated Firstleaf for poor customer service, with issues with never receiving packages; being unable to get subscriptions canceled; and more.
VineBox fairs better, but I still sound a note of caution. Also not accredited, VineBox got a below-average rating (C minus, which is a slight improvement from its D a few months back) based upon complaints reported to BBB. Vinebox has very few individual ratings but fared well with Consumers Advocate.
Final Verdict: Of the two, I prefer Vinebox
I wanted to love Firstleaf. I loved the model they had on offer, as well as the vast assortment of wine types. On their website, all looks good–but considering that their main appeal hinges on quality customer service, it’s clear that the messaging does not align with the expectations.
While imperfect, I like the Vinebox model that allows you to sample smaller portions of wine–it’s a unique approach to a wine subscription service, and it really does allow you to try a wine you might not have. I think Vinebox brings something unique to the table.
My Alternative Picks
Luckily, there are highly rated wine clubs that offer better options.
- If you like a sample and surprise model like VineBox, opt for California Wine Club. California Wine Club comes with an A plus rating from BBB and offers high end, aged and international wine. Buy Here.
- If you prefer to have more say like Firstleaf’s model, choose Gold Medal Wine Club. You won’t get as personal options, but you can select shipments by wine type, and it’s highly rated with BBB (though not accredited). Buy Here.
With so many options available, it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed. You’ll want to consider a number of factors, including a personal budget, preference, and what you want out of subscription service. For tips, check out my advice on how to find the best wine subscription service.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly wine club, I would be cautious. Remember that value is not the same as a low price point. The cheapest wine clubs usually average twelve to fifteen dollars per bottle.
By nature, a wine club works by having you sign up for a membership and regular deliveries. However, there are a few that offer you to shop a la carte without a subscription. There are also delivery services for one time events, like Drizly.