Firstleaf Wine Club Review [2020]: Is it Worth the Hype?

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I’ll spare you the build-up, the tension, the great anticipation…I really enjoyed this wine club.

This will be a positive review.

I’ll even be totally honest: This is my first wine club ever.

So maybe I’m biased. Maybe I’ve still got the rosé-tinted glasses on. But I’ve had so much fun and FirstLeaf is so easy to use, I can’t imagine I’m making this up.

Firstleaf Review Side Note: I signed up for this with my boyfriend, since we would be sharing the six bottles. You’ll be getting a review from someone who knows a little about wine (me) and someone who doesn’t really know anything except that he likes to drink it (him).

First, a few background notes! If you want to skip right to the review, head to “Getting Started” to kick off the introductory shipment.

Table of Contents

Wine Subscription Overview

For those who want a brief map before we begin

  • Firstleaf is a “customer-centric” wine club
  • Using a quiz, they identify your wine preferences for an introductory box
  • The introductory box of 6 wines cost $39.95
  • Subsequent boxes of 6 wines go up to $79.99
  • After you’ve thoroughly enjoyed your first box, go on their website to rate the wines you received. These ratings are used to create an even-more-tailored box #2
  • Repeat

Wine Subscription Pros

  • Great deal on the introductory box
  • Fast delivery
  • Fun quiz to start you off
  • Easily adjustable delivery date and preferences
  • Opportunity to tailor boxes to your tastes
  • Very easy to use

Wine Subscription Cons

  • Wines are only available on their website
  • Wine quality is hit or miss
  • The rating system is very simplified
  • Automatically sends your second box if you don’t cancel or rate

Recommendation: If you’re a wine-beginner – yes, 100% try this! If you’re a wine expert – it can be really fun to try new wines, but you might not end up being a repeat customer.

Why Go With Firstleaf?
First, their quiz is one of the best palette to wine matchers we tested. Second, Firstleaf has some higher quality award winning labels. Finally, Firstleaf offers an incredibly good introductory offer, with affordable prices after.

What is FirstLeaf?

FirstLeaf is an online wine club that sends a monthly customized box of 6 wines to your door!

No shopping, no browsing, no debating. They just arrive, you drink, you decide if you like them.

Each month they use your rating of the previous month’s box to tailor your wines to your tastes.

The theory is the box gets closer and closer to your ideal wine cellar each time!

History of FirstLeaf and its Founder?

Founded by Philip James, FirstLeaf is a “customer-centric wine club.”

According to their site, FirstLeaf’s goal is to cut out the middlemen in the wine industry.

These middlemen like importers (imported wine), retailers, distributors, raise the prices on bottles.

Which makes it harder for you to get a quality bottle of wine at a reasonable price.

FirstLeaf has a team of winemakers who go out and source the best bottles they can find and work with wineries to get these bottles to their members without raising the prices.

They taste over 10,000 wines per year and only select the best 2% for their club. (And they’ve won 1223 awards for their wines, so they must know something!)

Getting Started with First Leaf

It starts with a quiz. How great is that! Who doesn’t love a good internet quiz?

And instead of finding out which potato-chip flavor you are, this one actually gives you useable wine suggestions! So great!

The quiz is 13 questions, all designed to help them identify which wines might be best for you.

The questions range from a number of wine bottles you drink in a month to how adventurous you think you are to preferred sweetness.

Then they get to the flavor questions.

This is always a time of deep soul-searching. Do I really like fruity wines, a good red blend, or just that one red? Would I really enjoy a bowl of almonds or am I just clicking it to appear healthy?

Then came the question do you like “Butter on everything,” (the answer is yes). But will we end up with a bunch of overwhelming Chardonnays?!

(Around this time Vasiliy says “Okay, wino, stop trying to hack their algorithm.”)

Thoughts on Getting Started from a Wino:

“Yay! A quiz!” – exact words that left my mouth.

An incredibly comprehensive quiz that made me think all my possible wine preferences had been explored before the recommendations were presented. I’m glad I did it with someone, otherwise, I’d probably still be taking it.

It’s definitely a fun way to start a subscription box! Certainly feels tailored to their customers.

Thoughts on Getting Started from a Novice:

The quiz seems pretty basic. If you know about wines, then you know how to answer the questions to get what you prefer.

If you are new to wines, it’s a good quiz to help find what wines you like and which you don’t. It’s probably especially helpful after you taste them though. I wouldn’t have connected butter and Chardonnay.

Why Go With Firstleaf?
First, their quiz is one of the best palette to wine matchers we tested. Second, Firstleaf has some higher quality award winning labels. Finally, Firstleaf offers an incredibly good introductory offer, with affordable prices after.

The Wine Suggestions

At the end of your quiz, you are presented with 6 wine options. Each one has a photo and a description including region, awards, retail price, club price, and tasting notes.

They even provide you with an image of the bottles (see above) so you can see your white to red ratio.

You do have to provide your email to get your results, which is perhaps the one downside. You’re sort of forced into signing up for their mailing list if you take the quiz and want to actually see what they recommend. Sneaky sneaky!

But also, very smart. Because then you’re sucked in!

If you don’t like their suggestions, you can browse around and select different packs.

These packs include the “Award Winning Wines,” “Founders Favorites,” “Big Reds,” “Refreshing Whites,” “California Classics,” and “Old-World Tour.” Each one is are available for the same introductory price of $39.95 for 6 bottles.

Not ready to join the club or get a full pack? You can find individual bottles at their online store.

Thoughts on Wine Suggestions from a Wino:

They listened to our preference for whites, so the quiz was useful there. Some of the flavor notes seem a little off. They included a Chardonnay, but maybe it will be unoaked.

I’m impressed they picked out a Syrah since that is my favorite red. I hope that’s a sign of a great algorithm and not just a fluke!

Thoughts on Wine Suggestions from a Novice:

The wine selections are definitely new. I haven’t heard of most of these wines, so I don’t know what to think about them yet. I’m not sure if the quiz worked since I have no real reference point. But I’m definitely interested to try the suggestions!

If you’re new to wines, I think this is a great way to narrow down your preferences. And if you know about wines, it seems like a really good way to get to try wines you never normally would.

Signing Up

Vasiliy and I were interested in our recommendations so we signed up for the introductory pack.

All you have to do is click “Go to Check Out” and input your information.

It’s super easy. Almost too easy…

Pricing

According to their site, most of FirstLeaf’s wines retail for between $15 and $30.

With the club membership price, you end up paying roughly $13.33 for each bottle.

But the introductory pack is even further discounted!

Box #1 reduces each bottle down to $6.95. So, in total, you pay $39.95 for 6 bottles! (Retail value of $121).

We went for the introductory pack!

After your introductory pack, the club membership price goes into effect and it’s $79.99 for each additional box. That’s still $13.33 per bottles that, according to them, can be upwards of $15. So, you are getting a discount.

Note: The wines available at Firstleaf are NOT available anywhere else. Essentially these are small batches made for only select retailers. So, their “retail price” is somewhat arbitrary. But keep in mind, you’re paying $7 per bottle for that first box so even if you aren’t sure of the quality…6 bottles for $40 is a reasonable argument for signing up.

The First Box

The first box arrived with our choices in less than a week.

Maybe I’ve lived in NYC for too long, but that is what I call speedy service.

Note: You MUST be “at home” to sign for your box of wines. Otherwise, they will not deliver them and they will charge you a $20 restocking fee. To avoid this scenario, I had the wines delivered to my office

The wines are packaged very well so the risk of breaking is low. However, it is a very heavy box to lug through sweaty city streets. (Is this an argument for buying a car? Maybe.)

I was pleasantly surprised to find that each wine comes with its own card to help you learn more about the wine.

The cards include:

  • Name
  • Year
  • Origin
  • A photo (always good if you’ve already had a few bottles)
  • Tasting Notes
  • Profile (body, acidity, sweetness, fruit, tannin)
  • Pairing Suggestions
  • Stats (varietal, alcohol, etc.)

This is incredibly useful if you’re trying to catch dinner with wine. No guessing involved. Just follow the card.

The tasting notes are also useful, although somewhat tailored to beginners. They are full of facts about regions, history, and wine varietals.

The details about the specific wine itself don’t begin until halfway through the paragraph. But the flavor notes are spot-on!

Each card also has an overwhelmingly inspirational picture on the front with a fun fact about wines at the bottom. Useful if you have a lot of white space in your apartment I guess?

Thoughts on the First Box from a Wino:

Wow. That was fast. Please don’t break and shatter on the way home…

I love the cards that come with each wine. Definitely saves me the headache of trying to figure out which wine to have with which dinner.

This is a lot of wine. Six bottles of wine in one month…I can’t do that for more than two months in a row.

Nitpicky but the fronts of the wine cards are silly. “The coast of Spain is the perfect place to enjoy this stunning Syrah”…okay, well I’m not there so THANKS. At least they are fun to read after you’re a few glasses in!

Thoughts on the First Box from a Novice:

Wow! This is a nice box. I’m really impressed with the presentation and the packaging. The whole thing was very well put together.

The cards are a great touch. Getting to taste the wine and then read about the history and specific variety is really informative and helpful. I love the educational aspect.

Six bottles is the perfect amount. You get to try a bunch of different varieties at once. And it’s a bargain for that price.

Pretty disheartening we’re not actually in Spain drinking this Syrah though.

Thoughts on the First Box from a Cat:

This is a great box. Perfect for sitting. We should get more boxes just like this one. No wine. Just the box. Great box.

Firstleaf Wine Club Review: Rating the Wines

After you try each of the wines, you’re able to review and rate them on FirstLeaf’s site.

They then use this information to customize your next box with wines that are even more to your taste than the first set!

Rating is easy. You simply log into your account and click “rate more wines.”

The only method of rating is a thumbs up or a thumbs down. You either liked it or you didn’t. You can add additional notes in your own words, though I’m not sure those go into the algorithm.

As you review your wines, Firstleaf builds your second box of wine suggestions…

If the second set of options don’t fully match your taste buds, you are able to change out certain bottles for ones more to your liking.

Note: You can only do change out wine bottles 3 times per box. Then you have to contact the company directly to make a 4th or 5th change.

Adjusting your Account

Firstleaf makes it very easy to change your delivery options, preferences, etc.

You can control your white to red ratio, which regions you prefer, your delivery frequency, and whether you’d be interested in rosé or sparkling wines.

You can also choose your payment methods, delivery address, and even preview your next box selections in this area.

Wine Concierge

If you have any questions, a wine concierge team is on hand to answer, make suggestions, or even chat through a bottle with you.

Thoughts on Rating the Wines from a Wino:

All you give is a thumbs up or a thumbs down? That doesn’t seem like it offers many directions. What if you liked a general flavor profile but just didn’t want something with so many tannins?

Are the notes just for you to look back on in the future?

Do they actually read everyone’s notes on every wine they rate and build a box off of that? Seems like way more work than a set of rating scales…

I guess we’ll find out in box #2!

Thoughts on Rating the Wines from a Novice:

I think the thumbs-ups or downs probably go into a more complex algorithm behind the scenes. Something like Pandora where the combination of all your likes or dislikes leads to new selections.

Overall it’s very easy to use. I’ll be curious to see what it suggests for our second box once we’re all finished.

Canceling or Rescheduling a Box

Rescheduling a box is super easy. All you have to do is adjust your next box delivery date on your “My Account” page. Rescheduling a box effectively cancels the previous order, so you don’t have to worry about getting double charged.

Orders are automatically charged 1-4 days before the scheduled delivery.

But they do send you an email before your card is charged so it doesn’t just appear on your bill!

If you cancel a box after that time limit or request a refund, they do charge you a $20 restocking fee.

Note: The charge and future box shipment will automatically go through, whether you review your wines or not. So be careful you don’t lose track of time if you want to review or cancel.

Canceling or Holding a Subscription

You can unsubscribe at any time free of charge. (Obviously, any boxes currently being shipped to you will still be charged.)

Simply go to firstleaf.club/unsubscribe and follow the prompts.

There is no official “hold” option, but by delaying your delivery date to months in advance you can effectively “hold” your account until that point!

Reactivating

You can reactivate your account after you’ve canceled by going to their home page and signing in using the same email and password.

Firstleaf Wine Club Review: Wine Bottle 

Corsage Chardonnay

Full disclosure: I’m not an oaked-Chardonnay person. It’s just too heavy and overwhelming for me. This is an oaked Chardonnay. However, it’s comparatively light with heavy notes of banana, tropical fruit, and honeyed apple. A slightly oaky finish and definitely light on the butter. That said, this is one I could have done without. I was hoping their algorithm would read that from my quiz responses, but no such luck!

Tifosi Vino Bianco

The first sip of this wine is like biting into a perfectly ripe pear. So rich and creamy, but tempered by lime, cardamom, and mineral notes. It went perfectly with roast chicken too. This was a pleasant surprise and definitely my favorite wine of the bunch! Such an interesting sip!

Erste While Pinot Grigio

A very classic Pinot Grigio. I hadn’t had one in a while, so it was pleasantly full of apples and citrus. This was perhaps a little richer and more concentrated than most, full fruit flavors. Light and happy on the tongue and perfect to pair with some trout or other light fish. Definitely enjoyable.

Beralia White Wine Blend

This was the wine I was most excited about. The description reminded me of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and the blend of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Semillon was delightful. Chardonnay added a nice full-bodied feel, but the Pinot and Semillon focused the flavors on grass, lemon, and flowers rather than oak. Lovely spring wine!

Comarca Verdejo

This was probably my least favorite of the bunch. I usually enjoy the pep and zing of Spanish wines. But this one seemed remarkably shallow and ordinary to me. Lime and mineral are the only flavors I could detect. Easy to sip, but not much else! Like their note says, it needs food!

Alazules Syrah

Not my favorite Syrah, but I did really enjoy this bottle! Low on tannins, it was easy to drink and sip. Full of raspberries, blackberries, and vanilla! Imagine a port but without sweetness. I tend to prefer a bit more pepper spice in my Syrah, but this was delicious paired with our brown-butter steaks.

 

 

Final Thoughts on Firstleaf from a Wino:

Firstleaf is a great to try out new wines and experiment with ones I haven’t heard of before. And six wines for $40 is definitely a bargain! And it’s a fun club to join!

But to be honest, I’m not sure I’d stick with it past 2 or 3 months.

The quality of wines was somewhat hit or miss. While the introductory box was a great deal, I wouldn’t want to spend $80 a month on 6 wines I may or may not love.

I think the only way I would stay is if I moved my deliveries to once every 6 months. The number of wines is more manageable that way, and I could definitely justify $80 twice a year to try out 6 totally new bottles!

On a Scale of 1 to 10

  • Quality of Wines: 5
  • Customer Service: 8
  • Value for Price: 10 (introductory box only!)
  • Would You Stay in the Club: 5
Why Go With Firstleaf?
First, their quiz is one of the best palette to wine matchers we tested. Second, Firstleaf has some higher quality award winning labels. Finally, Firstleaf offers an incredibly good introductory offer, with affordable prices after.

Thoughts on Firstleaf from a Novice

I really enjoyed Firstleaf. Since I don’t know much about wines, I thought it was a great way to experiment with new wines and find out more about what I like best.

I didn’t love all the choices, but I also didn’t hate anything they sent. It would probably get even better after a few boxes and ratings.

But I think part of the fun is not knowing what you’ll get. And six wines for that price is definitely a good deal.

If you’re new to wine, I think this is definitely the wine club to try.

On a Scale of 1 to 10

  • Quality of Wines: 10
  • Customer Service: 9
  • Value for Price: 10 (introductory box only!)
  • Would You Stay in the Club: 8

To Get Started Yourself Go here!

Box #2

We decided to take the plunge and see what Firstleaf had in store for us in Box #2.

After such a minimal rating system this time around, I was a little nervous that the quality and promises might not actually carry through to subsequent boxes.

But with each additional rating, I could see their suggested offerings for Box #2 changing. So, I knew the algorithm was adjusting something! Whether it included my notes on each wine in addition to the thumbs up or down, I don’t know.

What I do know is Box #2 was fairly accurate! They included a number of green whites, which is a flavor I particularly like. And a number of tropical whites, which is a profile Vasiliy really enjoys.

Good combining, FirstLeaf!

The algorithm first selected a Zinfandel as our one red wine, but after about 5 ratings, it shifted to a Petite Sirah. I was a little disappointed to see this as I prefer the cinnamon and pepper spices that you find in Zinfandels and Syrahs. And I’m not a fan of tannins, which are strong in Petite Sirah. But I think perhaps my notes on how much we enjoyed smoky taste of the Syrah influenced the change.

Note: Petite Sirah and Syrah, though pronounced the same, are actually different grapes!

So, all in all, I’d say the algorithm is pretty effective. It probably gets even better the more boxes you receive and rate. (Since 6 seems like a small sample size to me. How can you identify all the varied elements of wine with just 6 bottles!)

The only limitation here seems to be the offerings from FirstLeaf. If they don’t have a particular style in stock, you wouldn’t get the chance to try that varietal. You are somewhat boxed in by whatever they are selling at the moment. (Price aside of course, going up to $80 a month for 6 wines can be a stretch for some.)

Shipping Box #2 was equally speedy and the packaging was identical. (I was much less nervous about breaking the wines on the way home this time.) The newsletter was even the same “Summer 2019” issue. Guess that’s what happens when you order 12 bottles of wine within the span of 1 month!

Thoughts on Box #2 from a Wino:

It’s cool to watch their wine suggestions change as I rate the wines. I could waste an hour just making adjustments and seeing what they do. But I’m probably just a nerd…

Their customer service is consistent, so that’s a plus!

I’m pretty impressed with Box #2 and definitely excited to try these wines. They seem like the perfect combination of our two palate preferences!

A little worried for our one red. Syrah was the perfect choice the first time around, but Petite Sirah sounds less promising. Wish they’d stuck with Zinfandel, but maybe I’ll be surprised!

I think I’m most excited to try the Pecorino, but the description on the Vermentino card has me intrigued as well. And I’m always happy to try some Vinho Branco from Portugal.

Thoughts on the Box #2 from a Novice:

It seems like the algorithm narrowed in on our preference for acidity and sent us highly acidic wines. Better that than Chardonnays! I suppose that is one step closer to being “tailored to our preferences” since last box they sent us mostly high acidity but with one low-acidity white thrown in.

I’m doubtful about the Petite Sirah. I was pleasantly surprised with the Syrah in the last box, but the card on this one doesn’t seem promising.

I think I am most interested in trying the International Press Vinho Branco. From the card it sounds similar to an Albariño that I really enjoy.

Wine Reviews Part 2

International Press: Portugal Vinho Branco

Portuguese wines are classified by region, like everywhere else in Europe! (Vinho Verde or “green wine”, for example, comes from only the northwest of Portugal.) But white or “branco” wines from Portugal do have a generally zippy and light-bodied characteristic. International Press was very high on acidity which made it perfect for pairing with seafood, like a spritz of citrus on top of your shrimp!

Tres Tigres Tristes Vinho Branco

This sampling of Portuguese white wine was also full of citrus, but with a hint more tannin. It’s less zippy and fizzy than other Portuguese white wines, but still has a very light body. The citrus was more red, notes of grapefruit or orange combined with lighter green apples and minerals. Overall very pleasant and perfect with a summer meal.

Strata Blue Sauvignon Blanc

My favorite Sauvignon Blancs are from New Zealand, honestly since I prefer the greener varieties. However, this Sauvignon had a pleasantly tropical flavor. Full of melon, pineapple, and peach. There was even a hint of lime that made my green-wine-loving side happy. It went excellently well with our whole seabass and sautéed zucchinis!

Marsh Hawk’s Plunge Petite Sirah

Very high in tannins and medium-bodied, this is not my favorite red. This is a very thick and inky red wine that leaves a heavy tannin coating on your tongue after drinking. The nose is interesting, violets and plums and blackberries with just a faint hint of the crumble on top of a raspberry cobbler. The thick tannin taste and almost bitter note of grape skin did not win me over. I didn’t mind the taste so much when I had steak to wash it down, but I wouldn’t enjoy this on its own.

Maiden’s Delight Pecorino

This wine should definitely pair with food. It is high in acidity and medium-bodied but very floral. Jasmine, gardenia, even some honeysuckle notes make for a very flowery bouquet. The acidity balances out the high sugar content and fruity flavors of peach and nectarine. Remember, though they have the same name, Pecorino the wine is in no way related to pecorino the cheese!

Corolla Calyx Vermentino

This is a lovely young wine full of acidity and fruit. Both lemon and lime combined with creamy guava and other green-white fruits fill this glass with delicious flavor. It is light-bodied and airy, almost fizzy. But even though it is grown in California, it does have the classic bitter almond finish of most Italian Vermentinos! Lovely to sip on a hot summer’s day or with a delicious seafood meal on a hot summer’s night.

FAQ’s About Firstleaf Wine Club

Are Firstleaf wines any good?

Firstleaf is a subscription service that sends you award-winning wines in your boxes, but since it’s all about different tastes, you might end up not liking some wines while liking others. Thanks to the reviews you can put on the site, the service will know which wines you like and will keep sending you similar flavors. So, yes, after ordering a few boxes, you will definitely be tasting the finest bottles according to your preference.

Is Firstleaf only for newbies?

Not at all. If you love hunting for new wines for relatively cheap, you will definitely enjoy this subscription service. The only downside to liking their wines is that you will not be able to find them in any store close to you…

Is Firstleaf a great gift to give?

Yes, definitely. Even if the person is not a frequent wine drinker, these bottles will simply make it fun exploring wine, and thanks to the cards included in the box, they will be able to find out more about the bottle.
For more experienced drinkers, it will be exciting exploring new flavors and deciding what they like and dislike from different regions.

Conclusion: Firstleaf Review

I had so much fun! The wine choice algorithm is fairly effective at picking out what quality wine elements you enjoy most in your wine. And yes, the algorithm does actually adjust as you rate your wines. So you know it’s working!

It does seem to narrow in on just a few elements of the wine selections, ours were acidity and fruit flavors. I would say six wines is probably not a big enough sample size to really get into the finer points of wine, but as you add more boxes and more ratings, the algorithm will hopefully narrow down more than just a few factors and further personalize your choices.

The only limitation might be the offerings FirstLeaf wine subscription has at any given moment!

Why Go With Firstleaf?
First, their quiz is one of the best palette to wine matchers we tested. Second, Firstleaf has some higher quality award winning labels. Finally, Firstleaf offers an incredibly good introductory offer, with affordable prices after.

Further read:

Kathryn Loveless

Kathryn Loveless is a freelance writer for hire who delights in all things delectable. You can find her perfecting a roast chicken recipe, hunting down a new bottle of scotch, or hosting a wine and cheese soirée somewhere in New York.

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