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As uncertain as times are, one thing is clear: online wine subscription services like Wine Insiders are booming. From Zoom Happy Hours to Netflix parties, customers have been finding ways to enjoy wine and social events from home.
For some, that means a review of a single delivery, no-obligation services like Drizly, which reported increased sales in not only wine but also beer and hard liquor.
For others longing for a sense of consistency, though, it means turning to wine subscription services and taking time to review names like Wine Insiders. Louis Amoroso, president of Wine Insiders, says the subscription-based service has been enjoying five times the sales compared with a typical period.
With fewer people traveling and nonessential businesses just now opening, it’s understandable curiosity would spike. But the question is: do the sales for Wine Insiders match quality, and is this wine subscription service worth your money?
In this review, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about Wine Insiders, and whether or not I’d recommend signing up for this delivery service, or opting for a competitor.
1. What is Wine Insiders?
Wine Insiders is both a wine subscription club and delivery service, meaning that you can either order individual wine bottles or gifts, as you would with a service like Minibar, or you can sign up for a membership. Wine is sourced both nationally and internationally, with home delivery to most locations.
Wine Insiders is in some ways positions itself also as a grocery store and wine specialty store replacement, claiming to sell wine at affordable prices, but also doing away with hidden or extra fees common with some other wine memberships and clubs.
The hybrid model actually is quite appealing, at least in theory. I like the ability both to sign up for a membership or order wine a la carte. I also like that while Wine Insiders situates itself as a smart option, the subscription service and wine store is also not making sweeping claims–a number of wine services I review the claim to be the best and I’d rather have the service speak for itself.
That said, there also isn’t anything immediately to distinguish this from a competitor that uses a similar model.
2. What are the different buying options with Wine Insiders?
As I mentioned, there are a few different ways to buy wine from Wine Insiders:
Individual Bottles: You can shop online as you could for wine in a store, with a generous catalog of wines, with the ability to filter by category (Red, White, Rosé); type (sweet or dry); country of origin; variety, and price.
There is also a separate category for vintage wines. Interestingly, the highest-priced wine sits under just $30 a bottle. Some wines have ratings and others do not. I did notice that some wines are not currently available, which is not altogether surprising. I’ll go into detail about wine quality and variety later in this review.
Gifts and Sets: As you can guess, this category allows you to purchase wine sets, usually among a theme either by country of origin or the intended recipient. For instance, there’s a ‘California Classics’ wine set but also a ‘Cabs for Dad Trio.’ What I like about this is it’s a nice way to quickly find the wine you may like and it also works well for a gift. Sets range from an average of three to twelve bottles, are reasonably priced, and offered in wide enough variety that you’re likely to find something that meets your needs.
Martha Stewart Wine: This collection of wine is in partnership with Martha Stewart and Company for what is described as ‘high quality, affordable wine’ recommended by Martha Stewart. The wine is focused on entertaining, showcasing sets for themes such as weddings, cocktail parties, and date nights. However, there are also individual wines, which are included as an a la carte buy single bottle model.
Club: The Wine Insiders Club, which we’ll be focusing on most, is their version of a wine subscription service. You’ll receive a dozen bottles of wine delivered to your door every twelve weeks.
Once again, I like the versatility that Wine Insiders offers. Whether you’re looking for a celebratory gift, consistent delivery, or just a way to find, for instance, Merlot, Wine Insider functions like a one-stop store.
My main hesitation is that there are always trade-offs: if a company only offers a wine subscription, as opposed to selling wine a myriad of ways, it’s possible that there’s a risk they want to put in as much attention and resources to their delivery service—but it’s important to investigate further.
3. How does the Wine Insiders Club work?
The Wine Insiders Club does not offer multiple membership options, as is the case with competitors like Gold Medal Wine. Instead, you’ll sign up with a standard membership that works on a fairly simple model:
- Twelve bottles of wine are delivered every twelve weeks; you’ll get an introductory package with three ‘free’ wines
- Create your own cases: Unlike with many wine subscriptions, like Firstleaf you won’t receive wine recommendations or be shipped a premade or seasonal selection, as is the case with Vinebox. Instead, you select a case of red, white, or mixed wine.
- Wines are automatically shipped every twelve weeks, but you may cancel at any time.
- Shipments currently cost $89.00, no matter your package (an average cost of a little under six dollars per bottle, which means you slash the price of some wine in half).
One thing I like about the Wine Insiders Club is how straightforward it is. True to their word, there aren’t hidden fees or extra ways to rack up costs, and pricing is also straightforward. If you know you prefer red vs white wine and aren’t especially particular, this may also be a decent model.
However, with no personalization, it means you’ll probably end up with wine less to your taste. With just three basic packages, the control you have over the wine you receive is restrictive. As such, it’s not nearly as innovative or intuitive as competing for wine services.
4. What are the shipping policies?
Shipping and handling are some of the least exciting–but most important factors for how to find the best wine subscription or delivery service.
- Wine Insiders Club offers free shipping ( a la carte wines are free if you buy six or more; three to five bottles cost about $15)
- Shipping is available in the United States, with the exception of: South Dakota; Utah; Arkansas; Mississippi; Alabama; Kentucky; Delaware; Rhode Island; Hawaii and Alaska. They also do not ship to P.O. Boxes.
- You must have someone of legal age to sign
- You can opt to deliver to your home or business address, or pick up at a FedEx Hold Location
- Undeliverable packages are subject to restocking fees
Wine Insiders offers flexible shipping options and reasonable policies. I appreciate the ability to have wine delivered to different addresses, and most policies seem standard.
5. Does Wine Insiders offer any refunds?
No matter how good of a deal a wine club appears on paper, I always make sure the company offers reasonable policies for refunds.
- Damaged packages or missing packages must be reported within 60 days for refunds
- If you buy al la carte, you will not be compensated for shipping fees
- Refunds are vague. Wine Insiders provides a customer service email that you can contact for any reason, but they simply state they will ‘make it right,’ rather than guaranteeing a refund, or what form that refund would come in.
I would go in with the expectation that you may not get a full refund. I say this because typically a company will state conditions for refunds and whether or not they are offered.
While it does appear Wine Insiders would cover a damaged package, it’s unclear how you’ll be compensated should you have other issues with the wine sent. In addition to the email, they do offer a live chat option as well which at least provides a secondary method of contact.
6. Where does Wine Insiders curate their wine from? And what is the wine quality like?
When searching for the best wine, it’s important to understand sourcing. Sourcing tells us if it’s small-batch, artisan, bulk wine, or something else. It also tells us about the quality and value or grapes, and what we can expect from other characteristics. (A bulk Malbec is going to taste much different than vintage Malbec, for instance).
Wine Insiders claims to source wine from “the world’s best wineries and regions.” Upon further inspection, there does not appear to be one way they source their wines or consistency, but each wine does offer some information
Wines come from around the world, including Argentina, United States, Australia, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, and Spain. You can also shop for wine from Bordeaux, though nothing else is for a specific wine region
There’s a mix of general wine blends and more signature wines
It’s true that wine is sourced around the world, but it’s a more limited selection of wines than some competitors. There are notably more wines from the United States, with only a dozen or so offers from some countries like Spain.
The specific label and brief description provide some insight, but there is less information about sourcing than I’d like. My general impression is that these are mid-range, affordable wine–not especially signature, artisan or vintage, but for the most part certainly a step above bulk wine.
7. What wine varieties do Wine Insiders carry?
Keeping in mind that with the club you cannot select your own wines, nonetheless, varieties you may receive in the club or shop for a la carte include:
- Red: Aglianico; Barbera;Cabernet Sauvignon; Cabernet Sauvignon Blend; Carignan; Carménère; Malbec; Merlot; Montepulciano; Nero d’Avola; Pinot Noir; Red Blend; Sangiovese; Sangiovese Blend; Shiraz; Tempranillo and Zinfandel
- White: Chardonnay; Colombard; Falanghina; Fiano; Glera; Grillo; Lambrusco; Muscadet; Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris; Riesling; Sauvignon Blanc; Trebbiano; Verdejo; Verdicchio; Viognier and White Blend
- Rosé: Aglianico; Baga; Grenache; Grenache Blend; Moscato and Red Blend
While I’d love to see a more even spread of wines by country, there’s plenty on offer for wine variety. I also like the ability, if buying a la carte, to sort by dry and sweet wine as well as price point. I can’t argue that the wine isn’t also quite affordable, but I’d love to see some more precious and vintage wines offered, both for a la carte and for the wine club.
8. How much information about the wine itself do Wine Insiders provide?
As I’ve mentioned, you can see the wine variety, country of origin, and if it’s sweet or not. Each description does have a label name and general characteristics, such as flavor notes and finish.
While I appreciate the information Wine Insiders does provide, there’s still room for more transparency. It would be ideal to also be able to see important features, including acidity; the level of residual sugars (dry and sweet is broad); tannins; food pairings; aromas, and more specifics for sourcing, soil, and more. Your best bet is to search each label yourself. Of course, with the wine club, you won’t have much control over what wine you receive.
One feature I like is customer reviews below each bottle–normally I would say to be wary of internal reviews, but there is a degree of variety for how well received each wine is. Some wines don’t have reviews.
9. How well does Wine Insiders and the Wine Insiders Club deliver on its promises?
Features and my impressions aside, let’s take a look at both how Wine Insiders is perceived in the professional world and amongst other customers.
- Better Business Bureau strangely has next to no information on Wine Insiders. Wine subscription and delivery services often are not accredited–this is not uncommon in solely online companies–but there is no rating at all, and no customer complaints reported either. It does list that the company has been in business for three decades, and information seems to align with what Wine Insiders lists.
- Site Jabber awarded Wine Insiders an average of three out of five stars, based on 66 reviews. The average reflected a mixed reception: about half rated the service as high as possible, and nearly half as low as possible. These mixed reviews can also be seen across other customers’ ratings online. Those who recommended Wine Insiders were most pleased with easy ordering and overall affordability. Critical reviews, on the other hand, mentioned shipping issues and poor customer service.
In terms of reputation, Wine Insiders is somewhere in the middle. One thing that I noticed is most reviews focused on delivery and customer service, as opposed to the wine itself. I’d like to see more consistent positive experiences overall–I also noted that 39 percent of reviews in the past few months were more negative than positive.
It is true that those with a negative experience may be more likely to report a rating–which is a reporting bias you always have to be wary of. Overall, though, the positive reviews did not provide much confidence in terms of wine quality, either.
FAQs About Wine Insiders
There are several reasons to join a wine club, which comes down mostly to convenience, accessibility, and discovering wine you might not otherwise have selected. A wine club is also a nice solution for entertaining or, during social distancing, an alternative to in-store shopping.
Shipping policies vary from a wine club to wine club; however, most do come with free shipping as is the case with Wine Insiders, or free shipping with a la carte orders over a certain amount. Do keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for there to be restocking fees.
Buying Decision – Would I recommend signing up for the Wine Insiders Club?
If nothing else, this has been a mixed review and for that reason, I recommend trying Wine Insiders on a provisional basis. What I mean by that is order a bottle or two of wine first before signing up.
By doing so, you can get a sense of if the wine is up to your standards and also how delivery fares for your service area, without having to pay for the subscription. Overall, I’d recommend using Wine Insiders more like an a la carte store, where you’ll also be able to select the wines you want, and going with a different wine subscription service.