FIRSTLEAF WINE PROMO REVIEW: 5 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
In the mail last week, I got a flyer for Firstleaf wine - and you may have, too! Firstleaf is a wine club that claims to personalize wines to your taste. The flyer offered to send me 6 wines for $29.95 and free shipping, which sounds like a pretty solid deal. And, before they send you the wines, they have you take a quiz so you can tell them what kinds of wines you like.
So, intrigued, I decided what the hell - I’ll take that quiz! Below I detail my results, which I ran a few times, and found some things you should know. My overall take - if you want random wines delivered to your door every month that are actually probably pretty generic, then it is probably fine. If you want wines delivered to your door that might actually match your tastes or that may push you to try wines that you might now normally try, I’m not sure this is the answer for you.
First, the quiz was, as I expected, totally biased toward the American wine palette. My bet going in was that they would focus on 3 things that I really don’t like very much: 1) oaky flavors, 2) typical varietals like cabernet, merlot, and chardonnay, and 3) a heavy focus on wines from California. I was mostly right.
In the quiz, they ask you 9 questions. The first of which is whether you want white or red wine, or a mix of both. That’s a fair question, so I was ok with that one. I chose an even mix every time I took the quiz, which I did three times.
The second question asked how sweet you like your wine. Which immediately had me worried. Look, I know the average drinker just thinks about wine in simple terms like sweet or not sweet, but the reality is that this feels like an unnecessary question. Rather than focusing on sweetness, which may or may not have anything to do with sugar, I would prefer that they just ask you things like what kinds of foods you like, etc. But, not a terrible question. I chose the rating of “not sweet” on their sliding scale.
The third question was where I started to feel like maybe the quiz was not worth much. They give a list of 9 types of wines, and ask you to tell you whether you like or dislike them. Of course, the wines they chose were super typical, and did not take into account the fact that I already had indicated I did not like sweet wines. The wines included Oaky California chardonnay (the WORST wine, in my opinion), Napa cabernet sauvignon (so typical, but fair), a “Bordeaux Red” which is also typical and basically the same style as the Napa Cab, and two sweet wines - a sweet red blend (NO) and a sweet riesling (also NO).
The fourth question asked how adventurous you are. To me, this is a question tailor made for Americans who are afraid to drink anything other than oaky chardonnays and oaky California or Washington cabernets. Of course, I chose the highest end of adventurous that I could, which was on a scale from “Boring” to “Exciting.” Honestly, who the hell is going to choose Boring?!? You’ll see later that this choice really doesn’t matter.
The fifth question asked if you consider yourself a novice or an expert in wine. I am not totally sure why they ask this question, other than they may just pick the most typical boring wines for someone who considers themself to be a novice. I chose “Expert” just to see what would happen. Again, the answer to this question did not end up mattering.
The sixth question made me real nervous! They ask if you like or dislike specific wines, and they are the typical wines you would expect to find, some of which are just not good. Menage a Trois, Yellow Tail, and Barefoot wines?!? Yikes.
The seventh question I like in concept - they ask what kinds of foods you like, which is really the right question to ask. The questions they ask, however, are a bit strange - coffee, pina colada, and lemonade, so they are asking about your palette rather than about what foods you eat so they can pair wines with them. But, oh well.
The next question asks you what your flavor preferences in wine are, which is another good question. There are some flavors they are missing, but this one seems good.
The last question feels egregious - how many wines you drink per month, and they top out at 5+. That doesn’t feel like a question that helps you decide preferences, more about how they want to market to you.
So, then you get your results, and, as I expected, I had mixed feelings. Two sauvignon blancs from California. I like sauvignon blanc, but don’t love California versions. A vermentino from Sicily - ok, that’s a good, less common choice. But the reds were lame - a red blend from California, a cabernet from South Africa - when I specifically said I did not like cabernet in my choices - and a shiraz from California, and I also said I did not like shiraz.
So, the first thing you should know? Evidently being “exciting” means four wines from California. How exciting! I never would have thought of that. Ugh.
The second thing you should know is that even if you say you don’t like a varietal, they will still offer you that varietal which is very odd. I said I didn’t like cab or shiraz, but they still offered them.
So, I went back again and changed my choices just to see what they would come back with. I changed almost every one of my answers just to be sure. Totally flipped them. The good thing is that they did come back with different bottles. The bad thing? The choices were very similar - almost identical in fact. 2 California sauvignon blancs - again, even though the second time I took the quiz I said I didn’t like sauvignon blanc. A white from Spain - kind of like the white from Italy in my first set. A shiraz from Australia - so, another shiraz, a red blend from South Africa, and a pinot noir from France, which is weird because I would have expected a pinot in my first set.
Evidently, the third thing you should know is that “exciting” doesn’t seem to mean much. In my second set, I set the “exciting” meter to the middle, and this time got 4 wines from outside of the US, which is not what I would have expected, and when I chose “exciting” I got 4 wines from California.
Curious, I went back for a third time and changed my choices again, including saying I wanted boring on the “exciting” scale. This time? Two sauvignon blancs AGAIN - although one is from South Africa. A cabernet AGAIN. And a shiraz AGAIN. The other two? A pinot noir, and a macabeo from Spain - a wine I have neve heard of, and seems much more on the “exciting” side than “boring.” And, again 3 of the wines were from California, and 3 were from outside the US.
The fourth thing you should know - no matter what you choose, you are probably going to get 2 sauvignon blancs, a cabernet, and a shiraz. So, the quiz is just meant to be interactive, but not really make any difference in terms of what you are going to get. I am sure they just have agreements with several wineries or distributors, and they are going to mostly give you the same thing. And that's ok, I can understand that, because they are trying to run a business at scale. However, the interactive nature of the quiz draws you in, and makes it feel like they “know” you, but the reality is that the answers are barely different no matter what you choose.
The fifth and final thing you should know - you just shouldn’t expect a big wine club like Firstleaf to really offer you wines that you can’t also find at Total Wine or BevMo. They offer a good introductory price promotion, and they do have a money back guarantee - both of which are great - but you are really not paying for anything more than the convenience of wines sent to your home on a regular basis. I mean, if you need someone to help force you to find different wines, then I would say go for it. But that’s what our podcast is for, and it’s free!