Website and Packaging - 10/10Wow this is nice packaging. The bottles are beautiful and photogenic. The box has a magnetic closure. Those aren't cheap. Everything fits together well, the chance of a bottle breaking in shipping is probably 0%, you can throw this thing down a flight of stairs and it won't break. A+ work, Vinebox!
Value - 6/10
Vinebox costs $35/month. Plus $6 s&h equals $41 total per box. Each box contains three 100ml vials of wine. A typical wine bottle is 750ml. So the equivalent cost per bottle is $102.50! Here's how a 100ml pour looks in a glass:
Now, I hate when people think about Angels' Cup this way because if you want to minimize your cost per ml, you should buy a case of wine, not sample vials. That being said, it's hard to resist the psychological draw of doing the math because it lets you compare apples to apples. And at $102.50/bottle, this is an expensive apple. At this price, I mentally can't just allow myself to relax and be a subscriber indefinitely. I'm going to have to reevaluate whether or not this is worth it every time I receive a box. The other questions need to answer is how expensive are the wines? This table shows each wine, the full bottle price listed on Vinebox.com, and the price I could get each bottle for according to wine-searcher.com Wine, Vinebox Cost, wine-searcher Cost 2014 La Damme Blanche, $25, $17-19* 2009 Château Suau, $35, $18** 2013 Castelmaure Cuvée no 3, $40, $23** Average, $33, $19.67
* 2014 not available, this is the average price for 2011-2013
** Not available in the US, based on conversion of euros to dollarsThat doesn't look so good... I'm paying about a 3x markup for the sample sizes. But there's one major caveat to consider: None of these wines were readily available in the US, and I have no idea what import fees, taxes, and shipping would add to the cost. It's entirely possible that if these were on the shelves, they could all be $40-50 bottles. Eventually we'll receive some samples that are available in the US and be able to make a better comparison. I feel like part of the value I could get out of Vinebox is trying things I can't afford to drink on a regular basis, so I really hope the numbers come in higher when we're able to make that apples-to-apples comparison. At Angels' Cup, an 11oz box of coffee costs $22 (shipped), and includes 4 samples of coffee that if purchased individually would have cost $18-21 for 12oz anyway. Angels' Cup isn't the cheapest coffee per oz, but it is the cheapest way to try a ton of different coffees. At $41 for 3 samples, it might be cheaper to simply to go a wine bar and share a few glasses with a friend. Also important to note, the wines were all good. All three were from Bordeaux, and fortunately I've had a lot of Bordeaux wines in the last two years. It's a hit or miss region and sometimes you get real swill. All three selections were what I would consider to be in the top 25% for wines up to $50. No stinkers.
Oxidation - 8/10My key concern going into this wasn't so much the cost, it was oxidation. When you expose a wine to air, it begins to oxidize which significantly changes the flavor. You can't just open a bottle of wine, pour it into a vial, and ship it to someone (legality aside). Either the winery has to bottle it straight into the vial from the barrel, or the exchange has to be done in an oxygen-free environment. These particular vials say "Bottled for Vinebox Inc. by WIT France". A quick Google search for "WIT France wine bottling" yields this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8IWgj40Pss (which I recommend you don't watch). If I had seen that video before subscribing, I wouldn't have joined. It was not confidence inspiring. But since joining, I've chatted about oxidation with the founder, and that's not the machine they're using. They're using some sort of contained processing line. Ignore the video. I was planning to buy full bottles of the Vinebox wines to sample side-by-side with the vials, but unfortunately couldn't find any in the US. I think I heard a rumor that the second delivery will feature mostly Californian wines, so maybe I'll be able to do a better analysis next time. For now, my inexpert opinion is that the white wine was 100% fresh. It had nice buttery notes and tropical fruit acidity. The reds didn't taste oxidized, but I wouldn't aerate or decant them either. Again, not an expert on this stuff, I just know what wine tastes like a few days after opening and I'm listening to my tongue. Hopefully I'll be able to be more precise next month and update this review.
Overall - 8/10At the end of the day, I've decided to keep my subscription for another month. Here's a rough guide to help you make your decision:
Who should subscribe today:
- Gift Buyers - I think that Vinebox is a particularly excellent gift idea, it looks great, it's fun, and the wines were delicious. You won't be disappointed.
- Casual Explorers - If your goal is to try a few extra wines this year without breaking the bank, Vinebox makes a fun monthly subscription.
Who should wait:
- Aspiring Somms - If you're signing up because you just watched Somm and want to get into wine, your money is probably better spent on a WSET or wine tasting class, or even just splitting some bottles with other friends who share your interest.
- Value Hunters - The value proposition is this subscription's weakness. It's an easy problem for the founders to fix though, all they need to do is select more expensive wines. If the box included three $50+ wines, this subscription would be indispensable to me.