“Curated” wine clubs are supposed to use science or experts to find wine you like. But they keep recommending oaky California chardonnay to the Wine Curmudgeon
Know two things about a host of “curated” wine clubs making the rounds these days, companies like Sippd, Bright Cellars, and SommSelect. First, they’re supposed to use science or an expert to take the confusion out of buying wine. Or, as Sippd claims, “Sippd uses AI to provide you highly personalized wine recommendations.” Second, they really don’t work, and certainly not any better than asking the woman at your local wine shop what’s on sale that you might like.
I pointed and clicked through a variety of those websites last week and used three for this post (a tip o’ the WC’s fedora to regular blog visitor Wiseguy for setting me off on this adventure). The results were past discouraging.
I found pricing to be mysterious. Bright Cellars offers “$20” wines discounted to $15. In fact, a quick check on wine-searcher showed that many Bright Cellar wines seemed to be labels developed for Bright Cellars, so no telling what the true price is since you can’t buy them elsewhere. Meanwhile, SommSelect charged $68 for a bottle of French sauvignon blanc that cost $52 on much of the East Coast.
In this, the SommSelect wines were almost all high-end and not aimed at ordinary wine drinkers, even though many reviews for the site say otherwise. How about “A wine club may, on average, cost a little bit more than pulling your ten-buck bottle of wine off the shelf in the store. But, by signing up for a wine club, you aren’t simply buying one or more bottles of wine, you’re buying years of experience from sommeliers. …”
This was depressing in and of itself; how much longer will the wine business perpetuate the myth that only sommeliers are worthy of finding wine worth drinking?
Even more depressing. …
The science, algorithms, and artificial intelligence on Sippd and Bright Cellars were about as effective as letting Churro, the blog’s associate editor, pick wine the way he picks his chew toys. The algorithm sites ask a series of questions about wines and flavors that you like, and then the algorithm magically and mysteriously finds similar wines. Not surprisingly, they don’t ask about price.
Sippd, which sells its wines through Wine.com, gave me an 83 percent “taste match” for E&J Gallo’s La Marca Prosecco, which is pretty funny since I don’t really like Prosecco. And it offered a 92 percent “taste match” for a $129 red Bordeaux, which is even funnier since I’ve never bought a $129 bottle in my life.
And Bright Cellars recommended five wines, all from the U.S. when I buy mostly imports. Even worse, they included two California chardonnays (“Rich and opulent in texture. … rich and creamy. …”) and a couple of reds that claimed to contain some kind of chocolate something or other. Regular visitors here know that those are the kinds of focus group wines I regularly rant about.
Maybe you’ll have better luck with these sites than I did. I hope so. No one should be as miserable as I was after I finished — once again worrying about the future of the wine business.