The problem with the Wine Insiders wine club is not that the wine isn’t good, even though most of it isn’t. The problem is that the company behind the club doesn’t see wine quality as worth worrying about. Instead, its business plan is apparently based on the Holy Trinity of the wine business: fake pricing, hyperbole, and winespeak. Is it any wonder this makes wine companies lots of money but makes wine that much more difficult to enjoy, and especially for people who don’t know much about it?
I’m not the only one who figured this out; the Wine Dabbler took his anger a step further in a post entitled “The great Groupon wine rip-off:”
I received six different wines I had never heard of before, two bottles each. The wines we have tried so far are abysmal — and they all taste virtually the same! … I do not think that there are any violations of the law, but there are carefully planned and willfully executed violations of moral and ethical values.
As I wrote when I ordered, I got a red and white blend, plus a chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and sauvignon blanc. The advertised price for the six wines was $14.99 each with a 40 percent discount. But these wines weren’t worth $14.99, or even 40 percent off $14.99. They’re mostly Two-buck Chuck quality, made from the bulk wine that comes from the grapes that grow in California’s Central Valley by a company that makes bulk wine for just such purposes. The white blend, in fact, tasted a lot like those 4-liter boxes of Franzia — sort of sweet and probably made with French colombard and chenin blanc.
I write “probably” because there wasn’t any information about the wines — no information sheets, and most of the wines didn’t even have a cutesy back label with winespeak. No doubt the company didn’t want to tell anyone what was actually going on. I did get a sheet offering to sell me six bottles of fruit-flavored moscato for $9 a bottle (I’d guess it costs much less than half of that to make) and a “stunning” French rose, also six bottles for $9.99. I’ll pass, thanks.
On the one hand, I’m not surprised this was such a depressing experience. I’ve been writing about wine for too long to expect otherwise. On the other hand, that it was so depressing makes it that much worse. Can’t the ordinary wine drinker ever win?