Before we dive in, blurb & info:
The wine tasting experience in the comfort of your home. £35.00 per box, paid monthly. 4 x half-size (375ml) bottles plus online lesson. Delivery included.
Now the fun stuff.
I love wine. I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert, but I always have an idea what I will like when perusing the shelves in the supermarket. I’ve also been to the incredible wine-tasting adventure at Vinopolis. (I’d recommend you visit but I’ve just discovered it’s closed down. Dammit.) So the opportunity to check out the new home wine-tasting subscription box from Pulp seemed like the perfect opportunity to drink wine. I mean, rigorously test a new subscription box.
A promisingly heavy package arrived at the door. Even more promisingly the address label included the word ‘wine’, which is what I saw before the actual label on the side.
Inside were two very well packed boxes, each with two little bottles of wine, plus a card with the website address.
Fortunately the delivery service had decided against using it as a football so it was perfectly intact.
Each little inner box contained two bottles, two each of white and red.
Due to a course of antibiotics and an intervening trip to Paris, the two different tastings were done at different times, which is probably just as well otherwise I would have felt less than marvellous in the morning. Because I am generous, I allowed my lovely husband, Big C, to join me on the tasting trip.
The first box we cracked into was the white.
I put the two bottles into the fridge for a while of course. Also in the box was a little card with a code on it. After some fiddling about with the website I figured out how to get to the online lessons included.
The two whites were, as you can see, a Pinot Grigio and a Sauvignon Blanc. Big C does not like Pinot but at all, though he nobly agreed to taste it anyway. I like both, but tend to go for the Sauvignon as a rule. Both wines were Italian.
Anyway, we poured and then, after some more website fiddling on my phone, found the lessons. As I said, we both enjoy wine and have a little experience of tasting, so were interested in what the lessons would offer. Both wines were described in terms of colour (you can actually see the difference in the picture) and aroma, then we were invited to smell. The brief paragraph told us what aromas to expect. After that, taste, with expected flavours. Below are some screenshots of the lessons.
I have to say that while I enjoyed both wines very much, Big C did not care for the Pinot because he does not like Pinot. The Sauv Blanc on the the other hand…
OK then. He got to finish off that bottle. I was happy with the Pinot.
Several days later, we got to the red.
It just so happened that it was a spectacularly warm day, so perhaps not perfect for red wine, but never mind, wine is wine. The two wines were Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Both Italian again and very nice, though not quite as nice as the whites. With the exception of not chilling the bottles, it was the same. Pour, consult phone, fiddle with website, smell, sip. Then drink.
So, as an enjoyer of wine (I’m not pretentious or knowledgeable enough to say wine lover) I did enjoy this, but I did have reservations.
First of all, the wine was pretty good. Not amazing, not life-changing, but very pleasant indeed, especially the whites. I like the concept of two half-bottles of different wines by way of contrast. Two people can happily polish off both without getting unreasonably sloshed, and having both red and white is obviously ideal.
But. Call me old-fashioned, I’m not a great fan of the online-only thing. We both found it distracting to have to fiddle with a phone to get the tasting notes. It would be useful to have something to keep and refer to at a later date, especially as I presume their target market is people who know little or nothing about wine but would like to learn more. There was no information about the individual wines themselves in the lessons, and I had to do some more website-fiddling to find those details. It didn’t feel particularly instinctive, and we would have liked to have more information provided.
The same goes for the tasting notes/lessons. They felt a little skimpy and leading. Of course there are certain aromas and flavours that particular wines have in common, but it seemed like we were being told what to smell or taste rather than offered help to draw our own conclusions. After all, wine can be pretty subjective. Also, because every part of the lesson was so brief we didn’t really feel like we had anything to discuss, and part of the pleasure of tasting wine is being able to chat about what you’re experiencing. But despite the fact that Big C and I like wine and like talking about it, we both felt the information offered was very bare-bones. We were enjoying the experience of tasting the wine but the lessons were failing to engage us.
Now, maybe this would work very well for someone who knows literally nothing about wine, who really does need the very basics and to be told exactly what to look for. But even in that situation I think a lot more information would have been useful. I wanted a little booklet or card included in each box, with tasting notes plus details about the specific wines we were tasting. Printed cards can be handed round and easily shared. It could even be printed on the box itself. I wanted to read a little bit about the vineyard, or a greater list of possible tastes and aromas while I was actually drinking the wine. I didn’t want to have to stare at my phone and work out where to tap to find out more. Again, for the total beginner maybe this wouldn’t matter so much, but it’s quite clear that the wines have been carefully chosen and are of good quality. The quality of the wine and the quality of the information given, however, are quite sharply divergent. It’s not that the information isn’t interesting or useful, it’s just that there isn’t enough of it. On the internet it’s easy to find a load of cool stuff about wine tasting, for example why you swirl it, and how when you taste you should allow it to coat all of the different tasting areas of your mouth and tongue because how you sip (or slurp) affects how you interpret the flavour.
The wines in this intro box are apparently the most popular wines sold, so it makes sense to include them first. After yet more faffing on the website I found that a couple of the makers are well known to the sommelier of Pulp, and it’s great that they are using smaller producers and have a personal connection with them.
Ultimately, while we loved the wine, and always enjoy the experience of tasting and thinking about what we were drinking, we weren’t given the information we would have liked to round out this whole experience. For £35 you can get a couple of really good bottles of wines from any supermarket fine wine section, and all of the information given and more could be easily found with Google. With some more thought and depth, and possibly the addition of printed notes, this could be something really fantastic, both as a gift and as a personal treat.