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wine insidersI typically pay little attention to wine clubs or membership sites but Wine Insiders gave me the opportunity to sample their wines so I decided to see what kind of quality and selection was available from them. They have been around for many years and their introductory offer to get you to sign up (12 wines for $89 plus 3 bonus wines and free shipping) is outstanding. Their business model is to offer a limited selection of curated wines in the $10-$20 dollar range from California, France, Spain, Italy, Chile, and South Africa.

These are obviously high production wines and you won’t be finding Wine Spector 90+ wines in your shipment. But the diversity on offer is better than most supermarkets and their prices seem to be in the mid-range for the wines I checked. The club is designed for casual wine drinkers who want to explore the wine world a bit without having to confront the wine wall at the supermarket or the tyranny of choice at Total Wines or Wine.com.

I should emphasize that I have no basis for an assessment of their customer service, shipping practices, or typical selections in the quarterly shipments, and I can evaluate only the wines they sent me. I’m sure they chose wines they thought I would like. My  evaluation is limited to the question of wine quality.

So are the wines any good? For the price, yes. With one exception they were interesting, typical of the variety and region from which they hail, and worth the listed price.

Here are the wines I sampled accompanied by brief tasting notes.

Le Vassel De Mercues Malbec Cahors France 2017     Price: $18  Score: 89

From the classic French region specializing in Malbec, the blueberry, gentle taut oak, dusty earth and black olive aromas are typical and expressive. It is rich and robust up front, with a medium plus body, and a very firm finish with some grain to the tannins. It closes with good fruit persistence and a fresh mineral seam.

Le Fiefs De Cyrano Blanc Bergerac France 2017  Price: $13  Score: 86

This is a from a lesser known region just east of Bordeaux. A white Bordeaux blend made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, it has typical green grass, apple and lovely floral aromas with a hint of lemon zest. Medium body with the slight oiliness from the Semillon showing well, it features a medium body at midpalate and a very tart finish.

IAGO Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi D.O.C Italy 2018  Price: $14  Score: 87

Another classic region represented here, Verdicchio is the main white grape from the Marche region of Central Italy. A simple lemony nose with some bitter almond on the finish and an absolutely scintillating, rough-hewn texture from dry extract. The mouthfeel is worth the price of admission.

Le Petite Bilaude Cabernet/Merlot IGP France 2018  Price:  $17  Score: 85

Black cherry and stemmy, herbal notes  with faint oak emerging with aeration. Nice, rich opening on the palate, dark and toasty, with a medium plus body, but lacks fruit persistence on the finish which turns a bit tart. The tannins are powdery but present and effective. This is a mouthwatering but rustic wine, good intensity and quite active but needs a good steak to keep it in check.

Hayton Family Reserve Viognier California 2017  Price: $12  Score: 87

A very nice California Viognier. Expressive tropical fruits, pineapple, fruit cup, ripe pear, and a hint of butter. It has the viscosity you want in Viognier, a medium plus body with good acidity and a nice mineral inflection on the finish. A bit static but well balanced.

Novinophobia Cabernet Sauvignon California 2017 Price: $15  Score: 83

A closed and inexpressive nose. I thought it was corked but that is unlikely given the composite material from which the cork is made. Faint blackberry and a bit of vanilla are the dominant aromas. The palate is soft and smooth with almost no tannins and lacking fruit persistence leaving the acidity exposed on the finish. Satisfactory but dull.

Reviews based on industry samples