Interview with Katie Owen of Winc, Wine Subscription Box

Winc Wine Subscription Box

Winc Wine Subscription Box

What's better than a great bottle of wine tailored to your tastes? Not much... unless it's delivered to your doorstep without hassle. Winc, the premier wine subscription box on the market right now, offers just that––personally curated wines meant to make your mouth water without the stress of stalking supermarket aisles.

The process is simple: Winc users set up their accounts by answering six profile questions centered around their palettes. From there, Winc recommends bottles they think their users will like, and once a month, new bottles are shipped straight to their doors. Winc boasts a "satisfaction guaranteed" policy, allowing their customers to never pay for a bottle they don't enjoy, as well as flexibility––though it's a subscription box, members can cancel or skip months at any time. Winc is like a personalized present waiting for you each month, but how did the groundbreaking company begin?

FINE Magazine spoke with Winc's Wine Director Katie Own about the benefits of using a subscription box, how Winc works, and why the wide world of wine isn't so scary after all.

How did Winc begin?
Winc was started with one simple idea: create a better way to explore wine. Our founders (Xander Oxman, Brian Smith, and Geoff McFarlane) realized that by leveraging technology we could provide a better customer experience–– everything from the way you buy, discover, and enjoy wine. Through an online subscription service, Winc makes it easy and convenient by giving consumers personalized wine recommendations and delivering directly to their door.

How does Winc work? Do subscribers get choice in their subscription?
Most definitely. You can be as involved or uninvolved as you want to be. We will recommend four wines each month (which you can choose to be red, white, or a mix), but you can easily swap those out with other wines, or even skip a month if you so choose. If you don’t take any action, we’ll send you the wines that we’ve recommended to you––that we feel are just right for your preferences––and you can rate them after you’ve had the chance to taste.

How do you choose your wines?
Winc is a direct-distribution winery, and we produce over a 100 wines each year. We work with a diverse network of vineyards and farmers to craft our wines from grape-to-glass and have also worked with many long-term partners both internationally and in California like Chris Condos of Horse ‘n’ Plow and Kenny Likitprakong of Hobo Wines.

That being said, we are a different kind of wine company because we make most of our wines by sourcing grapes from across the state to produce quality wines that we know our members will enjoy. By looking at over 15 different data points on any given wine, we are able to back into the styles we know customers actually want, which is a really unique position to be in [within] the wine industry! We make everything from small-lot skin contact white wine to one of the fastest-growing domestic rosés in the country: Summer Water.

A lot of people are intimidated by wine because there’s so much out there. How does Winc make the wine world more accessible to the average person?
Each and every wine has a story, a place of origin, [and] at least a handful of people who worked to get it from the vineyard into the glass. It’s important to us that when someone pours a glass of Winc wine they can feel that connection, they know where it came from, how it got from the vineyard to their doorstep. The more context that you have around a wine, the more you can enjoy it. Since these wines are authentically Winc-made, we are able to share all of the information about any given wine and the journey it’s taken and make each drinking experience a little bit more enjoyable and rich.

What can we expect from Winc in the future?
We’re always looking for new ways to innovate and shake things up. This past year, it was with Ruza cans. Canned wine has been a huge trend, and we wanted to prove that canned wine can be as high quality as wine in bottle. So, for Ruza, we harvested grapes from a vineyard that we’ve been working with for the past three years to produce our first sparkling rosé in a can, and the quality speaks for itself.

In the future? Well, personally I’m really excited for the release of a few super small-batch wines that we made in the 2016 harvest from Enz Vineyard in the Lime Kiln AVA in California. We made wines from really interesting grape varieties like Mourvedre and Cabfeffer, and I think our members are going to be excited to try these limited, interesting, and higher-end wines! These will be rolling out towards the end of 2017. 

Okay, the moment of truth. Which do you prefer: red or white?
Impossible to answer! There are so many different types of wines in the world, so many beautiful styles and interesting grape varieties of both white and red. At the moment, I’m enjoying a lot of lighter-bodied reds like Blaufrankisch, and wines made with whole cluster or whole berry fermentation like our Capuchon Carignane or Field Theory Touriga Nacional. That being said, I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I’m not ready to stop drinking rosé. It’s no longer a seasonal wine––it’s more than acceptable to drink it year round and that’s exactly what I intend to do!

Is there anything else you want our readers to know?
In wine, there are no wrong answers, no stupid questions. The most important thing is that you know what you like, and Winc can help you to figure that out. It’s all about exploration, trying new things and gradually developing your palate. Wine should be fun! It should be social, and enjoyable, and not make you feel intimidated.

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