Your parents drink it, the girl you’re dating always brings it over, your neighbor guzzles the stuff, and what did your pal Mikey ask for at the bar the other day instead of a beer, a “glass of Sangiovese”?
Well isn’t that fancy?
Guys, it’s time to dip your toes in the world of vino. It’s one of the most ubiquitously sipped beverages around the globe—and if you pick the right bottles, one of the tastiest too.
I subscribed to Bright Cellars for a month and let them do the picking for me. Is this the best wine subscription on the market? Read on to get the full lowdown.
What Is Bright Cellars?
You might assume a wine subscription company was founded by a bunch of pompous snobs.
It’s much the opposite. Bright Cellars was founded by MIT grads Richard Yau and Joe Laurendi, a couple of craft beer and cocktail connoisseurs who realized they didn’t know a darn thing about wine.
Taking matters into their own hands, they founded Bright Cellars and the Bright Points algorithm to intelligently learn more about wine and find their favorite types along the way with the help of personalized data.
Bright Cellars operates around a refreshingly uncomplicated mantra, “we believe that wine is for everyone”.
Things to Consider Before Signing Up
In many ways, Bright Cellars is the lowest barrier of entry for someone stepping into the wine market. You start with a zippy 7-question quiz to identify common flavors you prefer over others.
From here, the algorithm crunches the data and generates four bottles of wine to ship your way at $20 per bottle. You can also opt for six bottles.
If you’ve got a handle on exactly which types of wine you like, this might not be the best service for you.
But if you don’t know a thing about wine, or you’re open to trying exotic, worldly varietals and expanding your wine horizon and breadth of knowledge, this might be the perfect fit.
My Hands-On Review
Wine by itself can feel daunting. Deciding to sign up for a wine subscription service can feel daunting too.
So, I signed up on your behalf and did all the nitty-gritty work of filling out a profile, drinking loads of wine, taking notes on every step and every sip, and writing this detailed breakdown.
Raise your glasses guys, let’s get to it.
Subscription Process & Membership Details
Something that immediately stood out to me is how streamlined and smooth it is to navigate the Bright Cellars site. When you arrive, you’ll be prompted to take a 7-question quiz. Don’t worry, all the questions are intuitive and only take a couple of seconds to fill out.
You’ll start by choosing taste and flavor preferences between comparables like Snicker’s versus Reese’s Cups, selecting your go-to alcoholic drink, and identifying what types of occasions you’d like to drink wine with.
This is also where you will pick if you want only reds, only whites, or a combination. I selected mostly reds with the option to be surprised by the occasional white or rosé that fit my preferences well.
From here, you create a quick, seamless profile, and then you’re presented with four curated bottles that match the results of your quiz.
In your profile, you can see what types of wines have been selected for you, where each of them comes from, and what you can expect them to taste like. If there’s a wine you think doesn’t match your flavor profile, you can click and swap it out for another bottle.
Next, the case of bottles arrives on your doorstep along with a pamphlet called “Wine Wisdom” and fact cards with flavor profiles and key information about each wine. Having these little cards was handy as they helped me gauge what sorts of flavors and notes I should be looking for.
They also made for fun talking points with friends since we could pass around a card and learn more about the wine we were drinking that evening.
The standard cost of a Bright Cellars subscription is $80 per month and includes four curated bottles of wine. At $20 a pop, this is more expensive than lower-shelf grocery and liquor store wine, but much less expensive than what luxurious bottles, and even most mid-grade bottles, can run up to.
Once you’ve drained your bottles for the month, you’re supposed to go back into your profile and rate all four bottles. This will further aid the Bright Points algorithm in giving you more of what you like and less of what you don’t.
Bright Cellars doesn’t release a surplus of information on where they source the rotating wines in their repertoire, though you can expect to get some pretty worldly varietals in your monthly shipment. I’ll talk more about the wines specifically in this next section, but my first shipment included wines from Austria, Oregon, and California.
My First Wine Shipment
This is where I swing my pinky finger high into the air and launch into a lengthy and lofty description of the ever-so-soft, velvety notes of stone fruit I picked up on in this bottle of California Zinfandel.
Just kidding, gents.
But I will talk about what tasted good, what wasn’t my cup of tea, and how accurately these wines represented the flavor profile I filled out.
Now, I’m certainly not a sommelier, but I was a bartender once who worked under a sommelier down at this coastal seafood joint, and I can tell you that on the rainier days when no customers came in, I’d pick his brain about our wine list.
I drink a good amount of wine—particularly reds—and while I’ve still only shaved the tip of the iceberg in terms of wine knowledge, I can navigate my way through a wine shop and recognize a number of varietals that I know for certain I enjoy drinking.
Bright Cellars sets up your first 1-3 boxes to be the intro phase. Boxes 4-6 are intermediate, 7-9 are advanced, and by 10+, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a wine expert. Here are the full details of my first four bottles.
Vanishing Act Pinot Noir
First up is a wine with a really cool name called Vanishing Act, a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon. The Willamette Valley has become something of a hot name in the wine industry, specifically for Pinot Noir, a hugely popular type of wine that I’m sure you’ve heard of even if you haven’t had a bottle of it.
This is a safe bet for Bright Cellars to send. Most people who are just getting into reds will probably enjoy the lighter, more approachable flavor Pinot Noir has to offer.
According to Bright Cellars, this wine should have notes of strawberry, black cherry, mushroom, and cedar. Now, if I never read “mushroom” or “cedar” from the fact card, I’ll be honest and tell you I never would have named those flavors on my own.
Though, maybe I did pick up on the mushroom notes, as this wine had a punchy, funky flavor. I’m used to Pinot’s being more fruit-forward and approachable. Vanishing Act was more intense and unique. This was most apparent in the aftertaste.
Nonetheless, this wine was better than cheap Pinots I’ve had in the past, that’s for sure. It wasn’t the best Pinot I’ve ever had, but it was undoubtedly different and might just have a unique flavor that’s not for everyone.
My second bottle was called Albtraum, a Zweigelt from Austria. I learned that Zweigelt is a staple red grape grown in Austria, and I found this to be totally approachable, easy to drink, and rich in flavor.
This Zweigelt (and yeah, you’ll feel sophisticated muttering this to your friends) is supposed to have notes of cherry, raspberry, red currant, and anise. Again, while I wasn’t able to detect every one of these flavors, simply knowing which flavors I was supposed to be looking for made the whole tasting process more fun and intentional.
This would be a terrific bottle to open on a date or to bring over to your friend’s place for a kickback. It looks and sounds exotic, but offers a smooth flavor everyone is going to enjoy.
I had never heard of Zweigelt before, but I’ll be adding it to my mental list and looking out for it.
Sprig & Rose Rosé
3rd on deck was a rosé called Sprig and Rose. Now, I don’t drink a lot of rosés on my own. I usually find them to be sugary and headache-inducing.
This wine had a nice, coppery color and was described on the fact card to be “crisp and refreshing with a touch of sweetness.”
I shared this bottle with three friends who drink more rosé than I do. Two of them found it to be too sweet for their liking, while the other one thought it had a nice, bright, fruity flavor. I fell somewhere in the middle.
This rosé was not headache-inducing, but it was on the sweeter side. I will say that the bold, juicy flavors of cherry, orange, pomegranate, and honey were apparent in every sip. This almost felt like a summery, celebratory bottle of wine to me.
It was interesting to learn that this wine was only 10% alcohol, which is on the lower side, and was supposed to be served at 50-55°.
Last up was a red called Obscura, a medium-bodied, California Zinfandel. On the fact card, Bright Cellars humorously notes this should be paired with “watching the evening news”.
I get what they mean by that. This isn’t a ridiculously fancy or flamboyant bottle, but it offers an especially drinkable, inviting flavor. You can really taste the berries and plum in this one. After a tedious and draining workday, I had a glass of this paired with a simple, low-effort dinner I tossed together.
It brightened up the meal and helped me get out of work mode but I also didn’t feel like I was wasting a luxurious bottle on a weeknight by myself, which was nice.
As I mentioned earlier, each case comes with a “Wine Wisdom” pamphlet which offers exactly that, tidbits of wisdom and insight on wine such as how to properly use a corkscrew and common serving temperatures.
The “Wine Wisdom” pamphlet that came with my first case reminded me that most wines typically hold up for 3-5 days after opening. So, I corked this bottle of Obscura after one glass and finished it later in the week and it tasted great the second time too.
What Do Other Reviewers Say?
Because Bright Cellars is making a splash in the wine subscription biz and has nabbed the attention of many online reviewers, there’s no shortage of info online about them.
I read a few other detailed reviews and found that most people saw the universal value in an affordable wine subscription with an algorithm and team of sommeliers that put together cases on your behalf. Many reviewers noted that this service was better suited for wine newbies and I agree with that.
Some folks wish there was more flexibility in the frequency and number of bottles you can get, rather than being tied to four bottles per month. But most didn’t see that as a dealbreaker. I can see how it would be nice to customize the number of bottles you receive monthly, but four bottles per month, or 1 per week, feels like the ideal sweet spot to me.
My Thoughts Overall
What I Like
- Bright Cellars makes wine approachable with a simple, streamlined service.
- Each month’s wines are nicely varied without being too basic or pretentious.
- The fact cards offer wonderful, easy-to-digest information about each wine.
- The Bright Points algorithm continues to adapt to your wine preferences as they evolve.
What I Don’t Like
- The total selection of wines can feel limiting.
- You might get stuck with a bottle or two that you don’t love.
- You are limited in swapping out bottles and customizing your monthly shipment.
Who is Bright Cellars for?
Bright Cellars is for the wine newcomer. If you enjoy only craft beer and cocktails up to this point and want to step slowly into the world of vino without being overwhelmed or bombarded with useless information, you’ll like Bright Cellars.
This simple, streamlined service avoids being snobby or pretentious and instead delivers a dialed-in balance of wine knowledge, flavor profiles, and four curated bottles directly to your doorstep each month.
If you want to learn more about wine without racking your brain or your schedule trying to learn more about wine, Bright Cellars is a tremendous solution.
Unless you have a natural or nurtured affinity for wine, it can feel like a daunting and mysterious netherworld.
Some bottles cost $5, others $500. Yet, the white, pink, and red liquids inside each bottle all sort of look the same.
How can a guy know what’s tasty, what’s well-priced, and what’s worth purchasing?
Bright Cellars is your one-stop shop for learning wine basics, discovering popular wine-producing regions, and sipping on four curated bottles per month that will fit with your flavor profile and nudge you toward a newfound enjoyment of wine.
I love how simple and clutterless the whole process feels. You fill out a snappy questionnaire, you get a shipment of wine, and suddenly you’re learning about tasting notes and while tasting them for yourself.
There are more customizable wine subscription services and wine clubs out there—and certainly fancier ones. But if you want to be introduced to wine in a friendly and approachable manner, without breaking the bank each month, Bright Cellars is your solution.
At $20 per bottle, the pricing isn’t too expensive or too cheap. Plus, you’re guaranteed to be getting a bottle that’s been tested, tasted, and approved by a team of professionals, instead of smacking down $20 to pull a bottle off the shelf at your local liquor store and pray it doesn’t taste like sour grape juice.
Bright Cellars allows you to set and forget your wine purchasing. You won’t have to go to the liquor store, you won’t have to research varietals or blow through a bunch of bottles until you find one you like. You’ll get four bottles per month that match flavors you already like, while slowly edging you outside of your comfort zone.
Can I cancel Bright Cellars after the first month?
Yes, you can cancel Bright Cellars at any time without penalty by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are Bright Cellars worth it?
For newcomers to the world of wine, Bright Cellars is perhaps the best wine subscription you will find. With four bottles per month at $20 per bottle, you won’t find a better price and selection of curated wines delivered right to your door.
Is Bright Cellars a monthly subscription?
Yes, Bright Cellars sends you four curated bottles of wine per month at $20 per bottle. Each bottle of wine will reflect the flavors and preferences of your online profile and comes with a fact card and information about each type of wine.