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Subscription Addiction: Bright Cellars Delivers Wine Just For Your Tastes

By Kristy Puchko | Food Porn | November 4, 2016 |

By Kristy Puchko | Food Porn | November 4, 2016 |

I’ve loved wine as long as I’ve loved Kevin Kline.

Long before I could legally imbibe, I fell hard for the idea of wine thanks to the Kevin Kline/Meg Ryan classic French Kiss. She was a flustered American desperately seeking out her runaway fiancé. He was a grumpy Frenchman with a rich passion for making the perfect vintage, seducing Ryan’s cynical heroine by challenging her to smell the herbs and fruits of the vineyard before the wine hit her lips. He taught her to savor wine—and by extension life and love! And I was in awe.

I’ve carried this fascination with wine into adulthood, but with little development. In a blind taste test, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a high-priced bottle and Two Buck Chuck. But I relish kicking back with a glass, picking out its various flavors while getting a heady, romantic buzz on. This earnest enthusiasm mixed with vague interest in learning more about wine led me to Bright Cellars, a subscription service that delivers wines specially selected for you, right to your door.


How It Works

Created by a pair of MIT grads with a deep appreciation of wine, Bright Cellars boasts the Bright Points system, an algorithm that compares 18 attributes of a bottle to best suit your personal tastes. But don’t sweat the math. In a short and sweet quiz, you’ll be asked about your flavor preferences for candy, booze, and juice, along with how open to surprises you are.


I opted for “Surprise Me,”


And admitted my preference for whites, but my willingness to give a red a go.


From there, the site offered me four selections along with their Bright Point scores on a scale of 1 to 100, so that I could sign off for my first box. Whatever the bottles, the price is $60 a month. (Unless you have a discount offer. More on that below!)

How It Went

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Piccolino Di Puglia: 2014 Sangiovese (Italy)
The first bottle I tried was the lone red. I like my wines sweet, so I favor whites. But hey, I didn’t think I liked grits until I had them down South. So, I figured this could be the perfect opportunity to discover a red I’d relish. Selected for me was this “Sangiovese,” a wine I’d never heard of before. Possibly for lack of trying.

The back of the bottle reads:

“Piccolino ‘Little One’ is made to honor the cherished juvenile Bacchus. We celebrate the sweet bountiful nature of the little one. For as long as the people of Puglia have favored Bacchus, they have cultivated the Sangiovese grape. It is truly the red wine of Italy. This wine shows aromas of raspberry jam and sun-soaked lavender as well as flavors of cherry and toasted, sweet almond.”

The scent is sharp and warm. The flavor is drier than the white wines I’m accustomed to. But like promised, it has a splash of sweetness that’s raspberry jam-like, with a hint of floral. The cherry gives it a richness, and the almond is subtle and brightly earthy, or I guess “leathery.” It’s mellow and mellowing, the perfect glassful to wind down after a long day. I tried it with pasta, which was great, as it was with a veggies stew, grilled cheese and tomato soup, and as a stand-alone treat. Boom. I found a red wine I’d drink with just about anything.

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Totally Random: Moscato (California)
I reject the tyranny that restricts dessert wines til the end of the meal. So I was most excited to splash mouth-first into this Moscato. I dug the bottle’s design, too. But the copy on the back made my eyes roll. It seems to be written by that ditzy spiritualist you met at that party that time. You remember. She’s the one who lectured you on how yoga could stop Global Warming.

“When a quiet night at home becomes a dance party, or a dinner with friends starts at dusk and ends at sunrise—life is giving you its best when you least expect it. So prepare for the unexpected. Be. Live. Think. Totally Random.”

Nonsense label copy aside, I loved this wine. According to the Bright Points system, I was basically guaranteed to. So high-fives all around! It has a light fruity scent, and a summery medley of flavors. I could definitely make out the peach, pear and apple, and the finish is definitely sprightly citrus. There’s also a mellow hint of vanilla. And all of this played well as a solo indulgence and—as advised—with a spicy Asian dish. I went with Vietnamese take-out. The Moscato played like a plum sake in its pairing, and I had to have two glasses to be sure, because I am a serious journalist!

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Lavender Row: 2015 Rosé (France)
I mostly drink Rosé with my mom, because it’s her preferred Franzia. I’ve never bought it outside of mother-daughter time. But a particularly stressful week seemed a great time to break with tradition and make some me time. Pretty in appearances, this pink wine’s bottle proclaims:

“From a sun-drenched land surrounded by fields of lavender, our Rosé was sourced from the select vineyards in the Provence region. Displaying flavors of nectarine and macerated strawberries, this wine is balanced by a fresh acidity and a crisp profile typical of Southern French Rosé.”

I paired this Rosé with the wait time for my takeout to arrive. Chilled, the crispness is refreshing, and the flavors of strawberry and nectarine are strong in the scent and sips. But the acidity is a bit of a bear, giving me a twinge of heartburn that clashed with its delicate persona. It plays much nicer with food. So lesson learned. High acidity it not for solo-swigging.

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Harena Maris: Chenin Blanc 2013 (California)
The final wine in my carefully curated collection was another white, which boded well. I’d never even heard of a Chenin Blanc before, so I was intrigued to give this a go. Of the four bottles, this one had the least curb appeal, being simply decorated and offering one sentence on its label to detail its contents:

“This wine is opulent, rich, vibrant, and complex, expressing flavors of sweet lychee and Asian pear.”

I was fresh out of fancy cheese and soft shell crabs, so I paired this Chenin Blanc with Taiwanese/American fusion food that included a mac-and-cheese spring roll and a South Korean zombie movie. It was a pretty solid substitution. Taking a sniff of this one, you can pick out the pear and yellow apple notes right away, and the honey follows. I admit, as much as I like lychee candy, I couldn’t identify that fruit’s scent. Once I took a sip, these flavors mingled playfully on my tongue. It’s a light wine, offering subtle and slightly sweet flavor with a bit of a bite from its high acidity. I’d describe it as “grassy” in a good way, which makes as much sense as calling a wine “leathery.” So I think I’m good.


Conclusion: All the pomp and circumstance that surrounds wine can make enjoying it intimidating. But Bright Cellars makes wine tasting inclusive, offering affordable and diverse bottles whatever your preferences. The algorithm dreamed up by their smarty-pants founders is made fun with the charming quiz. I appreciate that it allowed me to tailor not just my tastes but also what I’d like to receive red or whites-wise. Personally, I’m glad I risked it with a red and rosé because Bright Cellars is all about discovery.

As much as I like to try something new, I’m easily at a loss in liquor stores staring at walls of wines, so I go to my go-tos again and again. But Bright Cellars makes it easy to test your tastes and broaden your horizons. And now I’ve learned I enjoy Chenin Blanc and Sangiovese, and I can keep my exploration going through more boxes and by perusing the Bright Cellars blog. I just wish there was less rigidity in the pricing structure/number of bottles a month.* As much as I enjoyed this delectable experience, there’s not enough wine imbibing at Chez Puchko to keep up with four bottles a month!

Special Offer: Whether you are an aspiring sommelier or a casual wine sipper, I’d recommend giving Bright Cellars a try. And now’s the perfect time since Bright Cellars is offering a special discount to Pajiba readers. Click this link, set up an account, take the quiz, and at checkout, you’ll receive 50% off their first subscription shipment. No code needed. Just be sure to use this link.** And you can stock up on some sweet, semi-sweet or dry wines to savor with friends, family, or huffy Frenchmen over the holidays!



Check out Subscription Addiction reviews for Level Up, Stitch Fix, Try The World, Darby Smart, Treatsie, Chococurb, Loot Crate, Candy Club, and Munchpak. In comments, tell us which subscription service you’d like to see reviewed next.

*Update from Bright Cellars: “We do offer every 2 month and every 3 month subscriptions, you just have to email the concierge team to get it set up!”

**Offer void in New York, Texas, Utah, Massachusetts, Hawaii and Alaska, because Bright Cellars isn’t yet set up for delivers to those states. Sorry.

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Kristy Puchko is the managing editor of Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.