Roger Corder as well as taste tests done by Master of Wine Rosemary George.
Chatting with Santiago, I got the impression he had accurately defined a number of key issues with modern wine retailing - the "wall of wine", the lack of information for the consumer, labelling issues and so on - but I was not entirely convinced that he has completely nailed the solutions to these with Vinopic's offering.
For a start, the use of scientific assessment and taste tasting by an MW felt a bit out of step with the "anything goes" ethos of the zeitgeist - compare Naked Wines' success using a choice-architecture-inspired model of consumer feedback with minimal technical information.
Santiago also acknowledged that they had launched the website too early and that it was not as user friendly as it should be - the latest version is now much easier to navigate, easier on the eye and features a familiar industry-standard-style layout.
And so I have been as slow to try the Vinopic wines Santiago gave me as I have been in coming to a conclusion on Vinopic itself. Which, with hindsight, is a pity as the wines are very good indeed - it's just that I'm not fully convinced that the marketing does justice to them.
More on all that later - firstly the wine itself: a Tempranillo from Spain's Ribera del Duero, it is dark purple in the glass and, as a crianza, spends only limited time in oak. As a result, despite its six years, it shows few signs of age, the merest hints of brick red and paleness around the rim.
There is a complex nose of cherry fruit, spice, liquorice, a slap of leather and some woodsy undergrowth.
The palate shows more cherry and dark berry fruit, rounded acidity, vanilla spice; the tannins are ripe, rounded, soft and well-integrated.
Savoury and balanced, it has a persistent finish that is accomplished more than grippy.
We serve it straight from the bottle and whilst it improves over the course of the meal - with air, the earthy notes become more prominent - it does not change dramatically.
A common theme with all three Vinopic wines (which have all been reds) is the balance and quality of the tannins, which are always ripe and rounded - never harsh, grainy or overly firm.
Balance in a wine is one of the hardest things to convey, as by its very definition it is a lack of something - not too much of any one thing. To me, balance is a bit like a parachute - you only really notice it when it's missing.
Even more, I tend to believe that the ability to spot balance - or its lack - is what makes the difference between a more sophisticated palate and a less sophisticated one; as novice wine enthusiasts, we instinctively react to the more obvious things like fruit and aromas whilst an appreciation of balance is something that is generally acquired over time.
Whether this balance in the Vinopic wines is due to Roger Corder's tests or Rosemary George's palate, I still don't know. However, as it is a consistent theme in the Vinopic wines, I can't help feeling the company should emphasise this a little more.
I still don't feel I fully understand the three-fold scoring system, but I do know that the wines are very well-made in a sophisticated, grown-up sort of way.
In my first ever job - in sales - I was taught to "sell the sizzle not the sausage"; and this is perhaps where Vinopic may be missing a trick.
The simple fact is that these are very good wines indeed which have passed two sets of tests and are at risk of being de-listed if subsequent vintages are not up-to-scratch. Add in that choices are limited to a manageable amount and you have a very sensible business model - straightforward for the consumer and with an overarching commitment to quality.
This, to me, is what makes Vinopic more interesting than other internet retailers I could mention and, whilst the Intrinsic Quotient score system is a very obvious point of difference, it tends to evoke a reaction of either "What is it ?" Or just "So what ?".
Perhaps over time the IQ score system will become a benchmark for the industry, but right now, I'm not convinced that it is widely understood or has any significant resonance with consumers.
If I were in charge of Vinopic's marketing, I would want to emphasise the following up-front on the home-page, not buried away in pages several clicks away:
- each wine is reviewed by an MW (no-one else does this)
- each wine is reviewed for technical quality by Roger Corder (on-one else does this)
- the company lists only a manageable range of wines with a strict emphasis on quality and typicity
£13.99; provided for review.
Vinopic - http://www.vinopic.com/