I love wine.
But, for years, I was always nervous about choosing it, whether it was in a shop or at a restaurant.
I had what I now call:
W I N E A N X I E T Y
WHAT IS Wine Anxiety?
I describe “wine anxiety” as that feeling you get when you see row upon row of bottles, and think:
“How do I choose one I like?
What if I open it and I don’t like it?
And what was the name of the wine that I had
I saw that many of my friends had the same issue. They used similar tactics to avoid the choice overload – always choose the same grape or region, look for the awards, find a nice label, or, search somewhere in my memory – “what did I have last time?”.
I love wine, food and travelling. So does my wife, Zee. Over the years, we’ve travelled to many countries and the thing we do in every place we go is to visit vineyards. We love wine tasting.
But I noticed that Zee had a totally different experience with wine from me. She had this knack for knowing which wine I would like.
At first, this was just nice when we went to a restaurant, and I could leave the choice of wine to her. Such a relief knowing that I could sit there, and she would just choose for me.
But then, she started choosing wines for friends, and without fail, they loved her choices. Soon, whenever we went out with friends, the wine list would always be handed to Zee. And she would choose wine for everyone.
I WONDERED WHAT WAS GOING ON.
I watched carefully and realised that Zee asked a few questions, and intuitively understood what wine people would like.
A BETTER WAY OF CHOOSING WINE
She could also pick the flavours – and smells – in wine with uncanny detail. And she would remember them months later. She’s done formal wine training with WSET, but she thinks it’s her aromatherapy training that enables her to remember smells so well.
And she could match that to people’s taste preferences.
Wine is complex, and it is that detailed matching that meant that I enjoyed better wine.
That is when I thought, there must be a way to predict what wine you’ll like by asking a few questions.
Of course, that’s what sommeliers do.
But I personally found the questions intimidating to me. I didn’t know much about wine.
MAYBE THIS IS A BUSINESS
My background is in startups, and I couldn’t help thinking about how we could solve “wine anxiety” for more people.
We talked about starting a business based on giving people wine they would love.
So I did some research, and gradually figured out what we needed to know to pick wine for anyone.
Then, I spent months designing questions that were easy to answer, with no wine jargon, but that would help Zee choose wine.
I started testing my question on Zee. I bored my friends at dinner parties, trying to get them to answer these questions and see if Zee could pick them a wine, wholly based on the answers. (They did get wines they loved so we’re still friends).
The results were getting better and better.
I believed we were onto something, so that’s when we invited a bunch of people from our co-working space for a wine tasting evening – with a difference.
We sent them version 5 of the quiz, and asked them to complete it the day before, and then Zee chose wine for them – different wine for each of 20 people who turned up.
When they turned up, we gave them three different wines to try.
Nearly all loved 2 of the wines, and really didn’t like the third. That’s when we revealed that the wines Zee had chosen were:
One we thought they would love
One we thought they would find different but interesting
And one that we didn’t expect them to like at all
And the results were in…
THE SYSTEM WORKED
But the night I finally knew we’d cracked it, was when we invited a couple of friends round for dinner.
We asked them to answer the quiz before they came, and Zee picked a bottle each for them. When Zee gave the wine to Sasha, her response was that she didn’t drink white wine.
Zee asked her to give it a try.
After the first glass, Sasha said she was keeping the bottle and not sharing, thank you very much.
We started talking to wine suppliers and winemakers who were incredibly helpful and supportive. We said we wanted to match wines to individuals using taste preferences.
Every time Zee tasted the wine, she was able to pick the same flavours and smells as the winemakers.
And so we launched.
Each month we taste hundreds of wines. We select around 80 wines – actually Zee selects; I’m just there for the ride. Then, using the quiz results, Zee selects wine for each member.
To date, no two people have received the same wines. It’s that individual. We try to accommodate requests – more reds, more whites and so on.
That, in a nutshell, is how we started. When I’ve told people the story, they said I should share it more widely, and this is the result.