WineFriend is New Zealand's first and only online wine retailer to deliver curated cases of wine matched to individual 'personalities'. The brainchild of NZME wine columnist and Thirsty Work presenter Yvonne Lorkin and wine industry veteran Debbie Sutton, WineFriend takes the hassle and guesswork out of enjoying a great bottle at a reasonable price. Colleen Thorpe asks them some questions and tries some wine ...
Tell us the purpose of WineFriend.
WineFriend was created to take the guesswork out of buying wine and to connect people with wines they'll truly love. We provide an individually curated selection matched to personal tastes and delivered to the door, all for around the same price people would pay in the supermarket. We're the only online wine retailer to encourage two-way communication via our 'Rate and Review' mechanic, so we can deliver a more targeted service.
We use this information so shoppers don't have to wade through the sea of wines on the screen or on the shelf. We do the legwork.
How does it work?
In the course of her work, Yvonne tastes thousands of wines. She is then able to select ones that impress her and shortlist them for WineFriend. These are categorised into flavour profiles and grouped alongside wines with similar taste characteristics.
When customers sign up, they complete a survey of 8 questions to give an insight into their thresholds for sweet, sour, bitterness and intensity of flavour as well as highlighting the varietals or styles they enjoy. The customer profile that's created is cross-referenced and matched with wines in our database.
Customers are encouraged to rate the wines to continually refine their taste profile. This ensures their profiles change as their tastes evolve.
WineFriend is the brainchild of two Kiwi women who are experts in their field. Describe yourselves in six words:
Yvonne: Enthusiastic, newsjunkie, friend, teacher, mother, wife.
Debbie: Focused, eye-for-detail, optimistic, loyal, organised ... tired.
How did WineFriend come about?
Choosing a nice bottle of wine can involve a lot of hassle and guesswork. Worst of all, the place nearly all of us buy of our wine - the supermarket - is missing many of the real gems. Shoppers often resort to tenuous quality cues - label design, gold-medal stickers, a familiar name - to guide their final decision. Or, worse still, they end up grabbing the same wine they always buy for fear of "getting it wrong".
What are the most important questions to ask when working out the wine we would like?
Get to know your own tastes. If you go to the bakery do you automatically reach for a custard square or a sausage roll? Do you like gin and tonic or are you a bourbon and cola fan? Do you lean towards sweet or dry things? Why do we always choose the same wine every time we go to at the supermarket?
While we like to think we're up for new experiences, we hate being let down by a dud wine choice.
Do wines really match our personalities?
WineFriend matches wines to people's 'tastes' rather than 'personalities', but maybe there is some truth in that. Take my dad for example. He's a salt-of-the-earth type, yet clever and complex, sweet, but a little leathery and there's always a spicy, unpredictable edge to him. He's a shiraz fan - and shiraz can be like that.
Do most people stick to one sort of wine?
Wine buyers have never had it better in terms of choice and we've never had it worse regarding the possibility of confusion and the pressure to find our perfect wine. It's the 'Age of Anxiety' for wine. Most people will go out of their way to avoid being disappointed so they tend to stick to the same narrow selection of wines.
Is there a particular red those who drink only chardonnays would enjoy?
It depends - if they like a toasty, oaky chardonnay, then the toasty, spiciness of a shiraz could also appeal.
What about other mix and matches?
Loads of people I know who are sauvignon fans also really like the complexity of pinot noir - so there are definite other mix-and-match combos.
Does your 'wild card' wine push the customer towards something new and different?
Definitely! That's what it's all about - bringing something left field in to the life of the customer, take them out of their comfort zones while still taking into consideration their taste profiles.
Are your wines mostly from NZ?
We're big supporters of the NZ wine industry and we love the amazing, boutique producers who are making really exciting wines. These make up the majority of our WineFriend wines and, alongside, we've hand-picked a selection of fantastic imported wines to introduce some new varietals and styles in to the mix.
What's the first step to becoming a WineFriend?
It's really easy to sign up to WineFriend - simply visit winefriend.co.nz and take our quick and easy taste test. It'll only take 60 seconds and it's fun.
What will you be drinking on Christmas Day?
Our WineFriend Christmas Case, of course. Six delicious wines Yvonne has matched to classic Kiwi Christmas dishes - a stunning new sparkling to toast the season; a snappy, citrus-driven sauvignon blanc to serve with seafood canapes; a rich, tropical to sip with slices of gloriously glazed Christmas ham; a ripe, silky pinot noir to pair with tender turkey; a mouth-watering merlot if juicy, red meats are on your menu; and a luxuriously decadent dessert wine packed with terrifically tangy citrus and honeyed loveliness.
It's a brilliant way to make sure people have every dish on the table covered this Christmas.
Go to https://www.winefriend.co.nz/ to check out what wines suit you.