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Would you trust a robot with your wine choice? A review of Clara Wine

How much do you know about wine? I mean, really know about wine? I’m sure most people would know if they prefer a Merlot over a Pinot Noir, the latter seeming to be the ‘wine of choice’ in recent times, the ‘flat white’ of the wine world. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely in that category of people who will quite happily jump onto a new ‘trend’ in wine. And for me, the reason I’ll do that is because quite frankly I’m daunted by trying to properly understand the wine world. People do courses and exams in this, there’s so much to learn! I know that I like wine, and I know what flavours I like, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I know how to choose a bottle in a shop or restaurant. I often find myself in the wine aisle in Sainsbury’s staring at their ‘fine wine’ stand ahead of a dinner party without a clue what I’m really looking for. And as the old saying goes, ‘never judge a book by its cover’, I’m rather ashamed to admit that I will quite often grab the bottle with the coolest label. Awful, I know!

I was recently introduced to a new service called Clara Wine that has made wine buying SO much simpler for me. And it’s quite techy, which is always going to make me happy! It’s a new AI wine subscription service, with an intelligent data-driven algorithm that sorts users into a bespoke ‘taste tribe’ upon joining.

The first task is to take the taste ‘quiz’ on the Clara Wine website, which will cluster users with other like-palated tasters into different segments, reflecting what they tend to enjoy in the world of flavour, aroma and taste. And as a result, Clara’s algorithm replaces the role of a traditional sommelier, selecting wines to be sent to each tribe each month.
Questions include ‘You’re at a friend’s house for dinner and they’ve laid on several desserts. Which two do you want to taste most?’ (tangy lemon & lime mini tarts, home-made macaroons with a light peach cream filling, pineapple & mango crumble, summer berry pudding with redcurrant, chocolate brownie with dark cherries) and ‘At a street food festival, chefs are cooking and baking as you wander around. Which are the two aromas that you would be most likely to draw you in?’ (something subtle, a hint of grilled prawns or roasted vegetables, baked rustic bread and roasted almonds, pancakes with vanilla & melted chocolate, roasted coffee beans & oak barrels, ‘barbecuing meats or a hog roast’). As you can see, the questions are designed to appeal to all the senses.

After completing the questionnaire, I was told that I’m an ‘Expressionist’ after the art movement which hides, changes and moves things around to express fresh ideas. I wondered if that was a nice way of saying I can’t make my mind up (!). According to the description, expressionists are not looking for the obvious and accessible fruity, they like to search a wine and wait for it to reveal layers. The wines can be subtle and sometimes funky, but never dull. Flavour constellations for this include brioche, almond and the hay of August – fruit aroma are delicate and subtle. This all sounded pretty spot on!

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And if you’re thinking ‘I don’t think they could possibly get my tastes’, they have 12 different tribes with one ‘rogue’ tribe for the customer who refuses to fit into any of the clearly defined groups. I love this! I received three bottles of wine in a nice packaged box with tasting notes for each and I couldn’t wait to try them.

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Bottle 1: Soave Classico

Producer: Pieropan

Region: Soave Classico, Veneto

Grape Varieties: 90% Garganega, 10% Trebbiano di Soave

Tasting notes: A fresh and expressive Soave, with classic white flower, almond blossom and a touch of citrus. Rounded, ripe fruit is perfectly balanced by a fresh, clean acidity. Long and fragrant, it has a note of fine, almond pastry on the finish.

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Bottle 2: Verdejo Rueda

Producer: Duquesa de Valladolid

Region: Rueda

Grape Varieties: 100% Verdejo

Tasting notes: Pale straw yellow with green hues. On the nose, it showcases herbal aromas of hay and ferns, with hints of citrus blossom and stony minerality. On the palate, it has crisp acidity, characteristic of the Verdejo variety. The finish is balanced and lively.

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Bottle 3: Swartland Grenache

Producer: Spice Route 

Region: Swartland, Coastal Region

Grape Varieties: 100% Grenache/Garnacha

Tasting notes: Vibrant light red colour. Red berry fruit and subtle pepper harmonise with cardamom and iron-like spice. This elegantly built wine benefits from a lightness which does not hinder its complexity. Fine tannins and good acidity will help this wine evolve well over the next few years in bottle. As a single varietal, the Grenache is juicy and savoury with lovely tannins.

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And I’m really pleased to say that they absolutely did appeal to my tastes – each one was lovely! I’d love to go into more detail but that’s kind of the point of this blog post. I don’t know much about wine beyond the tasting notes I’ve already included above. I can just tell you that I really bloody enjoyed drinking them, and that’s what I want from a wine! Maybe one day I’ll learn about wine properly, it’s definitely on my list.

And here’s a bit of a behind the scenes snap for you – Dexter gave them the seal of approval (don’t worry, he didn’t actually drink them, don’t go reporting me!!)

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The only thing that the service can’t accommodate for, is your particular cravings at any one time. This quiz is designed to supply you with wines that will suit you based on your ongoing favourite foods, flavours, smells and so on. Sure, there might be a particular day where I do fancy a more fruity wine compared to my usual tastes, but Clara Wines can only help you so far. Their invisible sommelier is hardly a psychic! Also I’m not sure if it’s something I would use for dinner parties, as you would have to hope that your guests have the same taste in wine as you, and three bottles is only going to go so far (not very far at all at one of our dinner parties!). For me, this service is about receiving a treat in the post each month, for you to kick back and enjoy a nice glass of wine when you get home from work, knowing that it’s going to appeal to your tastes. And not having to gawp at the selection in the supermarket wondering if your gamble is going to pay off! I think it’s a really great service and it suits me down to the ground.

The monthly subscription costs £48 which includes three bottles of wine per month, delivered to your door, along with the wine tasting notes. If you’d like to find out more about them, you can visit their website here.

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I was sent a box for review purposes but did not receive any payment. All views are my own.

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