This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Marie Wright, a 50-something-year-old chief global flavorist from Cranbury, New Jersey, about her career path. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I work for global nutrition leader ADM. I’ve probably developed more than 2,000 flavors in my career for CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies as well as private-label and quick-serve restaurants.
I got a double first-class honors degree in food science and chemistry from King’s College in London, then trained as a flavorist with Bush Boake Allen (acquired by International Flavors and Fragrances) and have spent the majority of my career working at flavor houses. I moved to the US in 1996.
I became interested in flavors and aromas at a young age
My father is Turkish, and my mother has Italian heritage, so I was exposed to a wide range of interesting flavors early in life.
Summers were spent in the South of France, close to Grasse – considered the fragrance industry capital – which drove my curiosity and appreciation of scent and aroma.
I joined ADM in 2012
In 2016, I was promoted to VP of global flavor creation and chief global flavorist, then started my current role last January.
As president of creation, design, and development and chief global flavorist, I manage a team of more than 600 people, including food scientists, food engineers, flavorists, color and extract scientists, and chefs.
Our team is focused on delivering solutions to customers, which may be a single ingredient or a complete product.
No day is the same. I think that’s why I love my job so much.
A typical day starts with calls to the team in Europe, meeting with my team and senior leadership, maybe a webcast, and a lot of tasting and smelling of flavors and products.
Additionally, I spend time as a practicing flavorist and work closely with customers, and some part of the day is spent driving those projects.
I think it’s important to keep honing my craft and be a role model to our scientists. So I’ll still wear my white lab coat.
In terms of my work lately, we’re heavily focused on our health and wellness platform, especially specialized nutrition, as well as the beverage category, which is our bread and butter. I love the work we’re doing in alcohol, which is another fun segment, offering the opportunity to be more adventurous.
It’s been rewarding to see how the products we’ve created are expanding across the globe
Plant-based meat especially has continued to evolve, and there’s a huge opportunity there globally.
There’s a lovely peach flavor I developed that performs well in seltzer. It’s complex and uses many natural extracts and oils and – it’s not often that I say my flavors are clever – but it really is a clever flavor.
I’m also very proud of our fish and seafood flavors, which are in demand in the alternative seafood space. We made a great shrimp flavor and white-fish flavor recently.
My favorite flavor of all time is black truffle
Certain savory flavors like truffle are very evocative. The aroma makes you salivate, and it conjures up sophistication. I also like the complexity of the flavor.
As far as application, it’s fun to put into oils and even something like a beverage, just a little trace, maybe combining it with something like a strawberry flavor. I’ve spent time in Italy and France during truffle season, so there may be a bit of a personal connection there for me, too.
We’re working a lot with coffee, tea, and energy drinks
The flavors associated with energy are becoming more complex.
Energy flavors encompass a variety of profiles, from rainbow sherbet to mango guava. Watermelon is also a flavor that continues to gain popularity due to its refreshing profile and ability to mask some of the bitter notes from the energy ingredients.
Lastly, citrus is a big focus for us. Orange has always been the biggest and most-loved flavor in beverages, but consumers are getting more adventurous and desiring more interesting profiles, and so there’s a focus on varietal oranges like blood orange and more unusual types of citrus – something like an Australian finger lime, for example.
As consumers become a little more adventurous, I think we’re going to see these interesting fruits in more mainstream products. If you think back, mango used to be a bit shocking 10 years ago. Now it’s mainstream.
I founded the Academy of Future Flavorists and am a faculty member there, so I spend time teaching and creating content
It’s a privilege to play a role in shaping someone’s career and evoking the passion of the flavor world. All our seasoned flavorists are asked to mentor and teach.
Many flavorists learn by modifying flavors because they have access to all these existing formulas. It’s really easy to work that way, but it isn’t going to drive innovation. What we want in ADM is a team that is capable of creating original formulas from scratch. Our flavorists develop their own unique style.
We’ve trained about 15 flavorists to date, and we’re also launching a new fast-track savory program in September that will run concurrently in Berlin and the US.
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Coffee subscriptions offer a unique luxury: never having to wake up, shuffle to the kitchen, and realize in horror that there’s no coffee in the house. For many of us, a morning caffeine boost is non-negotiable, and the peace of mind in knowing that you have a steady stream of coffee coming makes a coffee subscription worthwhile.
And, there’s really a coffee subscription for everyone. Maybe you like switching up what you’re drinking each time, or maybe you want someone to curate your brew for you. Maybe you want a subscription for cold brew; either bags to make your own, or simply a cold brew gallon delivered each month. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it in the outstanding offerings below.
I’ve been working in the specialty food world since 2015, eating, drinking, learning, teaching. For these rankings, I tasted through the available coffee subscriptions, both from roasters and otherwise. This is what I was looking for:
Flavor and quality of the beans: Tastes vary, but there are some objective flaws in coffee beans, such as beans tasting burnt. This was less about how much I liked each selection personally and more about how balanced the coffees were and whether they matched their flavor notes.
Ease of setup: Coffee should make our lives easier, as should subscription services. If a subscription was confusing to set up, or to understand when and what coffee was coming, that knocked off a few points. The best subscriptions also offered notes on preparing the coffees they sent.
Ease of customization: If you’re traveling, slowing down on caffeine, or simply don’t want to continue your subscription, that should not require three emails and a phone call. Subscriptions were prioritized that made it easy to pause or cancel a subscription. Extra points were also given to subscription services that allowed the subscriber to customize the beans they received based on flavor profile and preferred method of brewing.
The best coffee subscription overall
Trade’s coffee subscription service designed to turn coffee drinkers into coffee lovers.
Pros: Huge variety, easy to customize the coffee and shipping
Cons: All the choices could be overwhelming for some
We think Trade‘s subscription is the best of all worlds. Its mission is to “unite the nation’s top roasters directly with drinkers,” with more than 400 coffees available from roasters such as Joe, Atomic, and Broadstreet.
As you’re setting up your subscription, you tell Trade how you prefer to brew your coffee, how you take it, your ideal roast and flavor profile, and the company matches you with your ideal beans. You know exactly what’s coming, the roaster’s schedule for roasting, when your bag was roasted (probably within the past few days), and why you were matched with it.
It’s easy to adjust your delivery schedule, the exact beans you’re getting, and discover new favorites. Trade makes exploring coffee a fun, zero-headache adventure.
Driftaway is a tiny, sustainability-focused roaster, offering personalized coffee subscription boxes.
Pros: Easy to set up, lots of information about each origin
Cons: Just one roaster to choose from
The tricky thing with choosing a subscription gift is that it’s often hard to pinpoint the recipient’s preferences. For that reason, Driftaway makes an excellent gift. Every new subscriber gets a Coffee Explorer Kit, consisting of four 1-oz bags. Your recipient ranks each coffee, giving Driftaway insight into their preferences for future deliveries.
The gifter chooses between a one-year, six-month, or three-month subscription, delivering either every month or every two weeks (there are more options if you’re subscribing for yourself). The size of each delivery can be 8 ounces, 12 ounces, or 1 pound, and they can set up either a whole bean subscription, a ground subscription, a cold brew bag subscription, or a “Mystery Kit” where the names are hidden (don’t worry, they can find out what they’re drinking at the weekly virtual tastings).
The recipient also gets an account from which they can pause their shipment, change their address, or whatever else, and the bags even come with their name on it.
Blue Bottle is one of the largest specialty coffee roasters, offering consistency and flexibility.
Pros: Lots of coffee to choose from, seasonal blends
Cons: Just one roaster to choose from
If you’re a little wary of the idea of subscriptions, try Blue Bottle‘s. For one thing, it offers a way to try it at little cost — the first bag is free and you only pay the $5 shipping. You can try any of its three subscription offerings this way: the single-origin, blend, or espresso assortments.
Your subscription can be as little as a six-ounce bag, each of which is freshly roasted, and the brand offers lots of information on how each coffee should be prepared. It’s easy to pause or cancel your subscription if you choose not to move forward.
Pros: Explore coffees from around the world, lots of information about origins and brewing
Cons: Just one roaster to choose from
With Atlas‘s subscription, you’ll learn a lot about different regions, their typical coffee flavor profiles, and what makes each one special. Each month, you receive 6 to 24 ounces of freshly-roasted coffee, flavor notes, a postcard, and brewing tips.
As you’re setting up your subscription, you choose how much coffee you want per shipment, whether you want it every two or four weeks, your roast preferences, and whether you want it ground or not. It’s a great way for new, enthusiastic coffee drinkers to dip their toe into the specialty coffee world in an accessible, fun way. The website offers clear, illustrated guides on topics from “how to make coffee with a French press” to “how to make coffee without a coffee maker.”
Crema.co is community-focused subscription service offering 57 independent roasters from across the country.
Pros: Try a wide range of craft coffees, find coffee tailored to your preferences
Cons: Fewer roasters offered than some other services
Crema.co offers a lot of great features that overlap with some of our other picks: their first shipment to you is a Discovery Kit — where you figure out your preferences by tasting through a selection — and the subscription is easy to customize.
The initial quiz is a little more interactive, asking for specific tasting notes you like and letting you know your percentage match with each brew it’s recommending. But, two unique things about Crema.co are a) its focus on tiny independent roasters b) you can take the quiz to be matched with your perfect coffee and order it by the bag, rather than setting up a subscription.
It also has a personality-driven, informative newsletter and is proudly not on social media. If you like to feel like you’re supporting cool humans, rather than a corporation, Crema.co is a great choice.
The best coffee subscription for freshness
Devoción is 1 Brooklyn-based roaster who takes its beans from origin to roast in 10 days.
Pros: Some of the freshest coffee on the market, explore Colombian coffee terroir
Cons: Just one roaster to choose from, can only subscribe to one blend at once
If you’re committed to (or even a little obsessive about) your produce and meat being as fresh as possible, why should your coffee be any different? Brooklyn-based roaster Devoción works with Colombian growers, who harvest coffee year-round and claims “faster transport from origin to cup than any other purveyor,” which can be in as little as 10 days.
Devoción’s coffees are flavorful, balanced, and unlike anything else on the market, thanks to its unique supplier relationships. The subscriptions are to individual blends (you can take a quiz on your preferences to be matched to your ideal blend), unlike other roasters offering subscriptions with more variety, but the coffee is next-level enough that it’s worth considering.
The best coffee subscription for cold brew
La Colombe is one of the country’s best-known roasters, offering a wide range of products.
Pros: Always have pre-made cold brew in the fridge
Cons: Can only try one cold brew blend with that subscription
Thanks to its smooth flavor and higher caffeine content, cold brew is a staple for many coffee drinkers, especially in the summer. If keeping cold brew around is high on your priority list, consider the cold brew subscription from La Colombe.
A one-gallon box with a push-button spigot will be delivered every one, two, three, or four weeks and your subscription can be paused or canceled at any time. The airtight box has a shelf life of 30 days, so if you end up with a little extra as you’re figuring out your ideal timing, it should last until you get through it.
The La Colombe cold brew is made from dark-roasted Brazilian beans, known for their chocolatey, rich flavor.
The books cover the basics as well as how to master French pastries and temper chocolate.
It’s no secret baking is a science – only the right ingredients interact properly to create chewy cookies, flaky pie crust, and airy cakes. Pastry chefs work hard to get those measurements right, and many pass on their knowledge in beautiful cookbooks. But which ones belong on your bookcase?
I reached out to James Beard Award Winner Joanne Chang (owner of Flour Bakery and Myers + Chang in Boston) and “Chopped Sweets” Winner Amber Croom (owner of And 4 Dessert confectionary studio in Baltimore) to find out which cookbooks every beginner and expert home baker needs. Many of the picks are classics that have been around for years, with the best now in its second, revised edition.
For those who learn better by watching, I also combed through hours of videos to find the best YouTube channel for upgrading your baking skills, plus an online platform that brings some of the best pastry chefs’ classes right into your kitchen.
These baking cookbooks belong in any kitchen library, whether you’re looking to perfect your chocolate chip cookies, want to become an authority on French patisserie, or simply love a great homemade loaf of sourdough.
10 great expert-recommended baking books and online baking resources:
The original edition of the “Tartine” cookbook was published in 2006 and became an instant classic among pastry chefs, home bakers, and fans of the legendary San Francisco bakery. “It’s gorgeous, the pastries are both familiar and special, the recipes WORK,” says Chang. “It’s so inspiring to read and I love every page.” For the award-winning 2019 edition, Pruett and Robertson doubled the number of recipes with all-new photography, making this a must-have for any cookbook collection.
While new bakers may dream of macarons, it’s easier to start with simple American recipes and slowly learn the science behind your bakes. Those two reasons alone are why “BraveTart” is the perfect cookbook to start exploring in the kitchen. Parks not only incorporates great stories for each recipe; she composes each one in a way that professional chefs and home bakers can use, says Croom. “BraveTart is amazing — all of the pastries you grew up with as a kid, but made by a master baker,” adds Chang.
Jim Lahey turned the pastry world upside down with the publication “My Bread,” which proved bread machines and exhausting kneading techniques aren’t necessary. “He started a bread revolution with his way of baking bread and every loaf I’ve ever had from this book tastes just like it does in his bakeries Sullivan St Bakery,” says Chang. More than a decade later, its flawless recipes are still a must-have for anyone who wants to bake bread at home.
Every home baker has a story about a cake disaster since they are incredibly tricky to get right. Rose Levy Berenbaum’s classic “The Cake Bible” has taught a whole generation of bakers the mistakes to avoid, and everything else you need to know to turn out delicious cakes. “It has every single cake you can ever imagine and Rose is generous with her expertise and knowledge,” says Chang. “I’ve learned so much about cake baking just from reading and baking through this book.”
Chocolate makes gorgeous desserts that are a delight to eat, but it can be quite temperamental and frustrates even the most expert of pastry chefs. “Chocolate,” from the famous culinary school Ferrandi Paris, gives readers step-by-step instructions to master the medium. “It covers everything from utensils to tempering chocolate,” says Croom. “It’s like going to a chocolate academy without the price tag, but in book form.”
Mastering patisserie takes time, patience, and a lot of butter. Jacquy Pfeiffer, the founder of Chicago’s French Pastry School, created “The Art of French Pastry” as a comprehensive guide that helps readers with the fundamentals and gives easy-to-follow instructions. “You can tell from every recipe in the book that Chef Pfeiffer has years of teaching classic French pastries,” says Croom.
Erin Jeanne McDowell, whose work is regularly featured in “The New York Times,” Food 52, and on Food Network Kitchen, is one of America’s foremost experts on pies. In this pie cookbook, “she covers everything you could ever want to know about creating the perfect pie,” says Croom. That includes everything from making the flakiest crusts and picturesque decorations to mastering savory pies.
Baking with whole-grain flours can help home bakers create delicious desserts beyond the usual all-purpose flour. “Good to the Grain” features 75 recipes that cover a dozen different whole-grain flours, from buckwheat to teff. “You will learn so much about how different flours enhance both taste and texture of baked goods,” says Chang. Boyce does utilize white flour in her recipes, so this is good for those beginning to experiment with different flours.
Created by Chefs Sébastien Canonne and Jacquy Pfeiffer, The Butter Book is a portal to everything a burgeoning pastry expert needs. It houses more than 170 baking video lessons, articles, a glossary, and courses on bread making, classic pastries, and cake decorating. The platform is available for $25 a month, or $200 for a year.
The world of wine – with all its varietals, regions, tasting techniques, and pairing rules – can seem intimidating and difficult to navigate. Online wine clubs, however, aim to bring these barriers crashing down and make the process so easy you don’t even need to leave your house.
These monthly or quarterly subscriptions typically send you wines that fit your existing tastes while helping you expand your horizons and discover new favorites.
“No one is born with a great palate,” said Vanessa Price, a sommelier, wine writer for New York Magazine, and author of Big Macs & Burgundy: Wine Pairings for the Real World, “they develop it over time. The more you expand your experiences with different types of wine, the more evolved your palate will become.”
Since you might not have the time or energy to do all the work, a wine club can fast-track that evolution.
“Generally, wine clubs are great for those who want to be introduced to new things, but who may not be confident enough yet to select new things for themselves,” said David Hamburger, director of special events at Acker, the oldest wine shop in America. “A good wine club should be somewhat instructive, sharing with members enough information about each wine to provide background, but also allow members the flexibility to enjoy it their own way – with a recipe, or food pairing suggestions.” If you need extra guidance on how to taste or store your wine, head over to our FAQs here.
Safe and reliable shipping standards, subscription flexibility and customization, and unique, high-quality offerings are also important factors to keep in mind.
With every service below, our bottles arrived on time and securely packaged. Member experience was also great across the board. You can easily skip shipments or cancel your subscription directly from your online account.
Remember, an adult 21+ years old must be present to sign for the wine shipment.
The modern wine club model is nearly perfect in Winc‘s hands, from its large and on-trend bottle variety to its streamlined browsing and customer rating system.
Pros: Wines are all based on consumer interests and trends, easy-to-navigate interface, many varietals
Cons: Wine info and notes are only online, a la carte stock goes quickly
As a new member at Winc, you start by taking a quick quiz that asks about your tastes and preferences. Then you’re matched up with wines that align with your “Palate Profile,” and from there you can create your own cart of wine selections. In addition to the suggestions presented to you, you can browse by category. The shop features clear ratings from other members and easy-to-digest descriptions of each wine.
This design provides a good balance of guidance and personalization — you get suggestions but you also have the freedom to pick out other wines that catch your eye.
Winc works directly with vineyards and makes all the wines it sells, producing over 664 wines from 78 grape varieties and 97 regions across 12 different countries since launch. You may see some of these wines also sold at Whole Foods, Vons, and Kroger stores. Since Winc uses subscriber data and ratings to inform new wine production, the wine you see will line right up with emerging trends.
On the downside, this rapid production model means it can be hard to re-purchase some of your favorites, so it’s best not to get too attached to a particular bottle.
I’ve tried Winc a few times over the last couple of years and always found something I liked while further developing my tastes and preferences. It’s through Winc that I’ve grown to appreciate Chenin Blanc from South Africa and how I realized I’m not a fan of Touriga Nacional, a dry red wine popular in Portugal.
You can only see each wine’s tasting notes and descriptions online, which is a bit inconvenient as you try out your monthly shipment. However, the online-first system ultimately works in your favor because you’ll have your entire order history and personal notes all in one place to reference later.
Since the wines are based on your preferences, there aren’t any seasonal or holiday offerings.
You’ll never have to pay more than $15 a bottle at Firstleaf, where the quality and personalization are top-notch.
Pros: Flexibility to swap out pre-selected bottles in your order, attractive intro offer, good overall value
Cons: May take a few boxes/rounds of ratings for the system to understand more specific preferences
Like Winc, Firstleaf has you start out with a quiz so it can better understand your preferences. When you’re finished, it serves up six wines it thinks you’ll like, and you can read about each one and decide whether you want to make any swaps. However, you only have six swaps per shipment. So, Firstleaf is that nice “Goldilocks” service where you have a bit of control, but you’re still steered in the right direction.
To draw you in, Firstleaf has a very competitive introductory offer of $39.95 for six wines, including shipping. Afterward, the price goes up to $80, plus $9.95 shipping, but you’re still only paying $15 for each bottle, many of which are industry award winners.
After you’ve tried every wine in your monthly shipment, you can rate them online. This step is important because Firstleaf will use your ratings to become smarter and hone in on an even better curation for you next month. As your wine knowledge and tastes evolve, so too will the service.
I’ve had the chance to try Firstleaf a few times in the last couple of years, and it’s always been reliable. I appreciate that I don’t have to do quite so much work in picking out the bottles and that the main effort only comes afterward, once I’ve tried everything.
On top of the existing value of the service, there’s a strong referral program: if you share Firstleaf with a friend, they’ll get $40 and you’ll get $40.
Firstleaf has seasonal offerings, typically around the holidays, for wines that pair well with fall and winter foods.
Vinebox packages European wines in sleek and distinctive single-serving glasses so you can try nine different kinds without committing to whole bottles.
Pros: Good sampling size, memorable packaging, useful info cards
Cons: Can’t always find or buy the full bottle in the shop, sells out frequently
It’s easy to distinguish Vinebox from the pack: you get no less than nine wines, neatly packed into individual glass tubes and accompanied by a well-designed informational booklet, all stored in sturdy yet gift-worthy packaging.
Each quarter’s box is pre-curated so you can’t customize it to your tastes, but you’ll have plenty of fun sipping and sampling each wine. The best part is that you won’t feel bad opening and finishing a whole “bottle” because it’s only a single serving. Vinebox’s design is great for casual wine drinkers who hate commitment, plus it’s convenient and practical because you don’t even need a bottle opener or corkscrew to enjoy your drink.
If you do happen to fall in love with one of the samples, you can make use of the $15 credit given to you each quarter. This can be used towards a purchase of the full-sized version. You may also want to gift this unique and beautiful box to a friend whose wine preferences are eclectic or unclear — with so many varietals packed into every shipment, they’re bound to enjoy at least one.
The particular box I received featured all light and medium-bodied wines, which I just so happen to enjoy. But it would’ve been even better to see some full-bodied wines represented, for additional variety and range.
Vinebox has a popular seasonal offering that only comes around the holidays, an advent calendar called 12 Nights of Wine. The limited-quantity box costs $129 and contains 12 glasses of wine, and it usually sells out, so be on the lookout in the winter.
For natural, organic, and biodynamic wines, you can rely on Plonk to take care of the expert vetting, thoughtful curation, and spot-on food pairing recommendations.
Pros: Only natural wine offerings, pre-curated, easy to skip shipments or cancel your subscription
Cons: Pricey, cannot be personalized
Plonk, which is British derogatory slang for cheap, low-quality wine, provides wines that are anything but. The online club focuses exclusively on natural wines that are grown with organic, biodynamic, and sustainable vineyard practices, meaning they don’t contain pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or commercial additives (like colorants or artificial sugars). There’s also an impressive selection of sulfite-free and unfiltered bottles.
If you’re interested in the specific distinctions among the terms “natural,” “organic,” and “biodynamic,” founder Etty Klein breaks them down here.
Plonk prides itself on selecting and importing wines from small, boutique winemakers and lesser-known wine regions, flouting big industry names to give you a carefully vetted selection. While other online wine subscriptions may offer natural and sustainable options, few can boast both the convenience and range of Plonk’s one-stop natural shop.
When you sign up, you have your choice of an all-red, all-white, or mixed variety box, with either four, six, or 12 bottles per shipment. What the included informational printout lacks in glitzy presentation, at least compared to other services, it makes up for in precise tasting notes and ultra-specific food pairings courtesy of Food52. For example, one of my favorite Plonk discoveries, a 2019 Pinot Noir from Margaret River, Western Australia, should be enjoyed with stuffed peppers with lamb, orzo, and halloumi cheese.
Plonk has seasonal offerings throughout the year, including a Thanksgiving bundle and a sparkling wine sampler around the holidays.
The best subscription for sparkling wine
If you like celebrating with a bubbly drink, Mumm Napa has more than enough variety with its quarterly wine club. It uses French techniques to make its delicious wines and offers discounts, exclusive events, and free tastings for its members.
Pros: Great variety and high-quality production of sparkling wine, informative booklet included, many membership perks
Cons: Total annual price is expensive, may not be suitable if you’re seeking sparkling wines made from different producers
Mumm Napa has roots that go back to the 1800s with the French Champagne house G. H. Mumm & Cie. The parent company of Mumm Napa, Mumm is one of the largest producers of Champagne globally. Its Napa Valley vineyard continues to use traditional Champagne-making techniques to make its sparkling wines, the best of which are showcased in the Club Vivant subscriptions.
The Collector’s Edition club ships quarterly and costs $200-$275 per shipment, depending on the bottle variety. It contains six full-sized bottles per shipment, including the winery’s signature DVX annual release wine and limited production wines. You’ll also get a detailed pamphlet of notes for each wine.
I loved the sparkling Pinot Noir and the Brut Reserve, and the pairing suggestions (like truffle popcorn with the Brut Reserve) were helpful and spot-on. I also appreciated the general variety that the club provided, from the sparkling rosé to the sparkling chardonnay. I have more experience with still wines, but Mumm Napa’s carefully produced assortment showed me that sparkling can be just as diverse and fun. It also gave me an excuse to celebrate exciting moments in my life, no matter how big or small.
In addition to the actual wines, there are perks like 20% off Mumm Napa sparkling and still wines, 20% off gift shop purchases, and 30% off club selection re-orders. You’ll also get access to exclusive wines and invitations to virtual events. The membership is even more worth it if you live close to Napa — once a month, you can enjoy a complimentary select tasting for up to four people (note: this may be temporarily unavailable due to restrictions from the novel coronavirus pandemic).
The best subscription curation
Parcelle Wine Drop combines a truly unique selection of bottles with an informative yet unpretentious wine education from Michelin-starred sommeliers.
Pros: Pre-curated, unique variety, beautiful info cards, impressive expertise
Cons: Not personalized, could buy the bottles individually for less
I love Parcelle’s Wine Drop because it has the feel of a cool and exclusive local club but it ships nationwide. Parcelle is based in New York City and enlists the curation and expertise of Michelin-starred sommeliers like the former wine directors of Eleven Madison Park and Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare.
The experience indeed feels like you’re asking for wine recs at a restaurant. It’s arguably even better because your three wines also come with beautifully illustrated info cards and a copy of Parcelle Press, a mini journal that is, again, visually stunning.
Founder Grant Reynolds told Insider Reviews, “The Wine Drop is our shortlist of our favorite wines to have around the house at that time of year. Nothing too fancy but always smart, a bit different, and from small producers focusing on making wines unique to the place they are from.”
If you prefer more customization, you’ll probably enjoy one of our other picks more, but if you want to leave it up to the pros, try Wine Drop. All three wines I received were hits, and they helped me realize a new love for orange wine.
Depending on the wine, the total cost of the individual bottles could come out to less than $95. The Wine Drop I received in September 2020, for example, was $85. In other months, the total may be more. While fluctuating prices may be a dealbreaker for some, I found Wine Drop’s tight curation and immersive experience to be compelling enough reasons to continue my subscription.
Each month’s Wine Drop has a different theme so the selection is curated and intentional. For example, April 2021’s trio is a precursor to summer rosé season.
What else we tested
What else we recommend and why
Picked by Wine.com: Long a reliable place to shop a huge variety of wines, Wine.com now has its own personalized club for the people who get instantly overwhelmed when they land on the site. I was impressed with the level of personal care by this service — my assigned sommelier personally reached out to me explaining why he couldn’t include any sweet reds in my shipment and suggested how I could update my account for a better experience. My conversations with him were friendly and informational, making me feel comfortable enough to ask questions. Since the Picked program is fairly new, you might not get the variety you want, as I experienced, but the level of care and personalization alone makes it worth a try.
Eater Wine Club: We always look to Eater to find local restaurants and bar recs, and now it’s making use of its expertise and community connections to curate a monthly wine club. The new club, which launched in late 2020 and sends you four bottles of wine every month, has already featured cool, memorable themes like Greek wines and celebration-worthy wines that aren’t Champagne. I loved that the roster of monthly curators and wine experts hailed from all over the country so that even in the midst of a pandemic, it felt like I was traveling to and exploring a new food and wine scene. As a member, you’ll also be invited to a virtual tasting with each month’s curator and receive an exclusive newsletter.
SommSelect: An impressive roster of sommeliers picks out the wines in this Sonoma-based club. I’ve been trying The Explore 4, which is built around a monthly theme. The first box I received contained wines from all over the world: Swartland (South Africa), Northern Piedmont (Italy), Southern Rhône Valley (France), and the Finger Lakes (New York). The accompanying booklet was among the best produced and most helpful of all the clubs I’ve tried so far, filled with useful information about each wine and a glossary that instantly deepened my wine knowledge.
What we do not recommend and why
Usual Wines: Usual Wines’ single-serving beaker bottles are certainly eye-catching and memorable. However, the company only offers its subscriptions in red, rosé, and brut, and these wines don’t change month-to-month. On the plus side, its wines contain no added sugars or sulfites, and the grapes come from sustainable farms. If you’re looking for a straightforward subscription you don’t really have to think about, Usual Wines is a good candidate. Otherwise, our picks above provide better opportunities for education and discovery.
Acker Wines: Acker has wine clubs for a variety of budgets and levels of enthusiasm, from the $89/month Access Club to the $999/month JK Club for fine and rare wines. Acker’s Access Club seems promising for wine amateurs, but it’s geographically limited to New York City residents. The next club level up jumps to $299/quarter for three bottles, which may be inaccessible for many shoppers.
Elicit Wine Project: Elicit Wine Project helps incubate and launch cool, innovative wine brands, so if you’re tired of seeing the same stuffy labels, you’ll like shopping here and putting together your own subscription box. The downside is that there aren’t many varietals to choose from right now. Perhaps as the service grows, we’ll see a better variety.
What we’re testing next
The Grand Tour: This club by online and brick-and-mortar shop Verve Wine takes a geographic approach to wine discovery by highlighting four bottles (usually two red and two white) from a different region each month. Why does the region matter? Well, soil, climate, and topography all affect the winemaking process and the final product.
The Sip: This Black-owned bi-monthly subscription service focuses exclusively on sparkling wines for all your bubbly needs. In addition to three flights of luxury sparkling wine, you’ll get priority access to new wine releases. It’s the perfect wine club for people who are always looking for an excuse to celebrate.
Primal Wine Club: Another natural wine club that looks promising is Primal, which offers red, white, and mixed wine clubs as well as education about the oft-confusing world of natural, biodynamic, and organic wines. The price per bottle is on par with Plonk’s, so the points of differentiation we’ll be looking for are curation, variety, and reliability of delivery.
Wine how-tos and FAQs
How to store wine
Do: Lay the bottle on its side in a cool dark place, preferably in a cabinet lower to the floor.
Don’t: Stand it up on the counter or leave it in direct sunlight.
Do: Store your opened bottle in a wine fridge so it can keep a little longer.
Don’t: Store wine in a regular refrigerator. “The same qualities that keep your food fresh will not have the same effect on your wine,” says Price. See our guide to the best wine coolers and fridges.
How to taste wine
Go slow and use the right techniques. “Tasting wine to learn something about it is different from just knocking a glass back casually with friends,” said Price. “Take the time to think about what you are tasting. Make sure you stick your nose in the glass and really smell the wine. When you drink it, coat your entire palate. After you swallow, think about how long the flavors and textures linger in your mouth.”
The sommelier and wine writer also recommended starting a tasting group with your friends or family. “Pick a theme and have everyone bring a bottle within that theme. For example, if you want to understand Syrah, the line-up should include a Northern Rhône (FR), Barossa Valley (AU), Stellenbosch (ZA), Paso Robles (US), and Tuscany (IT) bottling amongst others. Each person should bring their bottle wrapped so you can’t see the label (don’t forget to take the neck foil off, that one is an easy giveaway!), and put the wines out for everyone to taste and guess which wine is which. It’s helpful to write your tasting notes down so you see how you progress over time. The entertainment value goes up even more when afterward you discuss your impressions as a group, enjoying the wines you brought with friends.”
How to choose the perfect wine for a gift
Make it personal. “The best way to gift a bottle of wine is to know a little piece about the recipient. Whether it’s a birth year or wedding vintage, a favorite place, or just their personal taste, those small things will make a gifted bottle of wine far more special,” says Hamburger.
What’s the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine?
All Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Champagne refers specifically to sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France. Because of this geographic distinction, that means there are only certain grapes — like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir — that can be used to make Champagne.
“This new offering leans into our steadfast commitment to consistently deliver flavor excitement and variety of choice to DEW Nation – and we are thrilled to be able to do just that with Walmart,” said Vice President Marketing at Mountain Dew Nicole Portwood in the statement.
The PepsiCo-owned brand first launched the regular Mountain Dew Forst Bite in 2020.
Comfort food such as soda, pizza, chips and other snacks, were in demand during the pandemic lockdown. Last month, Pepsi said that it is expecting revenue to increase in 2021. The company’s net revenue increased 8.8% to $22.46 billion in the fourth quarter ending December 26.
Earlier this year, the company revealed a watermelon-flavored drink called Mountain Dew Major Melon that also came as a zero-sugar beverage. The new drink was Mountain Dew’s first permanent flavor offered in over a decade, according to the company.
In 2020, Mountain Dew launched a margarita flavored drink that was added to Red Lobster’s menu as the DEW Garita. The drink which received mixed reactions was the company’s first official cocktail, Insider previously reported.
Pepsi is also rolling out Pepsi Mango on Monday, March 22, its new permanent soda flavor. The beverage comes as a regular and a zero-sugar drink, the company announced on Thursday.
Thinking about gifting someone special an engraved bottle of Perrier Jouet Grand Brut? Well, why not toss in a pair of Waterford crystal Champagne flutes? A bottle of Jefferson’s Reserve small-batch bourbon? Why not get it engraved? Of course, no one is going to shame you for treating yourself, but that doesn’t mean you should forego the fancy glasses, bottle holders, and other add-ons.
What is ReserveBar?
ReserveBar can be a wonderful website for finding just the right top-shelf bottle or special gift, especially when it comes to Champagne, wine, liquor, custom engraving, barware bundles, and more.
Occasionally, you’ll find great promotions, either on shipping or credit when you buy a certain number of bottles at once. At the time of this update, you can get a $25 gift code if you spend $150 or more with the code “MARCH25“.
What to buy elsewhere
We generally won’t look to ReserveBar when restocking the bottom and middle shelves of our liquor cabinet or getting regular old beer or wine.
For example, a fifth of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey from ReserveBar is $34. That’s not a deal when Drizly’s price is around $25 (price varies depending on your location). It pays to shop for run-of-the-mill brands offered for less elsewhere, and the easiest option may be your local purveyor.
I went through the checkout process for a fifth of Tito’s Handmade Vodka at Wine.com (about $20) and Drizly (about $22) only to find the same bottle for $39 at ReserveBar. The above prices are all without taking into account sites’ shipping and handling charges, as well as taxes (which obviously vary from state to state).
So long as your local retailer isn’t marking up its prices too badly, you probably won’t pay much more than $30 for that same delivery from them, not to mention that it’ll likely arrive within the hour. Support your local retailers when and where you can, but also when and where it makes financial sense for you.
How to shop ReserveBar
Before you start shopping, select which state you’d like to have your order shipped to in the top right section of the screen, just below “Customer Service” and to the left of “Corp Gifts.”
Then – and this might be our favorite part about ReserveBar – you can shop by category and subcategory based on everything from vintage to gift sets, limited offerings, and quality. This type of curation is smart and helpful; for example, under Scotch, the drop-down tab lets you choose between “luxury,” “single malt,” and “blended.”
Before you order anything, scour the website and check the retailer’s Facebook page, which often posts deals you might not otherwise find.
We ordered from ReserveBar using a gift code on April 15 in the afternoon, and our box arrived on April 21 at midday, through economy or ground shipping. Everything was safe and sound thanks to empty cardboard inserts and bubble-wrap. I went for a couple of gift sets for upcoming occasions as well as one just for me: a bottle of Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blanc 2007, a bottle of Goslings Family Reserve Old Rum with a pair of Dartington glasses, and a bottle of Remy Martin XO, also with a pair of Remy Martin glasses. Prices were comparable elsewhere, and while some items were a few dollars more on ReserveBar, I felt it was worth it when my purchases arrived so elegantly packaged.
It’s important to know that some wines and spirits can’t be shipped to certain states – on the right side of every product page, you’ll find a list of places that a particular bottle can be shipped to. As with any alcohol delivery service, ReserveBar requires someone 21 or older to be present with a valid ID to accept the order.
Currently, you can get a $25 gift code if you spend $150 or more with the code “MARCH25“.
The bottom line
ReserveBar is the place to go when you want to give a personalized present, or something a little more special than a generic bottle of scotch or Bourdeaux with a nylon bow on it. It’s where you turn for custom engravings, fancy crystal and barware sets, gift baskets full of top-shelf liquors and luxury snacks, and so on. ReserveBar is not geared toward facilitating regular orders, and while you will find a selection of middle- and lower-shelf brands, it will do you well to compare prices before completing your purchase.
Restaurants nationwide spent significantly less on food and other supplies last year as the coronavirus pandemic forced many eateries to temporarily shut down and host fewer in-store customers, new data shows.
Around 40,000 restaurants nationwide spent 24.5% less on food and other items per quarter in 2020 than than they did prior to the pandemic, according to a report by Buyers Edge Platform, a digital procurement network for foodservice that tracked and analyzed restaurant purchases.
Restaurants spent $2,700 each week purchasing food and products from their suppliers during the start of the pandemic last spring, down from $5,220 per week in the months prior.
Spending on food and supplies was at its lowest level during the week ending March 22, falling 67.5%, as stay-home orders were enacted and restaurants temporarily closed to in-person dining, leading to mass layoffs. By the end of 2020, there had been a rebound, with restaurants spending $4,531 per week on food orders and other items.
Spending levels had dropped to around 30% by the start of 2021, as COVID-19 cases surged across the country.
“The real challenge for operators was the uncertainty of managing labor and operating expenses,” said John Davie, CEO of Buyers Edge Platform in the report.
The report also analyzed the purchasing habits of 5,000 restaurants in ten states experiencing the highest drops in spending levels, including independent restaurants and large chains.
Buyers Edge Platform said the steepest declines were in Nevada and Hawaii, two states whose economies heavily rely on hospitality. Average weekly food orders during the pandemic dropped 65.1% in Nevada and around 59% in Hawaii.
Order levels also fell in Washington by around 41%, Vermont by 40.1%, Connecticut by 35.8%, and Colorado by 33.8%, Arizona by 32.5%, Illinois by 31.8%, New Hampshire by around 31%, and Alaska by 30.3%.
Restaurants’ spending levels dropped due to the in-door dining restrictions and job losses across the foodservice industry during the pandemic, according to the digital procurement network. Chain restaurants combined have permanently closed more than 1,500 locations since the pandemic began.
Buyers Edge Platform said that the numbers slowly improved and orders were slightly exceeding pre-pandemic levels as dining restrictions loosened last year, but those levels dropped again as restrictions went back into place.
Restaurants in Wisconsin, Wyoming, and South Carolina ordered more food, however. The average weekly restaurant orders during the pandemic were 1.8% higher in Wisconsin, 4.2% in Wyoming, and 7% higher in South Carolina compared with pre-pandemic levels.
Restaurants were stranded with a stock of food in their refrigerators in March that they were unable to profit from as bills piled up, according to Davie. Some restaurants kept their staff on payroll for longer than they needed because owners found it difficult to navigate the Payroll Protection Program, part of a federal relief package for business owners.
Restaurant operators also changed their buying habits as they focused on obtaining certain products during the pandemic. Orders for frozen dessert products increased 145%, but orders for hotel products fell 69% and slumped 57% for fresh fish and frozen crab meat orders. Pen orders also declined by 67% as in-person dining that involved in-person check-signing decreased.
The demand for carryout boxes and bags increased during the pandemic, according to the analysis, as consumers were heavily relying on takeout and food delivery.
During the period between February and December of 2020, Restaurants’ orders of disposable bags soared 115%, while orders for disposable boxes increased 114% and disposable lid orders spiked 96%.
Additionally, orders for health and food safety products increased by 81% during the same period.
In December, a new rule was rolled out that allows restaurants to pull tips from their waitstaff to pay cooks and other employees. The 148-page regulation published by the Department of Labor is expanding on employers’ ability to pool tips and share them among employees who usually receive them.