Choosing a wine club that can work for you
Online wine clubs offer a big assist when it comes to stocking up on a range of exciting wines. You can branch out from what you might be familiar with, or get bottles from vineyards that could be hard to find at your local shop. Getting a bargain from bulk buying is an added bonus. But picking a wine club—like selecting a bottle to go with dinner or to pop open at a party—involves a little thought and an understanding of one’s tastes and palate predilections.
Some of us are good at shopping, at venturing into the marketplace and finding what we want. Others can find the prospect daunting: the hubbub of commerce, the expertise, the confrontations with the limitations of our own knowledge, the quiet fear of being duped. Wine clubs allow consumers the luxury of letting experts do some of the work for us.
Finding your jam
If you enjoy curated playlists on streaming music services—isn’t it nice to have recommendations from Barack Obama?—then you can think of a wine club as something similar. And, given the fact that many of us are still scaling back some of our closed-space retail outings in the face of ongoing concerns about COVID-19, this is another way to reduce exposure.
The question is which wine club will fit your needs. Some clubs are devoted to the wines of particular states, countries, varietals and regions. If all you want is Cabernet, there’s a club for that.
Wine clubs can be as collaborative or as hands-off as you wish, depending whether you want to keep honing your tastes and reporting back to the club with your evolving palate sensibilities or simply forget about it, knowing that someone else is making wise wine decisions on your behalf. Some clubs begin with a series of questions about what food and drink you like, extrapolating some tendencies that might apply to wine. Are you a strong coffee person, or a green tea drinker? Do you prefer smoky barbecue or light-baked fish? If you’re crazy about organic and natural wines, sommelier-led clubs can help you delve deeper into that world.
What are you in the mood for?
One of the first players in the wine-club game is the Wine of the Month Club, which started in the 1970s and prides itself on screening the wines, providing reading material and lots of information about the wines they send out to members each month. The club features wines from all over the world. The fee is never more than $24.96 a month for two bottles (plus shipping and handling, which varies depending on the state).
Say you’ve become interested in natural wines. Natural Wine Company, which specializes in small-operation vineyards, might be a good fit. You can choose from having six or 12 bottles delivered per month, and you can opt for all reds, all whites, or a mix. The six-bottle level costs $200 a month, while the twelve-bottle tier is $400 a month. Learn about lesser-known varietals and artisanal techniques through this club.
If you’re more of the data-driven type and you don’t have a ton of opinions about Pouilly-Fume, a service like Bright Cellars might be the right approach. The service will ask you about what types of chocolate, tea, cocktails and fruit juices you like. From there, a number-crunching algorithm will extrapolate flavor preferences and extend them into the world of wine. You’ll get four bottles of wine a month, based on your quiz, and then you’ll be asked to rate them. Your responses will shape the bottles you will receive in the future. The four-bottle monthly fee, with shipping and tax, comes to about $95.
Where do you want to go today?
If your tastes in wine tend to be more geographically focused, there are clubs out there that zero in on a country or region, offering a selection from your go-to zone each month. For instance, Cúrate is a club that specializes in Spanish wines. And if you’ve ever been to Spain or spent much time poking around the Spanish section of your local wine shop, you know that you could devote decades to fully exploring the depth and subtlety of the wines of Spain. Cúrate will send a monthly shipment of three bottles of Spanish wines; the fee will range between $80 and $100 per month (including shipping), based on the wines and applicable taxes. There are wine clubs devoted to the wines of other countries, too. South African Wine Club, for instance, focuses on the wines of South Africa, while Vida touts the wines of Argentina.
If casting your net over the whole world, or even over a single country, is too wide of a sample for you, many individual wineries offer subscriptions where consumers can get first dibs on limited-edition bottles, new releases and other offers. These vineyard-based clubs are usually quarterly deliveries. Oregon’s Adelsheim Vineyard offers something along those lines, with other benefits including access to tasting events and more.
It’s worth remembering that wine clubs didn’t invent the wheel here. They do something that many local wine shops have been doing all along: listening to customers and helping the consumer find wines that are a good match for their taste buds and pocketbook. And in the spirit of staying independent and local, many small neighborhood wine shops offer something similar. Wine shops around the country offer similar deals, with different areas of expertise.
- Wine of the Month Club
- Natural Wine Company
- Bright Cellars
- Cúrate Spanish Wine Club
- South African Wine Club
- Vida Wines Wine Club
- Club Adelsheim
- Sonoma Wine Shop