A good wine club can be almost as valuable as a close relationship with your local wine shop—perhaps even more so. The best online wine clubs not only put serious effort into collecting the most appealing wines, they also prepare extensive guides and educational resources and provide top-notch customer service, even allowing you to return the bottles you didn’t enjoy.
If you’re thinking of joining a wine club this year, this guide will help you choose the right club that will fit your palate and pocketbook
Over the past few years, the once stuffy and pretentious American wine industry has flipped, welcoming in a new and younger generation of relaxed wine professionals who aren’t afraid to sip juice the color of oranges. The shift in wine culture toward a more casual, consumer-friendly approach has materialized in myraid of styles, from hip new wine bars, to retailers focused on esotoeric, small production wines, to restaurants pushing unorthodox varietals from up and coming regions.
Value, novelty, and approachability are the industry’s new watchwords. Where once there was Robert Parker, there is now a proliferation of bloggers. Sites dedicated to “demystifying” wine have sprung up across the internet, and yet, when it comes to buying wine online, we’re still very much in the dark ages.
Wine Awesomeness is the disrupter in the wine club space.CEO Lee staunchly believes that technology and the free market will win the day, and higher consumer standards will eventually force the industry’s hand.
“We genuinely care about finding the coolest stuff and going out of our way to tell our members why it’s so interesting but at the same time we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously.”
Price:Three bottles of all red, all white, or a variety for $45 a month. A six-pack for $75.
Packaging: Custom Wine Awesomeness branded box with a handle for easy transport. Every shipment comes with a WA-branded mini glossy magazine.
Wine Quality: Pleasant to somewhat obscure from major wine regions.
Overall: Casual feel with entry to mid quality wines.
When it first launched, and for the first 18 months it existed, Club W sourced its bottles from third-party wineries and retailers. In April of 2014, Club W opened the doors of their Central Coast winery where they currently produce 200,000 cases of 100 to 150 different wines a year.
“We spoke to a lot of sommeliers to understand how to speak to people who don’t ‘speak wine’ and make inferences,” said Oxman.”Our predicted recommendations are better as we collect more data [and] consistent feedback tells us what’s working and what’s not.” This model allows Club W to quickly adapt to trends and rapidly change the direction of their wine production based on customer feedback.
Price: At $13/bottle, Club W sends a monthly box of three wines for $39 + $6 shipping. Shipping fees are waived for those who order six or more bottles.
Packaging: Elegant branded boxes with a handle for easy toting. Package contains personal palate profile results said about the wines and a food pairing for each wine included.
Wine Quality: Good variety from major U.S. wine regions to notable overseas regions including Provence.
Overall: Great club to start with, good variety and great way to build your palate.
Bright Cellars doesn’t currently have a sommelier or wine industry professional on staff and instead relies on its team to taste through hundreds of wines every month. They also rely on their customers feedback and tastes to decide which wines to carry.
“Many consumers are moving up from Barefoot and Yellow Tail and are already familiar with e-commerce sites like Birchbox,”
According to Yau, in the company’s first year, Bright Cellars collected 10,000 wine reviews from users. They used that information to focus on smaller producers, less well-known regions, and value when selecting wines, and use a network of third-party wineries and retailers to fulfill orders
Price: Four bottles for $60 + $8 shipping.
Packaging:Plain packaging with club logo. Bottles wrapped in tissue.
Wine Quality:After a quiz you get matched up with wines..make sure you finish the quiz, otherwise you will have to take the quiz again. Good starter wines from regions like Argentina, and California.
Overall: Good place to start for beginning wine drinkers to educate your palate. You may outgrow the club and need to look elsewhere, or remain a club member and offer these wines to your friends at parties.
Sommelier Ashley Ragovin made a name for herself during stints at some of Los Angeles’ top restaurants, including Mozza, Trois Mec, and Animal. Her next project, Pour This, combines a flash sales model with a monthly subscription service that’s a little spendier than her competition, but includes some great bottles you won’t find just anywhere.
“As a somm I’ve followed these producers for years and for a lot of them, I’ve spent a lot of time seeing what their practices are about,” said Ragovin. “Some of it is off the beaten path, but I’m not trying to push orange wine or crazy stuff. I want people to to know that you don’t have to be spending big trophy bottle money, but you also don’t have to buy subpar grocery wine.”
“The biggest success for me,” said Ragovin, “is getting people to try something they’ve never heard of and love it.”
Price: Three bottles a month for $98; $140 for a “Custom Pour” that includes premium wines and a concierge service to customize bottles for occasion or taste preference.
Packaging: Each wine is wrapped in tissue and the box is branded along with a handle for easy transport to your favorite wine get destination
Wine Quality: Some wines are from more obscure regions including French regions like the Languedoc and Corbières. A white Burgundy from Domaine Cheveau and a Provençal rosé are just some of the wines you may receive.
Overall: If you want more interesting wine selections, then this club may be for you, although you will have to pay for the quality.
Even More Wine Clubs…
President and founder Kris Calef focuses on wine “as a global product,” strenuously vetting each selection using a two-tiered system. Ranging from $34.95 to $69.95 plus shipping, memberships include two bottles of unique, high-quality wines; members specify either whites, reds, or one of each.
CEO David Chesterfield, a professional wine judge, focuses on small-production, family-owned wineries whose wines aren’t usually available in the retail marketplace. Plans include monthly and quarterly options, and range in price from $37 (basic) to $179 per month for the Diamond Series featuring 93+ point wines.
In operation since 1972, this wine club specializes in tasty wines of great value. Selections are made by Owner Paul Kalemkiarian, who samples roughly 250 wines a month..
“All of the wines we sell are available somewhere other than just on our site; it’s my job to find wines of quality and value and send them to members. And, you never pay for a wine you don’t like in our club.”
Try the Classic Series if you are just beginning or the Limited Series for those with a more educated palate. Membership is free, cancel anytime and shipments come with a comprehensive newsletter detailing the story of the wine as well as tasting notes.
This club is on the more adventurous side with their ” let’s explore” approach. You will receive varietals from diverse regions like a Malbec from France’s Cahors and a Spatburgunder Rosé Trocken (dry Pinot Noir rose) from Pfalz Germany….not something you would find at your local market.
“If you love a wine adventure, then this is the club for you.”
Memberships (3, 6, 12 months) are prepaid and non-refundable, although there is a 100% money back guarantee on any wines that don’t pair well with your palate.
The uniqueness to this club is that they can receive sample size wines to better help determine what their palate actually prefers.
“For $9.99 you get a shipment of six miniature bottles to taste side-by-side. The intent is to help you ascertain your preferences in wine. For serious, knowledgeable wine drinkers this is a moot exercise, but it’s good fun if you are just getting into wine.”
Shipments are quarterly, and one case is $149, plus $19.99 for shipping.
Source: An Updated Guide To The Best Wine Clubs By: Katie Bell https://twitter.com/katiebell3 @katiebell3