Should I Join a Wine Club?



By John ~ October 15th, 2010.

Wine clubs are very popular among newbie and seasoned wine lovers alike. It’s easy to understand why. You visit a tasting room, like the ambiance, like the wines, and like the friendly tasting room host. So when he or she offers you a way to get 20% off of your wine purchases, you jump at the chance. After this happens five or six times at different wineries, you start becoming a regular on your UPS man’s route as the wine deliveries start coming in and the credit card charges mount. Only then do you begin to think. Do I really like ABC Winery’s wines that much? Should I have acted a little slower? Fortunately, most wineries allow you to drop your club membership anytime you wish.

Probably a better approach would be to taste at least several vintages of a winery’s entire lineup before signing up for their wine club, because while you may have really liked their Cab, they may be sending you their Syrah and Riesling in the first shipment, their Merlot and Chardonnay in the next shipment, and so on. Once you have done your due diligence, or have let someone like us at Wine Peeps whose palate you trust do your due diligence for you, a wine club membership can be a great experience.

Adopting your favorite winery by joining its wine club and following its vintages year after year is a great way to learn and feel like part of their family. When you join your favorite winery’s wine club, you not only get a first taste of their latest vintages that they send you automatically three or four times a year, but you typically also receive discounts on additional purchases, free winery tours, and invitations to special events. In many clubs, you can also specify whether you want all red wines, all white wines, or some of each. Of course, you will only be able to take advantage of some of those perks if you live relatively close to the winery or a satellite tasting room.

Today, it seems like everyone is in the wine club business, whether they are a winery or not. Even the Wall Street Journal and USA Today have wine clubs. These non-winery wine clubs typically advertise that they have special access to uniquely good wines of a particular type, either new wines not in general distribution, a variety of wines from around the world, famous waiting-list wines, and/or premium wines from a particular region. The wines are selected by the club operators and sent to you automatically every month or every other month.

While I’m sure that some wine lovers have found great new wines this way, I don’t believe it’s a very efficient way to find new favorites. You’re at the mercy of a club operator, who may have a financial rather than a fiduciary interest in the wines you receive.

We personally prefer the wine clubs of wineries whose wines we already know, those that have performed well in our own blind tastings, and whose new releases we want to access as soon as possible.

What are your thoughts/experiences with wine clubs?


Filed under: General Wine Information

Reader's Comments

  1. Brian White | October 15th, 2010 at 7:19 am

    I’ve been there when I was a wine newbie! I was in 6 wine clubs and 4 wineries that allowed me to buy at certain times (like Quilceda Creek).

    Now I am down to just one wine club and 2 wineries I buy from when they have an offering.

    Why…well I prefer to do just like John mentioned, in finding wine I like before I commit to a wine club. All to often I would get wines that were just OK and not what I really wanted!

    I also have a shipping reason to drop out of clubs as well. Why? Mainly because some of the bigger winery club use “fulfillment/packaging” companies and don’t have a lot of control over when wine is shipped. Well I live in Houston, TX and if wine is shipped via ground transport here in the summer you end up with a shipment of “cooked” expensive wine!

    Wine clubs are a good thing, but be selective and if you can choose the wines you want, that seems to work best for me!

  2. John | October 15th, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Thanks for weighing in, Brian. You make some excellent points.

  3. Matthew | October 15th, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Living 10 minutes from Woodinville I prefer to run my own wine club! Instead of waiting for a shipment of wine to arrive every few months, my wife and I will head out to Woodinville and do some wine tasting. Then we, ummm, buy the wine we actually like. Crazy, I know. :)

    It is extremely rare that we buy the whole range of wine from a given winery, or even all their red, or whites. Most of the time we’ll find one or maybe two wines we actually like and buy a bottle of those. That will refund our tasting fee and we end up with wine for the cellar, plus a fun afternoon out at the wineries.

    In addition, I like buying from the wineries direct because it’s a better margin for them. Instead of taking a massive cut to sell to the distributor, they sell for MSRP (or a small discount) direct to the consumer. They also seem to like the direct feedback from the customers.

  4. rob newsom | October 15th, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Ha ha! I dislike wine clubs so much that I will not even run one at my own winery!!
    Rob Newsom

  5. John | October 15th, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Matthew,
    Thanks for your comments. Your strategy is great IF you live only 10 minutes from a wine center like Woodinville. It’s a little harder for most of the rest of us.

    Rob,
    Interesting comment. We’ll have to talk about that some day.

  6. Matthew | October 15th, 2010 at 10:05 am

    John,

    Most people in the Seattle metropolitan area are 20-30 minutes from Woodinville. That’s a lot of wine consumers. People will spend the same amount of time looking for parking at the U-Village shopping center, so I’m not sure a trip to Woodinville is too much of a big deal. :)

    I think the bigger problem with visiting wineries is the perceived snobbery. I have friends that have never been that think it’s all fancy and high class, probably because the higher end wineries have tried to inject too much luxury into the process in order to extract a higher margin. Stick to the more “basic” wineries in the industrial parks and you’ll find the best value for money, relaxed down to earth people, and a fun time!

    Anyway, I’m way off topic now…

  7. Joe M. | October 15th, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    My preference is to be a member at one good local wine club where you love the wines and love the location and one online wine club where you know the owners of the wine club are tasting many different wines to find the best ones for you to discover.

    We actually started http://wineclubzone.com because we found there really weren’t any reviews about wine clubs online. We want to make the process a little easier for everyone.

  8. John | October 15th, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Matthew,
    Thanks for your followup comment.

    Joe M,
    Good point about being a member of one close-by club. Thanks.

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  10. Jenny | October 19th, 2010 at 9:32 am

    I love to hear the back and forth as we are just getting ready to launch our first offering and would love the feedback.

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  14. unblockable popup | June 25th, 2011 at 3:42 am

    We would like to thank you just as before for the lovely ideas you gave Janet when preparing her post-graduate research as well as, most importantly, for providing each of the ideas within a blog post. Provided we had known of your website a year ago, we would have been rescued from the unwanted measures we were participating in. Thanks to you.

  15. CA Wine of the Month Club | December 1st, 2012 at 8:56 am

    personally had never tried a wine club, until this review. I was given the chance to try The California Wine Club. I have to say that I love their service. It arrived at my door around the first of the month,

  16. John | December 1st, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Glad you like it. Thanks for your comment.

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