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