Wine clubs, yes or no?

By John ~ February 15th, 2008.

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 purchases, free winery facility 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.

Taking advantage of these opportunities enables you to get to know the winemaker and feel like a part of the winery’s family. And best of all, you can drop your wine club membership anytime you wish if you find a new favorite winery.

There are also a number of commercial wine clubs not affiliated with a particular winery. They 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 we’re sure that some wine enthusiasts have found great new wines this way, we 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 club of a winery whose wines we already know, 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. Bottled Up | February 26th, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Hey guys, I couldn’t agree more. Early on in my wine touring/purchasing experiences, I joined a lot of wine clubs from wineries I had only visited 1 or 2 times. I would generally get caught up in the moment of the tasting room vibe and the “everything is pretty good” opinion that these environments seem to foster, only to learn through a few shipments that the wine wasn’t as good as I thought. I’ve probaly joined and dropped as many as 10 clubs, and would also recommend that you only join clubs from wineries with peroven track records on your palate.

    I have found the rare clubs that I believe to bring fantastic value and quantity, for me, these are Kalyra and DeLoach. Initially, upon visiting DeLoach, I signed up for the wine club to receive discounts on their Pinot’s that I was completely smitten with. Over a few shipments, I began to receive their Zinfandel and Merlot, both outstanding wines, and an example of how a wine club can open your eyes to a wineries full offerings. As far as Kalyra goes, they are offering some of the best, most inexpensive whites I’ve tasted.

    Another point that needs to be made in reagards to wine clubs, is that some wineries offer club only wines. These wines are highly sought after and are made in extremely low volumes. Wine clubs with club exclusive offerings include, Fiddlehead (special cuvees, signed magnums) and Dunham.