Learning more about wine is a passion that can rapidly turn into a way of life because it changes the way you perceive the art of wine, from the way it’s made to the way it’s served. After finding out more about wine decanters – if you haven’t seen our review, check it out here – and the art of wine tasting, the next step would be to know what it is like to join a wine club.
Joining a wine club is an important step that represents a transition from beginner status to an intermediate one. When you feel ready to join a wine club, it means that you have accumulated sufficient information, you have experimented and consider that the moment has come for you to take your passion for wine one step further.
Here are some of the most important things you should know in order to choose the best wine club for you. Read further, to find out more about the factors you should consider when deciding which wine club to join, what the best wine clubs to join are and what the best wine subscriptions are.
What are wine clubs and how were they created?
Modern wine culture would not be complete without the concept of wine clubs. Wine clubs help those who are interested in wine to experiment more and have a wider range of wine tastings, by providing them with a selection of wine bottles that would normally be harder to find or to purchase individually. Each club has a specific theme or themes and a specific selection of white, red or mixed wines.
Being a wine club member means that, based on your subscription, you will receive on a regular basis a certain number and type of wine bottles. Typically, wine clubs are organized by wineries, vineyards or wine retailers. However, thanks to the expansion of the wine club phenomenon, you can also find wine clubs that are independent or ones that are created by non-traditional institutions, that are not linked directly to wine.
Wine clubs do not have an official history, but it seems that they were born, unsurprisingly, in California, in the seventies. The owner of a local liquor store used to make recommendations for their customers, which were presented as the selections of the month. Then, after clients began to ask for these selections to be delivered directly to their home, the monthly selection of two bottles of wine became a staple.
Today, that are many more wine clubs available in the United States, that range from highly popular, large-scale clubs such as The New York Times Wine Club and the Williams-Sonoma Wine Club, to smaller clubs, that target a younger audience and are more on the trendy side, such as the Plonk Wine Club or Wink.
What you should know before choosing a wine club
Even if you are a wine lover, you might still be a beginner when it comes to joining a wine club. That is why it’s important to understand that there are various types of clubs, with advantages and disadvantages and that there are several things you should take into account before choosing which wine club you want to join.
The main types of clubs that you can join are winery wine clubs, ‘wine of the month’ clubs and local wine clubs.
There are many wineries that offer wine clubs and their main advantage is that the members of winery wine clubs are spoiled with extra benefits such as regular visits to the tasting room or access to exclusive events. One possible downside is that the selections are limited to the types of wine that are specific to that winery. However, they can also issue special bottles for their members.
If your preferences are not yet very defined and you are still looking to experiment and try different varieties, especially international ones, then a wine-of-the-month club might be the best option for you. While wine clubs that are offered by wineries have a specific selection that is the same every year, these types of clubs send a monthly selection that is different every time.
The obvious disadvantage is that you never know what to expect, which means that you might be disappointed and get something that you dislike. On the other hand, the element of surprise and the opportunity to sample various international wines can be a plus for some.
Local wine clubs have the benefit of mixing the social aspect of winery associated wine clubs, where members enjoy various events and exclusivities, with the practical aspect of monthly selection clubs. Local also means different characteristics and options for each region. For example, some might offer a wine delivery that is based on your personal preferences.
The financial aspect of choosing a wine club is another factor that needs to be considered. You need to determine the budget you are willing to set aside for a wine club membership and if that amount is right for your expectations. Always remember to check all the listed costs of a particular wine club. Typically, members pay for the wine as well as for the shipping.
Depending on what you are looking for, you might prefer clubs that focus on quality and the opportunity of tasting a vintage wine, or you could opt for clubs that offer variety and something different every month. Keep in mind that the same price range could mean three expensive deliveries per year or a different delivery every month.
Best wine clubs for connoisseurs and beginners
The Wine of the Month Club in California is the place where it all began and it still represents one of the best wine clubs for all wine lovers. There are several types of memberships to choose from and you gain access to a wide variety of international fine wines.
For wine aficionados who are interested in organic labels and biodynamic vineyards, the Plonk Wine Club offers these types of wines, as well as classic Cabernet and Pinot Grigio. If Champagne is your greatest love or if you live in Seattle, an interesting option could be the Fat Cork Wine Club, whose founder worked for the famous Laurent Perrier.
Formerly known as Club W, Wink is one the fastest growing independent wine clubs, which is also famous for being the first personalized wine club. This means that Wink offers personalized selections, based on the members’ preferences, budget, and answers to a series of specific questions. This wine club also has the benefit of providing a huge variety of wines at a lower cost, because it works directly with vineyards.
Beginners who are more interested in wine tasting have the possibility to opt for a club that is based on sending wine samples instead of wine bottles, to their members. With Vinebox, members receive nine wine samples in vials, every three months. The main advantage is you have the opportunity to sample high-end wines that might otherwise be inaccessible.
Firstleaf is another wine club from the new generation of clubs that are digitally inclined and highly personalized. Instead of generic shippings that are different every time, this wine club changes its selection for you based on your own reviews for the previous selections. For your first box of six wines, you need to answer a quiz, and then, based on your reviews, your taste profile will be updated.
For wine lovers who are more experienced and who prefer quality over quantity, the Gold Wine Club is one of the most refined options. One of the most beloved wine clubs in the United States, the Gold Wine Club collaborates with Californian wineries and members receive two high-end bottles of wine every month. Plus, they also receive the club’s publication, called The Wine Press.
One of the newest wine clubs around, Bright Cellars has quickly become popular and its particularity is that it is based on algorithms. The first step you are required to take is to answer a series of detailed questions, then rate the first bottles of wine. The novelty is that everything is done online and this system helps customize your subscription more and more.
There are many wine clubs that you can join, depending on your experience, your preferences and also your lifestyle. If you are mostly interested in the social aspect of wine tasting or if you live near a vineyard, you could opt for local wine clubs, while newer generations prefer online subscriptions.