There's Never Been a Better Time to Join a Wine Club
A well-chosen selection of wines delivered right to your door every week or month? Sounds pretty good these days.
With the coronavirus pandemic changing shopping habits that most of us have always taken for granted, wine clubs are suddenly more than just one option in a wine-buying strategy. A well-chosen selection of wines delivered right to your door every week or month? It’s hard to think of a better way to guarantee that you'll have enough bottles of the good stuff to weather the COVID-19 storm.
Of course, wine clubs have historically had a reputation as a hit-or-miss proposition. Though many of them promise the opportunity to taste wines that you otherwise may not have considered, there’s an inherent risk in not quite knowing what you’ll receive with each shipment.
Fortunately, there are a number of excellent ones out there, and many of them are embracing the American drinking public’s expanding palate. From clubs that are run by respected online retailers to selections curated by boldface names in the wine industry, this is a good time to reconsider what wine clubs have to offer.
Here are nine of the best, all worth serious consideration, listed alphabetically.
Belle & Bottle
Washington State-based Belle & Bottle offers a nice range of club options that run the gamut from monthly to quarterly shipments. For $50 to $60, the 30 Club consists of two West Coast bottles each month. The Bubbles Club includes a quarterly shipment of one Champagne and two other sparkling wines, all for $90 - $100 each time. Check out their web site for the full listing of options. And if you feel particularly passionate about one or two of the wines you’re sent, you have the option of buying them individually, which is a nice touch.
Based in Napa, Bounty Hunter lets you know right on their website what to expect from their monthly or quarterly mailings: “We like bold, fruit-driven, pure wines and we know you do too. You’ll never receive lean, funky, oxidized or austere wines in your shipment.” $199 gets you into The Killer Cabernet Club, and The Most Wanted Sixer runs to $599 and includes “the best of the best, from Napa to Bordeaux to Tuscany,” including six bottles of “bold, fruit-driven, primarily domestic wines at the top of the quality pyramid.” There are plenty of options in between, too.
Want to take a deep dive into the world of Oregon wine? Check out Cellar 503, where each month, a different theme shapes the wines that are sent. September 2019 focused on unusual grape varieties, including Blaufrankisch, Chasselas, and more. October trained the spotlight on a cross-section of winemaking vessels, like amphorae and concrete. And the producers are excellent, with standout names like Keeler, Anne Amie, Maysara, and more.
Founded by Master Sommelier (and one of the stars of the Somm films) Ian Cauble, SommSelect offers two options: Drink Like a Somm includes four bottles each month for $99, plus shipping, and The Somm Six is $199 plus shipping for half a dozen bottles that range from drink-them-now reds and whites to more age-worthy ones. There’s a bind-tasting option, too, in which the wines come wrapped and numbered and accompanied by a tasting notebook and guidelines on how to blind-taste them like a pro.
Tasting Room is one of the most fully customizable wine clubs around. Before you sign up, answer a handful of questions on their website (Do you prefer milk or dark chocolate, or neither? Do you drink coffee with sugar, cream, or black? Which fruits do you like most?). Their algorithm will then create a “wine tasting kit” of six mini-bottles for as low as $9.95 that you taste and report back on. Full-size wines will then be sent out at a frequency of your choosing, and your ongoing assessment of the wines will work to ensure that the selections are fine-tuned to suit your tastes.
Taylor Family Vineyards
Plenty of producers offer members-only bottlings that are well worth the effort of signing up for. Unfortunately, the most famous among them can often require waits of several years to make the list. Taylor Family Vineyards, a top Napa Valley producer, offers several options, from The Traditional Club, which includes four reds sent three times a year, to The Silver Lining Club, which is shipped once annually and includes a case of their top Cabs. As for stamps of approval for Taylor Family’s clubs, my own father has been a member for nearly a decade, and eagerly awaits his shipment each year…which, thankfully, he shares with all of us.
Founded by Master Sommelier (and one of the other stars of the “Somm” series of films) Brian McClintic, Viticole features custom-crafted bottlings that he has made with organic winemakers around the world. $105 per month gets you the Viticole Wine Club (24 bottles annually, broken into two shipments of a case each), and $210 a month buys the Viticole Wine Club 2.0 (two annual shipments of two cases each, for 48 bottles in total). There are also special offers that pop up once in a while that can be purchased right away. Once you sign up, Viticole estimates a two to four month wait before you’re all set to be a member.
Winc also uses a questionnaire to gauge the style of wine you’ll respond to. Coffee preferences, how salty you like your food to be, thoughts on mushrooms, citrus, how adventurous an eater you are, and more. They then curate a selection of wine that’s sent along, with the option of skipping months and not paying for wines you don’t enjoy. You can also buy wine directly on their site, exclusive of their mailings.
One of the largest online wine retailers in the United States, Wine Access has become justifiably famous for its fantastic selection of wines from around the world and at all price points. The Wine Access wine club leverages the expertise of both a Master Sommelier and a Master of Wine, both of whom are on staff, and their six-bottle assortment is sent four times each year, in March, June, September, and December. Shipping is included in the $150 quarterly fee, and each one is framed by a particular theme. Recent ones have included hillside and high-elevation, terroir, and summer grilling and pairings. The June shipment will focus on various winemaking techniques. Wine club members also receive videos about each wine, and 10% off all other purchases from Wine Access.