Wine clubs can be a great thing, but like anything else, they have their ups and downs. On our honeymoon in Sonoma, we signed up for one such group that we have since discontinued membership in. Since that time, however, we have enrolled in three others that we feel better suit our needs. If you’re considering signing up for a wine club, here are a few things to take into consideration before you hand over your credit card information:
1. What are the advantages of joining this particular club?
Most wine clubs offer you a variety of options, discounts, etc. as a reward for your membership. One thing you need to consider is whether or not you’ll be able to take advantage of these “perks” and, whether or not you think you will. We are members of wine clubs in both Napa and Sonoma, but live in Nebraska. With so much space in between, we don’t get to take advantage of the harvest parties as often as we’d like. That said, we still enjoy a heft discount on the wines we buy from the wineries whose clubs we belong to, and we receive free tastings and discounts when we visit as well.
2. How does this club stack up against others like it?
Many if not most wineries have some sort of club you can belong to. How much bang are you getting for your buck? Do you live close enough to use free tasting passes? Do you like getting “exclusive” deals on small-batch wines? Consider your own desires and wants, and then shop around until you find a club that meets them all. There are thousands of wine clubs, and all of them compete for your business. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, or to make special requests.
3. Can you get this wine in the grocery store?
If the answer is yes, why join the club? The shipping alone makes it hard to justify. If you still like the club because the winery is next door and you get free tastings year-round or invitations to special events, well, cool, but if not, save yourself the upwards of $20-$40 in shipping and patronize your local wine shop instead. That $20-$40 per shipment could easily go to wine (or in the bank). We are now only members at smaller wineries/collectives that we love, and whose wine simply can’t be found where we live. One that we belong to, Ballentine, is a boutique winery in every sense. They make amazing wines that we have never seen in a store, nor in a restaurant, making them all that much more fun to serve to our friends and family.
4. Can this winery ship to my home state?
Every state has different laws about shipping, and there are some states that you can only ship “x” amount of alcohol into, or that regulate in other ways. The winery offering the club will know if they can ship to you. Ask them before you commit to anything.
5. Is this within your budget?
Even as “wine bloggers” as well as wine drinkers, we’ll be the first people to admit that wine is not a need. Water is a need. Heat is a need. Wine remains a luxury. We enjoy our club memberships, but if unexpected bills come up, those memberships may be on the chopping block. Analyze your budget and decide whether or not you can truly afford to join a wine club, and if it is in fact a good use of your money. There is no shortage of wine in the world, and no dire need to have it shipped directly to your front door.
6. How flexible is this club?
All of the clubs we belong to allow us to “tinker” with our orders. This is nice for a number of reasons. As an example, we drink more white wine in the summer, more red wine in the colder months, so being able to make special requests about what goes in our shipment allows us to receive wine that we can utilize on the spot. Currently, Sonja is on a pretty hard-core dry rose kick, so we’ve been substituting for some of that. We appreciate the flexibility a great deal.
7. How diverse is the winery itself?
Many excellent wineries grow or utilize a limited selection of varietals, and/or produce a limited number of wines. This is not a good or bad thing necessarily, as focus can certainly be a benefit, but it might impact your long-term desire to be a member of their wine club. The club we dropped out of, over the course of a year, was sending us the same stuff over and over again. This was one of the reasons we left it and joined, amongst others, Ledson, a Sonoma winery with a wine list as long as your arm. We’d recommend joining a club that has a great selection, from a winery whose wines you generally enjoy. This will keep the shipments interesting, enable you to experiment with new wines, and leave you less likely to receive another ho-hum shipment of the same old fill-in-the-blank.
8. Who benefits from your membership?
A final thing to consider might be who it is that’s benefiting from your membership. If you love the local winery and want to help them stay in business, then putting your money into their mom-and-pop operation rather than into Rothschild might be a nice gesture. Cline, on the other hand, like several others, produces a few wines from which some of the proceeds go towards cancer research. At Naked Wines, we deposit money monthly as “angels,” and that money goes to small, up-and-coming wine makers around the globe to help them get on their feet. It’s a pretty cool concept. Ultimately, if and how you spend your money is up to you, but if in fact there is truth in wine, then perhaps there can also be charity, philanthropy, and other good things in it as well.
Ultimately, whether or not you want to join a wine club is up to you. We get a little twinge of excitement every time the UPS guy drops off another little package of wine from one of our favorite wineries, though of course, it’s something we could easily live without. Wine is something we enjoy, but not something we need. For that reason, we are thoughtful about how we spend our money when it comes to purchasing it. Know of a fantastic wine club? Please send us your suggestions (or comment below). We love learning about great new wine experiences!