Wine Clubs: Should you spend your money wine clubbing?
It feels as if you cannot avoid them at the moment. Wine Clubs are everywhere. It seems as if everybody has struck upon the same idea, and offered consumers an "in" to wines that they could never have otherwise have had access to. You turn left, there is a wine club, you turn right, another wine club. There are so many, all offering essentially the same thing. So should you join a wine club? Before you do, lets do a little research and find what is best for you.
So what is a wine club?
Every wine club has its own method to their madness, their points of differentiation, but at the very core The basics of a wine club are:
- Buy wine online and have it delivered to your door
- Subscribe to the club and get wine shipped to you on a monthly basis
- Enjoy the new bottles every month, probably give some feedback at some point for rewards
We see this business model, or similar business models, in just about every part of our life. From food to clothing, to golf balls. What they generally offer is good quality items at a price that is lower than what you would otherwise pay and they are able to achieve this by cutting out the pesky final link in the supply chain that is the retail store. In reality they are the retail store, but they do not have the same high costs as a physical storefront. They pass those savings on to you (cue wacky inflatable arm flailing tube man).
So what makes the wine club experience different?
Sorry for being vague and using an oxymoron, but everything and nothing. Wine clubs offer something different, or present a new approach to helping you find wines that you will enjoy from places you never thought were accessible. Tasting Room, for example, hooks you in with a thirty second wine survey that will help them guess which wines you will like. Others like Bright Cellars claim that taking a short quiz will help them learn about your palette, make reccomendations and then learn from what you like or don't like. How could they be wrong? They have a MIT grad running the show. Something similar to Club W, which is the wine club for Winc, an innovative wine maker from California who source grapes from around the world.
You could argue that, in reality, its just a subscription service with some additional service that has no root in logic. Claims over being able to systematically predict your palette are conflicted by the core business model which is making wine and the need to sell said wine. In a world where tech claims that you can have your wine and drink it too, the business models seem to be focused on locking wine drinkers in rather than serving them.
So wine clubs are a no go?
To be fair, they make some pretty decent wine or have access to some good wine at pretty decent prices. You just have to ask yourself, do you want to be locked into it? It can be a nice to explore new wines, or try new wines. It could be a nice surprise to forget about it and all of a sudden have a delivery of wine at your door. The downside is you are not really buying these wines for any occasion that you have in mind, and before you know it you are stocked to the brim with more Oregon Pinot Noir or Paso Robles Cabernets than you can drink or gift. Your tastes will undoubtedly change as the seasons do, drifting into Rose and sparkling territory over the summer while sticking to hearty reds in the fall and winter. We have yet to come across wine club that takes that into consideration. Ultimately you have to do your research, do you wine homework, and put a little thought into what you are getting. If you can see past all the bullshit sales and marketing tactics, and the new age mumbo jumbo business models, then you might just find a program that suits your needs. Probably something from a small independent winery as well, so you can keep a steady stream of their delicious Gamay coming in.