As we explore the exciting World Of Wine And Adjacent Amusements, offers to join wine clubs sometimes come at us like swarms of mosquitoes. It’s hard to visit tasting rooms or follow wine-related topics on social media without being presented with opportunities to join wine clubs some time during the experience. At each opportunity, we might ask ourselves: why join this particular club? Every Wine Adventurer has their unique reasons for joining, or not. Let’s look at a few very good reasons why we might want to join wine clubs that meet our needs.
First, let’s take a look at why some people avoid clubs or drop out soon after joining. In a previous article (Wine Clubs – Are They Right For You?), I reviewed the most common types of clubs available and their basic features. Readers responded with social media comments and off-line messages that expressed varied levels of satisfaction with club membership, mostly positive, though some shared disappointment with their club experience. The top wine club complaints:
- Receiving wines of a varietal or style the member doesn’t like.
- Receiving wines from sub-par vintages or regions.
- Finding wine club selections being sold for less than the club price at the local grocery or big box store.
Those are valid reasons to avoid or drop out of wine clubs. Clubs should let members know what is coming in future shipments and allow for trades or deferrals and should not be dumping grounds for discount wines that sold poorly in standard retail channels and are running out of shelf life.
Here are five reasons to join the right wine clubs. These benefits overcome common club member complaints and contribute most significantly to a happy wine club experience.
1. Known conformance to varietal and style preferences. Join wine clubs that regularly feature the types of wines you prefer and allow you to make alternate selections when upcoming shipments include wines you want to avoid. For example, I never buy Port or dessert wines. I avoid clubs that include those styles in club shipments. I do like big Cabs, Bordeaux and Bordeaux-style red wine blends, smooth Merlot, un-oaked Chardonnay and cool Sauvignon Blanc. Write down your favorite wine types and consider only clubs that sell what you like. I am currently a member of four wine clubs and every one of them regularly features at least three of my five preferred wines.
2. Known quality and price ranges. Most wine clubs, whether affiliated with a single winery or that sell wines from many different sources, attempt to maintain level quality standards and keep shipment prices either within an established range or at a fixed amount. Joining a club with quality standards that conform to yours may take extensive experimentation, which is why I recommend embarking on frequent tasting room Wine Adventures and joining winery clubs rather than clubs that regularly ship wine brands you’ve never heard of. Even if you can’t visit the winery regularly, purchasing from a single source insures the level of quality across all vintages, varietals and styles you’ve come to expect from the brand and that the winery stakes their reputation on.
3. Wines available only to members. Many wineries take the best grapes from selected locations in their estate vineyards and use them to make small amounts of unique, high-quality wines. They might also buy a prime lot of grapes from another grower’s best vineyard bloc and do the same. Production is usually too small to distribute to the general public, so they offer these premium wines to club members only.
4. Free tastings and special events. Clubs affiliated with wineries usually offer members a specified number of free tours and tastings and hold special events throughout the year. Member pick-up parties often coincide with shipment dates and tastings and nibbles are usually free. Social events, such as harvest parties, are a great way to taste the winery’s latest releases, buy wines at event-only discounts, and meet fellow Wine Adventurers.
5. Longevity and Double discounts. Many clubs value member longevity and reward them with greater discounts as time passes. Some also offer double discounts, such as both a member discount and case discount when buying a case.
Wine clubs can be a great way to buy wine at a discount while having fun in the process. When you have the opportunity to join wine clubs that feature wines you like, fit your budget and provide the total experience you desire, don’t hesitate to take advantage.