Are clubs worth it? A popular question among many wine, cigar, whiskey, and food enthusiasts. The concept of “clubs” or subscriptions used to be limited to books and magazines. I personally will never forget my coveted magazine subscription to “Blackbelt” magazine that arrived in the mail once a month. At the time there were no subscription options to have fresh coffee or pre-package food delivered to your door step.
Through time it’s obvious many elements of civilization have evolved. Now days Amazon seems to offer us everything, also known as the “everything store.” At least this is what we’re conditioned to believe. What is even better, are the opportunities made available to us for so many varieties of monthly, quarterly and yearly clubs. There appears to be clubs for almost everything. You name it, there is probably a club for it.
I have had the pleasure of being part of several clubs, not all at one time. My wallet wouldn’t be able to handle that. Today we are going to focus on wine clubs. These types of clubs are becoming more accessible and popular, but at the end of the day how do you know what club best suits you? In this article I am going to break down some simple steps you can follow to pick the perfect wine club. Then I will share with you my personal experience with the wine club I’ve been a apart of.
Step #1: Define your why.
Why do you want to join a wine club? The personal reasons for joining a wine club can be endless. Today’s social media marketing is vying for your attention and so are all the crafty wine clubs. If you don’t define why you want to join a wine club, everyone else and their mother will decide for you. This can waste a lot of your time and hard earned money.
Are you joining a club for educational purposes? One of the best ways to learn more about the adult juice is by joining a wine club. Whether you’re a novice or professional in the wine world, clubs offer educational write-ups about the wine you’re sent. What about variety? One of the perks of wine clubs are the option for variety. When you begin drinking wine, it can be easy to find yourself in a rut of drinking the same wines.
Don’t get me wrong. I do have some favorite “go-to” wines, but we also need to expand our drinking options. Wine clubs usually offer you the option to choose all red, all white, red and white, and even sparkling. Expanding your palate is extremely beneficial. When I was in sommelier school I invested in joining a wine club for education purposes, but also to expand my palate with variety.
step #2: Yourself or a personal somm.
Drinking wine can be simple or it can be complex. The choice is yours. Once you have defined your “why” for joining a club, you have to see the benefits. How much time do you have to look at prices, varietals, regions, and vintages? If you’re like the majority of people, you don’t have the time.
Second question I have to ask you is, how much knowledge do you have about wine? Are you a sommelier or Wine and Spirit Education Trust student (WSET)? One of the benefits of joining a wine club is having your own personal sommelier or wine concierge. Imagine having a professional choose your wine for you, according to your desires, pack it for you, and ship it right to your door. Wine clubs save you time and frustration. A true win, win, with wine.
step #3: Set a budget.
There is this misconceived idea that great wine is expensive. Some great wines are expensive and then there are really great wines that fit within a wallet-sized budget. Wine clubs offer you several options from low to high pricing. Plus wine clubs can give you the option of how much wine you’ll receive and how often.
Let’s talk about wine subscription options. You need to approach this with caution. Don’t get caught up in low price offerings. Trust me I’ve done the math on several of these. If you are ordering wine on a quarterly basis, your’e obviously going to pay a bigger price, but make sure you know the quantity of wine you’re receiving and what type of wine. Higher-end wines will average around $25-30 per bottle.
Monthly subscriptions are just as good, but will offer you lower quantities, but pricing may be the same or lower. Don’t hesitate to do your home work. Research several wine clubs and see what suits you best palate wise and price wise. Have fun with this process, because in the end you should be enjoying your wine and wine hunting. If by chance you are looking to collect wine like I do, reach out to me and I will connect you with solid connections.
step #4: a club on your terms.
Avoid long-term contracts. There are club offerings with contracts believe it or not. Look for clubs with zero contracts and allow you to pay as you go. Another feature I personally enjoy is ordering your next shipment when you’re ready, instead of when the sender is ready. Trust me, I understand it’s a business, but being wise with your wine subscription is just as critical.
There is another issue with contracts or automatic shipments. Who is in control of your bank account and your wine cellar? Are you in control or is the wine club? Search for clubs offering you a free membership with the ability to order when you want, how much you desire or need, and simply pay as you go.
Do the math. I’ve researched wine clubs that are flashy and catch your eye. In the heat of the moment their offer looks seductive until you review the fine print and calculate the math. Some clubs offer you low monthly subscription options, but the bottles or shipping is where you get dinged. Do. The. Math. Remember step #3: Set a budget.
When you set your budget be sure to include shipping expenses and and hidden fees. Your shopping cart will look impressive with great bottles of wine, until you see your final cost after shipping. I’ve seen shipping costs as much as $40.00. You can buy another one to two bottles of wine for that amount.
step #5: there will always be sales.
As a child growing up, Christmas time was the most festive and charming. Everything was miraculously on sale and at a great low price. My mother and father would always tell each other, “There will always be sales.” What did they mean? Why did they adopt this mantra? They realized something I didn’t at my age.
Every store will always offer sales. They claim “limited” times only, but a month from now, they’ll have a sale. The wine industry is no different. There will always be sales. Don’t “buy” into the limited time only jargin.
Unless you collect wine, I recommend you guard yourself against the sale offers. Collecting wine is a different article and a different way of purchasing wine. Buying wine on a regular basis for immediate to short consumption is different and easier. Every wine company or vineyard you purchase from will have a sale. It doesn’t mean you have to buy something every time they advertise.
If you see a sale on a bottle of a quality $100 bottle of Champagne for $50 or less then buy it. Most of the time those “screaming deals” advertised are not really a great deal. Here is why. Sure you may save a potential $10-$15 on a fabulous bottle, but the cost to ship it will end up being $10-$15 or more. Do you see where I’m going with this?
What is the purpose of joining a wine club? Only you can answer that personal question? One of my personal reasons is to get my hands on wine that is not easily accessible. Use the local wine and liquor store if you’re hankering for your normal weekly “go-to” wine. There will always be sales.
my personal experience.
Learning from my mistakes are always better than creating mistakes on your own. Why not learn from those who have gone before you? I have tried a numerous amount of wine clubs and I will say I have settled on two. The following wine clubs are from my personal experience. One of these wine clubs I am still a member of.
There are several wine clubs that are price-point friendly as well are quality based. For me personally I chose to go with quality first and then price-point second. The point I’m trying to convey, is you can choose what matters more to you, quality or monetary. What wine club do I use? The best one that works for me is from Bag and String Wine Merchants.
If you have never heard of them, you need to check them out (click the link above). These guys offer 20 different wine club subscriptions. Here are a few reasons why I chose Bag and String Wine Merchants. They’re local. Located in Lakewood, New York, they are the bespoke wine store I personally have sought after at the beginning of my wine journey. A state store is always good for a quick pick up or when you find yourself in a pinch. I highly encourage you to support local.
Quality service. Wether you’re onsite at their location or ordering online they bring you excellent and knwoledgable service. They are masters of their craft. If you read their bios, each person is professionally trained and there to serve you. The atmosphere is always charged with creativity, professionalism, and true customer service.
Variety. No matter what you’re looking for, Bag and String Wine Merchants has it. Are you in search of small batches, different countries, mainstream wines, collecting or smaller curated boutique wines? They are all there. Don’t just take my word for it. Check them out.
Are wine clubs really worth it? In my opinion yes and no. What’s your end game? Although I belong to a wine club, I still shop at the local state store. Being a member of a wine club doesn’t limit you or lock you in. It can have it’s advantages and disadvantages.
Wine.com and Wine Access are two other avenues I would recommend, not so much for their wine clubs, but due to the knowledge and expertise in the wine and other spirits. Are you considering collecting wine? Check out the online auction, WineBid. They are easy to work with, have excellent customer service and deliver high-quality product. At the end of the day choose what will work best for you.
If you’re looking for more inspiration or want to be nosey and observe my personal life, check out my Instagram @the_traveling_somm
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