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Buying guide for best wine clubs

Whether you're exploring the complex flavors of wine for the first time or looking to expand your knowledge, joining a wine club is a fun and fascinating alternative to sourcing each bottle yourself. A new selection is delivered to your door as often as you choose, and it’s often a fully customizable experience.

Given the benefits of membership, it's no surprise that wine clubs are extremely popular — and there are plenty of them. While making the wrong choice might not exactly be a hardship, you may find some wine clubs more suitable for you than others.

Our wine club guide looks at the best options available, answers common questions, and offers some suggestions that will help you make the most of your wine club experience. Cheers!

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A wine enthusiast is called an oenophile (oinos is Greek for wine). If you collect wine bottle labels, you are a vinititulist.

Wine club types

Some wine clubs are set up like an online supermarket. They have an extensive selection of products and provide guidance — sometimes interactive — to help you choose. You may be asked some questions, and your responses may inform their recommendations. You can accept these suggestions or go through the process again until you like the result.

The wines you select are then packaged and delivered to your door (there is often a minimum order, especially to get free or discounted shipping, but many clubs waive these fees at a low minimum). For a lot of people, this is a convenient way to experiment with new wines and reorder favorites. Even if you haven't tried a particular wine before, you always know what you’re getting.

Other wine clubs offer a subscription service for which you receive a specified number of bottles. Your orders may arrive on a monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly basis. This type of club suits the more adventurous wine drinker because you usually don't know exactly what you'll get until the box arrives.

Subscription wine clubs may be further divided into the following categories:

  • The wine bottles you receive are all provided by a single producer (though often from several vineyards).

  • The wines you receive are gathered from numerous producers and one or more geographical locations.

Single-producer wine clubs

Wine clubs that offer products from single producers are, by definition, restricted in the number of wines offered. That said, a single producer may own several vineyards and produce numerous varietals. (A varietal is a wine made from a single grape variety, like chardonnay, rather than a blend of two or more grape varieties.)

The benefits of this kind of club are usually substantial price discounts, complimentary tastings at the vineyards, and special member-only events. This type of club is most appealing to people who live within a reasonable traveling distance of the vineyard(s). For these folks, wine club events may become a regular part of their social calendar.

Multiple-producer wine clubs

Other wine clubs provide you with selections from further afield. The wines you receive may be chosen by one or more resident experts. The wines may all come from a single region — California vineyards, for example — but the products you receive will come from a multitude of vineyards and producers.Some wine clubs take this idea even further, selecting wines from all over the world. One month you might be tasting a Stellenbosch merlot from South Africa; the next month you might receive a verdejo from Valencia, Spain.

Subscription wine clubs: what you get

You have some control over the type of wine you receive.

With a subscription wine club, you’ll no doubt be surprised — and probably delighted — by what arrives, but you won’t be completely in the dark. For example, if you're not a big fan of sparkling wine, you don't have to worry about receiving a case of Moët & Chandon at $50 per bottle. You can almost always opt for whites only (including rosé, reds only, or mixed.

"Should you opt for wine with a synthetic cork or a screw top? In fact, bottle closure type has no relevance to the quality of the wine. A winemaker is highly unlikely to use something that would have a detrimental effect on the product."

The degree of variety you receive depends on the wine club.

Depending on the wine club, the variety you receive might be as minimal as one bottle of red and one bottle of white. Or, you might be offered three organic wines from Sonoma, a half case of pinot noir from across France, and a mixed case of new world wines that all rate 90 points or above. If you’re unfamiliar with the wine points system, read on to learn more.

100-point wine scale: what it means

There are several point systems used to rate wines on a scale of 100. The best-known system is probably that developed by famous wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr., though the lifestyle magazine Wine Spectator also has scale is that is highly regarded.

A good rating can make a big difference in a wine maker's sales, so from that angle, it’s quite important. For individuals who join a wine club, however, the point system may mean less. Sure, if you want to buy wines that adhere to a particular standard, the point system can be a good guide. However, a wine’s rating reflects someone else’s opinion. For many wine lovers, one of the biggest pleasures of wine tasting is making their own discoveries. What's the difference between a good wine and a bad one, after all? The answer: a good wine is one you like.

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Did you know?
The term “corked” does not mean that bits of cork got into your wine glass. It actually refers to a chemical reaction between cork and wine that spoils the flavor.

Wine club prices

Joining a wine club is not a way to buy cheap wine, but it can help you save money on quality wine. You'll almost always pay less than retail. With a supermarket-type club, you know what you're paying and what you're getting. With a subscription wine club, there is usually a set price per period, whether that’s monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly.

One of the most popular price points is $30 to $50 per month. For that price, you'll usually get one to three bottles, maybe four. It's worth noting that some wine clubs pick up the shipping costs or give you a deeper discount if you order more bottles, so you may want to do some math to work out the best deal.

On the higher end of the scale, you will find sought-after wine offerings that have high point scores. A case of these could cost around $400, though that's by no means the upper limit.

When shopping for a wine club, remember that pricing can be as varied as the wine provided. Organic wines usually attract a premium, and it's not unusual to see organic wine for over $25 per bottle. Full cases can represent excellent value, but you'll probably pay $15 or more per bottle. Fortunately, the choice is yours. And with subscription wine clubs, it's usually possible to skip a month in the unlikely event that nothing they're offering appeals to you.

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Expert Tip
Serving wine at “room temperature” is often misunderstood. For red wine, that means you should serve the wine around 65°F, not 80°F.

Tips for making the most of your wine club membership

  • Your wine selection will come with tasting and serving notes. If you're making a social occasion of your tasting, read these notes a few days beforehand so you can make any preparations suggested. For example, you may want to organize foods that pair well with the wine you’ve received.

  • Wine clubs usually provide wines that are ready to drink, so it's rarely necessary to lay your bottles down. In fact, with certain wines, standing them up is recommended in order to let any sediment settle.

  • It's important not to store your wines anywhere too warm, and definitely avoid putting them near a radiator or furnace. Most harm is often done by fluctuations in temperature. A consistently cool location is best, which is why wine coolers have always been popular.

  • There are two ways to do a “blind” tasting. The most common is to wrap the label so the bottle can't be identified. For those who already have some wine tasting experience, this is a lot of fun. If you're really up for a challenge, try blindfolding the people doing the tasting. This can lead to some surprising results. Without the benefit of sight, it's not uncommon for a person to identify a red wine as white, or vice versa!

  • Think about keeping a wine diary. There are apps that let you do this on your portable devices, or you could use a journal. You might want to save labels, too — or photos of them. Not only is this interesting for your own purposes, but you can use the information to impress your friends by serving a wine they liked in the past but may have forgotten.

  • With a subscription wine club, it's worth being patient. It's possible that the first selection might not impress you. You are, after all, taking a bit of a gamble. However, the next month's selection could be spectacular.

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The number of bottles you receive varies from one wine club to another. Often you'll get three, four, or six. You aren't often expected to buy an entire case of twelve.


Q. If I join a wine club, how long must I stay a member?

A. Some wine clubs have a minimum commitment, but even with those that do, the time period is usually just a few months. There may be further qualification periods to receive particular benefits, and members might receive loyalty bonuses after a given time. In short: every wine club is different, but if you’re truly dissatisfied most will let you cancel.

Ending your membership could be as simple as sending an email or making a phone call, but it might be your responsibility to stop credit card payments, so always check the small print.

Q. Can I change what's in the shipment if I don't like a particular wine?

A. It's unlikely. It's not really practical or economical for you to return a bottle or two, nor is it convenient for the wine club to replace it. What's more, stepping into the unknown with your wine tasting is really the whole point of joining a club. Even if you do recognize a particular wine as not among your favorites, your partner or guests might love it.

Q. Do I have to be at home to receive my shipment?

A. In the U.S., it's illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under 21 years of age. Wine clubs come under the same law as bars and liquor stores, so shipments have to be signed for by someone who can prove they are old enough. However, it doesn't usually have to be the wine club member — just someone over 21.

If you have to leave home unexpectedly, your wine club may make additional attempts to deliver, but you'll need to check the terms and conditions. Wine club administrators understand that we all have busy lives and try to be as flexible as possible. It's proof of age that's the most vital factor to delivery.

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