As a follow up to Eve’s story about wine clubs, I thought I’d offer my two [or three] cents on the topic:
First, to clarify, I don’t make much of a differentiation between winery wine clubs and wineries that allocate wine to the members of their mailing list. The main difference is that wine clubs typically send their selections automatically on a periodic basis, while those that use the allocation method send their “members” a list of wines allocated to them from which they can choose what to order – note that what you order will probably influence the quantity and variety of future allocations. In both cases, the winery benefits by having influxes of cash that it doesn’t have to share with distributors, retailers, or restaurants. Quite often, the winery shows appreciation for this to its loyal members through better pricing, wine pick up parties and other events, and the opportunity to acquire wines not regularly available to the public.
That being said, there are some things to consider when joining a wine club:
Are you interested in the winery’s entire selection? If not, as a wine club member you might end up with wines you don’t really want [although they are good ways to expand your palate or they can make great gifts to others].
Are the winery’s wines readily available at retail stores? If so, why commit to the club, unless some of the wines are not available elsewhere and they matter enough to you to make that commitment?
Does the winery provide its members with its latest and greatest production, or use the club as a dumping ground for slow-moving past vintages? [This actually happened to me. Back on in the late 1990s I happened across a winery that provided me with what one of my first experiences of tasting really delicious Zinfandels and Rhone-style wines. I was hooked and joined their club without a second thought. But I noticed that even though the winery’s newsletter touted their exciting new releases, the club shipments invariably were made up of wines from previous years. And the straw that broke the camel’s back (and my club membership) was one year at Christmas when the winery sent a “special treat” to its club members – a 7-year old magnum of Merlot. Bearing in mind that I joined this winery’s club for the Rhones and Zins, I was disappointed to receive this treat, especially when the charge hit my credit card statement. And, while I have absolutely nothing against Merlot in general, this one, upon opening, turned out to be purely “meh”-lot.
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What benefits does the winery offer its members? [See the last sentence of my first paragraph.]
Finally, are you sure that wine is going to taste as good at home as it did at the winery? Sometimes it doesn’t, as the wine tasting experience can be a subjective one and may be heavily influenced by one’s surroundings and state of mind. Fortunately, should buyer’s remorse set in, you can always cancel, although many wineries make you wait for a certain period before doing so.
With those caveats in mind, zeroing in on some special wineries and establishing a relationship with them can be very rewarding.
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. Michael is also Vice President of Eve Bushman Consulting (fka Eve’s Wine 101 Consulting) http://evebushmanconsulting.com/ and President of MCP Financial. Michael can be contacted at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.