Updated: March 7, 2014 (Originally Published: November 1, 2012)
In this article:
- How to tell when a wine club isn't a good value
- Why we think wine clubs are totally worth it
- How to squeeze even more value out of your wine club
- Check out our Best Wine Clubs Lists for more ideas
It might go without saying but we’re all about transparency here at WineClubReviews.net so we want to make it very clear: we have a vested interest in telling you we think wine clubs are a good deal.
Of course the flip side to that is, we review wine clubs for money BECAUSE we think some wine clubs provide exceptional value and worthwhile wine experiences. So please, let’s talk about wine clubs that are absolutely worth it and how to tell which wine clubs don’t deliver good value.
Which Wine Clubs are NOT a Good Deal
First, the bad news. As in all industries, some wine clubs are merely preying on unsuspecting consumers with disposable income who are prone to not reading fine print or doing the math before making purchases. But you’re not one of those consumers because you’re here, reading this article trying to research the value of wine clubs.
How can you tell which wine of the month clubs are taking advantage of these types of consumers? There are two easy ways to tell if a wine club is playing dirty:
Is the wine club you’re investigating offered through a company that isn’t in the wine business?
Examples include publications like USA Today and retail stores like Williams-Sonoma. If you’re considering a wine club like one of these,
you might want to pass. It’s likely that a third-party wine club is providing the monthly wine service and the company you heard about
it through is taking a percentage of sales in exchange for offering the wine club to their loyal customers.
Many companies offer these private-label wine clubs in order to expand their profit margin, but these companies don’t have anything to do with which wines are selected, customer service for the wine club, or what happens to your credit card number and email address after you join. This generally doesn’t lead to good value for consumers or any added value above and beyond what you can get by going to the grocery store.
Have we given the club a low rating? Our ratings system is value-oriented. Wine clubs with
the highest ratings deliver the most value. Not all wine clubs on our site are rated for value though, we treat “premium” wine clubs
differently because the value of fine wine is defined by more nuanced characteristics than Quality-to-Price Ratio, customizability, and fair shipping prices.
When you see the green “Wine Club Value” banner next to a wine club, you know we’ve rated the value the wine club delivers, or doesn’t. If we haven’t rated a wine club at least 4 stars, we don’t believe they’re providing consumers with a good deal.
Why Wine Clubs are Worth It
But now, the good news! Among wine club providers, a handful are smaller mom-and-pop businesses run by people who love wine and want to share their love of wine with as many people as possible. As a general rule, any wine of the month club you find on our site with a rating of 4 stars or higher is providing good value and is worth taking a look at.
But what about in general? Are wine clubs a good value? Here are the biggest reasons we think wine clubs are indeed a good deal, usually a great one.
- Most local wine stores charge consumers full retail. That’s never a deal. Some higher-end wine stores charge a mark-up above suggested retail price. They’re just taking advantage. Before you buy wine from your local wine store, do a quick internet check with your mobile phone and see what other local stores are charging.
- Very few local wine stores offer a money back guarantee for wines you didn’t like. This is something we love about some wine clubs, they offer a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. Didn’t like a wine they sent? No problem, call them up, let them know, and they’ll promptly send you something you’ll hopefully like more. This reduces your risk to almost zero and increases the value of any wine club subscription with this kind of service. Want a 100% guarantee? Try the original Wine of the Month Club, or The California Wine Club.
- Most local wine stores don’t have a beefy selection from around the world to help you discover new wines and expand your palate. Most local wine store clerks haven’t tried every wine the store carries to help you pick the right wines for you. As a general rule wine clubs taste hundreds of wines each month and select the best of the best to send out in shipments.
- Most wine clubs buy selections in much higher quantities than local wine stores. A local wine store might order a case or two, but most wine clubs order dozens of cases. This enables the clubs to negotiate the price of the wine down, and then usually pass that savings along to members either in straight discounts or as free shipping. Here are wine clubs with free shipping.
- The clerk at your local wine store may or may not know anything about your palate or which wines will suit it. There are a small handful wine clubs who have recognized this gap in knowledge and are trying to rectify it. The wine clubs which let you select which wines you’ll receive or establish a palate profile and customize your selections to it are providing value you can’t find in most local wine stores. To set up a custom palate profile, try Club W or the inClub by Invino.
- When you like a wine that you bought at your local wine store it’s unlikely they’ll offer you a discount when you go back for more, unless you’re ordering a case. Wine clubs, however, will usually offer their members up to 20% off any reorders from the original club shipments. Liked that Cabernet and want to have some on hand? No problem, swing by the website and enjoy the discounts bestowed upon you by appreciative wine clubs. You’ll also get frequent access to members-only sales with even deeper discounts and cheap or free shipping. This is added value, plain and simple.
How to get even more value out of your wine club memberships
- Order larger shipments and have them delivered less often. Instead of having two or three bottles delivered every month, have six bottles delivered every other month. Even better, have a case delivered on a quarterly basis... it’s the best per-bottle shipping price you’ll get and the wine clubs usually offer case discounts to thank you for ordering in volume.
- Don’t commit to an ongoing subscription, buy a fixed-length subscription that ends when you want it to and fits within your current budget. You’ll get offers to renew your order at the end, so if you like the service your wine club provides, you can easily renew. If you didn’t like the wines or service or are ready to try a new type of wine club, you can find another wine club or go back to shopping at your local store.
- Pick a wine club that offers you a worthwhile introductory offer. We’d steer clear of the ones offering cheap goods like corkscrews and wine tasting glasses, and go for the ones that offer an extra shipment, free shipping on the first order, or a free wine bottle with your first order.
If this article hasn’t convinced you that wine clubs can be a good deal, please drop us a line and tell us what we missed!
Or, start shopping for your next wine club! First stop, tell us what state you are shipping your wine club to: