Before the rush of subscription boxes, there were wine of the month clubs. Wine club popularity has surged as customers became aware of other “of the month clubs.” A burst of new companies have launched all manner of wine clubs, for every drinker and every wine budget.
Read on to learn why wine club memberships are so popular and see if a wine club would be a good fit for you.
We find many people only know about winery wine clubs, mostly because of their experiences visiting tasting rooms in wine country. If you really love a particular winery, this is the best way to get access to all of their wines at preferred pricing.
But what if you want deliveries from more than just one winery? That’s where “retail” wine of the month clubs (like the kind you’ll find on this website) come in. With these wine sellers, when you join the club you get access to a selection of wine curated from many wineries, not just one.
Why a wine club instead of a wine store?
If you ask someone who works in the wine industry, the standard advice for wine buying is to find a trusted store (preferably in your home town) and rely on the folks working there to get to know what you like and then make personalized recommendations.
While we fully support buying from local wine stores, we know there are a couple of key hurdles to that ideal situation: you may not know how to describe what you like and, unless you're buying at least a case a month, we think it’s unlikely your local wine store clerk is going to get to know your palate.
Wine club features you don’t get from a wine store
Let’s explore the features that define wine memberships and how those features add value compared to how you buy wine from other wine retailers.
We rate 10 different features for every wine club we review because these other features set the very best wine club services apart from the rest.
Here are 10 things to know about any wine club before you join:
Satisfaction Guarantee. Why pay for a bottle you didn’t love? Guarantees range from “we’ll replace anything” to “we’ll replace ‘bad bottles’” to “too bad you didn’t like it.” You can guess which ones we prefer. Compare: How many local wine stores let you return open bottles?
Wine Club with the best satisfaction guarantee: The California Wine Club
Convenience. A major selling point for any subscription, we think wine clubs that offer vacation holds or “skip a month,” send email or text delivery notices, and remind you a shipment is coming before they charge your card are the best ones. Compare: How many local wine stores deliver your wine?
Most convenient wine club: Winc
Discount Opportunities. There are three kinds of discounts we look at: introductory offers, discounts on reorders of your favorites, and special deals for members only. Compare: How many local wine stores offer 50% on your first order?
Wine club with the best discounts: Winc Wine Club · All wine clubs with deals
Customer Service Record. We can’t know what’s happening behind the scenes between wine clubs and their customers, but customers send us complaints about wine clubs and we check for feedback elsewhere on the interwebs. Compare: How many local wine stores will help you plan your next trip to California wine country?
Wine club with the best customer support: The California Wine Club
Personalization. Traditional wine clubs “personalize” shipments by allowing you to choose wine color and delivery frequency. Modern wine clubs personalize based on your stated likes and dislikes. One even lets you order exactly what you want. Compare: How many local wine stores really get to know your palate?
Best personalized wine club: Firstleaf · All personalized wine clubs Note: We're no longer using this as a ranking factor.
Curation Process. How the wine is selected is related to how likely you are to enjoy it. Some wine clubs have elaborate tasting panels, while others rely on sommelier and other expert opinions to source great wines. Some just get their hands on anything they think they can sell. Compare: How many local wine stores tell you why they carry the wines they do?
Best curated wine club: Plonk Wine Club · How wine clubs get curated
Uniqueness of the Wine Club. We think traditional wine clubs are a great service for many wine drinkers, but we applaud companies that go out of their way to offer a unique wine experience. Compare: How many local wine stores offer quirky and unusual wine?
Most unique wine club: VineBox Note: We're no longer using this as a ranking factor.
Wine Education. Basic information about a wine is enough (what’s in the bottle and where it was produced) works for most people, but tasting notes and background information are essential to learning about wine with each shipment. Many wine clubs are now only offering this information online instead of in the box. That’s okay with us, as long as the information is available. Compare: How many local wine stores provide tasting and production notes?
Wine club with the best educational materials: The California Wine Club
Price of the Wine. We look at two things when we evaluate the price of the wine in a shipment: 1) Are the wines priced at suggested retail or less? 2) Do we feel you get your money’s worth from each bottle? This is can be subjective, but we try a lot of wine club shipments and we think we’re pretty good at judging “the right price.”
Wine club with the best prices: Wired For Wine
Quality of the Wine. While subjective, there are standard traits we keep an eye out for: 1) Is the wine balanced? 2) Is the wine too heavy on the oak or the taste of alcohol or acid? 3) Does the wine taste like the grapes it’s made of or just like grapes? For higher-quality wines, we look deeper — How was the wine produced and by whom? Does the wine have a good score from a reputable wine critic?
Wine club with the best wine quality? The California Wine Club
Our wine club reviews detail how each wine club stacks up on these 10 traits.