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Do You Wine Club?

September 9, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

International Wine of The Month ClubWhat do you think of the Wine Clubs? Do you belong to one, or two or five? Have you in the past? Would you recommend a wine club membership to your friends?

Yes, I know, the subject of the wine clubs was well discussed in the past, and it is hard to say something new here. However, a few months ago, I was asked if I would be interested in receiving a sample from the International Wine of the Month Club, which I accepted with the usual condition – I will write about the wines only if I like them. I tasted the wines a while back, and yes, I liked them – only now I finally found the time to write about it. But – I don’t want just to share the tasting notes and be done with it – I would like to take this opportunity to ponder at the subject of the wine clubs (beer and spirits too for that matter).

My love for the [wine] clubs started the way back, in the middle of 1990s, when I subscribed for the first time to the Beer Across America monthly club. To begin with, the club had a great story of two friends quitting their IT jobs, coming up with the concept and trying to (unsuccessfully) start the business, then literally with the last of their savings creating leaflets and going in Chicago neighborhood door to door, leaving those leaflets in the mailboxes of people in time for the holidays – and seeing the business to pick up. Every month UPS would deliver a box to my doorstep with two six packs of beer – not just any beer, but only microbrewery products, coming from all over the country. Today any wine store carries literally hundreds of selections – but this was 20 years back, and microbreweries very hard to find. Every shipment would also include information about microbrewery, about the particular beer we received, recipes  and lots more. I was definitely looking forward to those shipments – you would never know where the next beer would be coming from, and what the story might be behind it, so it was definitely fun.

I think I stayed with that club for about two years – the club changed the concept slightly at some point and went from the regular 0.33 beer bottles to the large format, 22 oz, and those started to accumulate, so I had to stop it as the whole process became somewhat boring.

Since that time I had a few other club experiences. For about year and a half, I was in the D&M Scotch club – this was great, very unique selections, but I just don’t drink enough Scotch, so it started to pile up, and I had to stop it; to be entirely honest, if I would be able to reduce the frequency of the shipments, I would still continue it. A few years back (say 6-7, to be more precise), many newspapers started their wine clubs. I subscribed to the Wall Street Journal wine club, but that experience wore off very quickly, as out of the case of wine, only 3-4 bottles would be somewhat drinkable, so paying about $180 for 4 “okay” bottles was not my idea of the bargain. I wouldn’t recommend the newspaper wine club – the selection there is simply not good.

All in all, I think all the wine clubs are different, and some of them have their place. For majority of the cases, you get a great deal of information with your wine club shipment – and I really like that. Also, for those few bottles which you will be receiving, you get two additional [oenophile-specific] benefits – you don’t need to chose anything, and you have an element of surprise with every “mystery” box you receive. As it was the case with the my sample shipment from the International Wine of the Month Club.

This club offers three different levels of membership – Premier, Masters and Collectors. The difference between the levels is in the price of wine you will be receiving – otherwise, each shipment contains 2 bottles of wine, which can be red and white, or just two reds. The sample I received contained the 2011 Bellingham The Bernard Series Small Barrel S.M.V. from the Masters series, and 2012 Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc form the Collectors series, both wines from South Africa.

2011 Bellingham The Bernard Series Small Barrel S.M.V. South Africa (14% ABV, 75% Shiraz, 22% Mourvèdre, 3% Viognier) took one day to open up. Dark, Concentrated, with raspberries and blackberries on the nose, touch of tobacco and earthiness. On the palate, the wine was firm, structured, with cherries and lavender, touch of espresso, good acidity, hint of eucalyptus and sage, well balanced. Long finish with tobacco aftertaste. Drinkability: 8-

2012 Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc Estate Wine, South Africa (13.5% ABV, 89% Sauvignon Blanc, 11% Semillon) is produced by the famed Klein Constantia, makers of the iconic Vin de Constance, favorite wine of Napoleon. This Sauvignon Blanc had gooseberry, fresh grass and lemon on the nose, with touch of sweetness. On the palate, the wine had nice zippy acidity, lemon zest, lemon and a touch of freshly cut grass and mineral complexity. It is interesting that this wine also required a day to open up and to develop a balance – from the pop and pour, the wine a was a bit disjointed and sharp, and it became soft, balanced and cohesive on the second day. I believe this wine can age, and it would be interesting to see what would happen with in a few years. Drinkability: 8

Remember I started this post with the question? How about a simple poll – I’m just curious what you think about wine clubs, so here are two questions for you. First, just tell me if you ever belonged to the wine club:

And now, if you did (or still do), how often do you get your shipments?

So, what do you think? Is there a wine club for you out there? Oh yes, before I will forget – wine clubs make perfect gift! I heard the holidays are coming… Cheers!

  1. September 10, 2014 at 5:45 am

    I used to belong to waaaaay too many winery clubs, and have since weaned myself down to two. I’m still on waaaaaay too many lists, though. I get offers from tons of wineries, and I’ve become a lot more selective about how I buy wine. I found I had too much of the same wines piling up. Cheers, Anatoli!

    • talkavino
      September 10, 2014 at 6:55 am

      I hear you. I never really done winery clubs (I guess Field Recordings is my only one, club/list). I’m on the few lists, and dropped from the few (I need QPR, if it is not that, I’m out). But overall, there are way too many wine sources competing for oenophile’s money…

    • September 10, 2014 at 10:31 am

      Ditto! Cheers!

  2. September 10, 2014 at 7:26 am

    I have never belonged to a wines club and I don’t think I will in the future either, for several reasons:

    1) There are some wines I just don’t like…it would be frustrating to receive something I don’t like
    2) Most wine clubs have regular deliveries and payments, but I prefer to make ad hoc purchases when funds allow
    3) I’m always trying new wines, especially at tasting events where I don’t have to buy a whole bottle just to taste, so there’s not that much value in a wine club for me.

    That’s my perspective anyway 👍

    • talkavino
      September 10, 2014 at 10:48 am

      I can sign underneath of every word you said. This is why I don’t belong literally to any winery clubs. I think wine of the month concept is a bit more appealing – but the same challenges will apply… There are different times for different things…

  3. September 10, 2014 at 8:45 am

    I have had bad experiences. My sister-in-law subscribed us to a beer club knowing that I like craft beer a lot. The craft beers sent were nothing special. I was expecting hard to find beers but received beers operating more on the macro level like Abita and Sweetwater.

    We also joined two winery clubs. The first never met what was promised. The private tasting events and parties never happened. Nor did we ever received the t-shirt. The second met everything promised but the wines we were sent were normally the ones the winery had on close-out. What a way to treat your best customers. “Nobody else wants this crap so here. Thanks for being a loyal spit bucket!”

    The scotch club does sound like something I would be interested in though.

    • talkavino
      September 10, 2014 at 10:49 am

      ouch, ouch and ouch.
      but I suggest you will look at D&M – they have two levels of Scotch clubs, a Champagne club, a Cognac club and more – great products and great service, really enjoyable.

  4. September 10, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Like ArmchairSom I used to belong to way too many winery wine clubs. I now belong to three: Cornerstone Cellars (great wine at an amazing club price, probably best deal in wine clubs), Merryvale and Cliff Lede (these two because we simply love their wines!) At this point I have sample pile stress and don’t have much time to drink the wines I want to drink. Thankfully most of the samples have proven to be very enjoyable. Our wneclub wines are for aging anyway. I am also on my allocation lists; sometimes I participate, sometimes not. I too have received samples from International Wine Club; working my way through my sample supply to them. I like the idea of receiving international wines from different wineries since I have only participated in winery wine clubs. Good conversation. Thanks.

    • talkavino
      September 10, 2014 at 10:50 am

      I hear you – sounds familiar 🙂

  5. September 10, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    I have never joined a wine club, I love going shopping for wine, seeing it, reading the labels, talking the wine merchant. I guess it would be convenient and maybe you would try wines you would otherwise not have tried but I still like to buy my wine when I want or need it.

  6. September 11, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    I only belong to the “Taste of Monterey” and I have truly enjoyed the experience, and have found some wines, that I have bought by the case for the cellar. Of course when we signed up, I went for the premium package, in hopes of getting some better wines that I would not find at home, and I do believe it was a wise decision.

    • talkavino
      September 13, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      This is excellent, John – good wine clubs are a lot of fun!

  7. September 13, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    We are in the WSJ wine club… it’s pretty neat! I like the variety and being able to order cases of different types of wine throughout the year. Their Italian and Spanish reds are always great.

    • talkavino
      September 13, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      Great, glad you like it!

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