The best gift you could get for the wine lover in your life is the wine gift that keeps on giving—namely, subscription to a wine club.
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The inspiration and fuel for countless songs and love-filled nights, get-togethers and special occasions, wine has coursed through the veins of the human experience for eons, in countries on every corner of the planet.
If you’re a bit of a wine novice though, it can be hard to know which wine to try, which bottle to buy for which occasion, and how to know if what you’re buying is good or not. The world of oenophiles can be as murky as a Shiraz, but it’s easier than ever to make sense of it all. Joining a wine club is a great way to get hand-selected wines sent to you every month, helping you learn which wines you like, which meals they go great with, and how the whole symphony of aromas and flavors got from the grape to your bottle.
Let’s pull the cork and take a look.
Wine clubs are typically run either by a particular vineyard that is looking for a way to connect with customers and sign them to a regularly scheduled wine purchase, or by big wine clearing houses that curate wines from across the world.
Customers sign up for a plan—typically a monthly one, but there are also quarterly plans and other setups—and are usually asked about their wine preferences, or given a short set of questions in order to determine what their tastes are and which types of wine they may prefer. The wine club will then either select wines for you or let you pick the ones you want in your shipment.
Most wine clubs will allow you to choose whether you’d like reds or whites or a mix, and if you’d like any sparkling wines. Some also allow you to purchase liquors and wine related accessories and gifts. Wine clubs tend to send between 2-4 750 ml bottles per shipment, but some allow you to order significantly more.
With your shipment, many wine clubs will also send info sheets on the wine, as well as recipe pairings to help you learn how to cook with wine and pair it with food.
There is a wide range of prices you can expect to pay for a wine club, depending on the company you go with and the quality of the wine you order. Most companies will allow you to sign up for a basic plan or a premium wine plan, with the latter having a significantly higher price per bottle. Others, like Firstleaf, keep the prices affordable, with 6 bottles for $40 as an introductory offer, or a little over $6.5 per bottle, whereas companies like Bright Cellars have wines starting at $20 per bottle. California Wine Club takes it even further, with 2 bottles per month for between $40.45-$231.00, and single bottles for order at anywhere between $9.99 to $135.
With most wine clubs, you’ll also be expected to pay a shipping fee with each order, typically around $10 or less.
Your first step when considering a wine club is to decide if your goal is to explore new wines and learn about the world of vino, or to look for deals on wines fit for a seasoned connosoueir. If it’s the former, then you’re probably best off looking for an introductory wine club that will take the time to learn what wines you are likely to enjoy, and will start you out with affordable, quality wines. If you’re a more seasoned wine drinker, perhaps look for a club that offers more expensive, premium wines that you may not be able to find in your neighborhood grocery store.
Regardless, you’ll also need to decide how many bottles you want per month, and you should find a plan that you can quit anytime, so you aren’t tied into a long-term membership. And also? Have fun, and clear your schedule—if you join a wine club you may have more dinner plans than you expected.
Price Range: from $6.65 per bottle
Best For: clearing up the confusion of buying wine by getting matched with selections that match your preferences
Order Frequency: every 1, 2, or 3 months
Bottles per Shipment: 6
“Buying Great Wine Should Be Easier” is the call to arms of Firstleaf, a wine club that provides personalized wine selections to users at prices that put the retail stores to shame. The company learns which wines you like based on the computational analysis of a biochemist and uses this data set to determine which wines to send you and which to recommend in the future. Regular orders can be amended based on your personal preferences.
Price Range: from $20 per bottle
Best For: people who want a low-commitment wine club that will hand-select them wines
Order Frequency: monthly
Bottles per Shipment: 4
You might think of beer when you think of Milwaukee, but the Wisconsin-based Bright Cellars Wine Club is driven to help members discover the world of wine. The company matches users with 4 new, unique bottles per month, based on answers to a special sign-up quiz. The company also provides more than enough wine options for the more seasoned aficionado as well. The plan is flexible and has a simple, straightforward pricing structure.
Price Range: from $13 per bottle
Best For: learning about new wines and sampling fun new wines each month for an easy price
Order Frequency: monthly
Bottles per Shipment: 3-6
“Wine is one of life’s simple pleasures,” according to the folks at Winc, a wine club that helps you discover your wine preferences and get wine sent directly to your front door that matches your unique tastes. The team at Winc creates and curates hundreds of wines, from reds to whites to sparkling, cider, and vegan. You test out some fine wines, learn what you’re into, and step by step, you discover your inner sommelier.