You’ve been there before, you are at a winery tasting room enjoying a lovely sip of Port at the end of your flight, and then comes the inevitable pitch to join the wine club. It sounds either cool, cultish or like some scheme. The truth is, wine clubs can be all of those things. Whether or not you should join wine clubs is a pretty personal decision, and you should ask yourself a few questions before joining.
Remember, we are talking about winery wine clubs, not a wine of the month clubs or Internet subscriptions.
What are Wine Clubs?
But, before you ask yourself the questions, it’s good to understand what wine clubs are. Wine clubs are marketing and sales tools for wineries. They allow wineries to sell directly to the consumer with no middleman or retail partners eating up the profits. So a substantial discount to you still means more profits for the winery. Having a solid wine club membership allows wineries to project sales better so they can plan production. Wine clubs also serve as a direct marketing tool to obtain even more sales.
Here are some of the benefits of joining a wine club:
- First tastes of new releases, so you can get your hands on wines that may have a limited quantity.
- A discount on wine purchases usually around 10-20%.
- Special events – like release parties, some of which you pay for, others are free.
- Free tastings at the winery, sometimes this includes 1 or more guests depending on the wine club.
- Wine clubs may have levels of membership granting more benefits, steeper discounts and/or more tasting guests.
- What I call the “Norm!” effect. Some wineries make it a point to know you and make you feel welcome, like Norm in the sitcom “Cheers.” Barb, Mike, and Suzy, thanks for the “Norm” welcome!
- They have releases/pickups 3 to 4 times a year and you receive 2 to 6 bottles of wine. You can either pick them up at the winery and save on shipping fees or have them shipped directly to you. We generally pick ours up at release parties. Often times, wineries will let you trade bottles with comparably priced wines if you do not like the varietal in your shipment. Some wineries allow you to specify all reds in your shipment.
- You might also enjoy the newsletters you receive by being a member. Many include recipes and pairings with the winery wines.
- It’s fun surprise to get your shipment (especially by delivery). It’s like a little Christmas gift every three to six months.
- It’s an easy way to replenish your wine inventory without the guesswork of buying wine at retail stores.
Should you join? Here are some questions to ask:
Would an unexpected charge on your credit card or debit card send you into a financial tailspin?
Wineries require you to hand over your payment method to be kept on file so they can automatically charge your card when they have a release. It is charged to your account when picking up the release or upon shipment if you don’t pick it up in person.
Do you love the wine?
You should love most of the wines when you are in the tasting room. This does not mean all the wines. There may be some varietals that you don’t like, but you should appreciate the winemaker’s style.
Can you attend the wine club events regularly?
This may or may not be an issue to you, but I really enjoy attending release parties and the occasional dinner. If you have a few friends who belong to the same club, you can arrange to meet there at the release party and make your own little private party.
Do you have someplace to safely store your shipment?
Keeping wine at a consistent temperature is key. A basement, wine cooler or even an interior closet can do the trick.
Can you be around for the shipments?
If you don’t pick up the wine at the winery, they will send it via UPS or FedEx. It works if you can be available to sign for the shipment. An adult must sign for the wine upon delivery, otherwise, the shipment goes back to the shippers’ facilities and goes through who knows what kind of temperature fluctuations. We had this problem when we moved to Florida for a few years. We ended up quitting all of our clubs while living there.
Should You Join a Wine Club?
Of course, joining a wine club is a purely personal decision, but hopefully, these questions helped you make the decision more easily. What wine clubs do you belong to and what do you like best about membership? I’d love to hear from you!