Why join a wine club? Isn’t that only for the really rich people who have huge cellars and purchase wines by the case to stock for their massive house parties? I don’t own a Cavavin or Eurocave, and live in a small place, so why would I ever need to puchase that much wine at one time?
Well, consider how much wine you go through over the course of a year. Most wine lovers (if you are reading this, then this probably applies to you) will probably have at least one bottle a week. That’s 52 bottles, 39 liters of wine, or 4.33 cases of wine per year and might seem laughably low to some of you. Yes, there are people who do not have big, beautiful patios and are not inundated with guests every evening of the week who drop by for non-stop wine-soaked socializing, and that’s ok. Some people just like to have a nice glass of wine with their dinner. How many trips to the liquor store does it take to buy those 52 bottles?
Wine clubs, particularly in the pandemic era that we are in, are a great way for wine lovers of all means to keep your wine stash stocked and ready for whenever you need it. Here are a few reasons why wine clubs are hot right now:
1 . Stocking wine at home will keep you from having to make special trips to the store to get it when you need it. There is a reason why liquor stores in BC were allowed to stay open when most everything else shut down. Even though stores were still open, there weren’t a lot of people shopping in any given day. I used to love shopping. Now I don’t love it and try to avoid doing any small trips to get anything if I don’t have to. Keeping a good selection of wines really helped cut back on those barely-necessary trips to the liquor store. It is likely a waste of time and gas if buying those 52 bottles takes 52 trips.
2. The wine will taste more like it did in the wine shop when you tasted it. Have you ever returned from a wine tasting experience and opened a bottle of the wine that you loved the most only to find that it didn’t taste exactly the same as you remembered? It’s probably because the wine is in travel shock. The wine feels just as good as you did when you arrived home after traveling through 5 airports and 6 time zones without your favourite neck pillow. If you receive your wines from a wine club, you will be able to have a small stockpile of wines that are rested and ready for you whenever you choose.
3. It is the best way to support the wineries that you really love. If you love the wine you’re with, support the people who make it every year. Wine clubs are a winery’s most profitable sales channel. Even though that Merlot costs $25 at the government store or the supermarket, the winery will receive a higher percentage of that $25 if you buy it directly from them. Smaller wineries appreciate this more than you know, especially if their wine shops are small and they cannot accomodate the same number of visitors that they have in the past. Increasing their wine clubs and online sales is now a matter of survival for some of these wineries. By joining a winery’s wine club, you are giving them your support in ways that transcend money.
So how you do choose the club that is right for you?
1. Start with wineries that have wines that you know you already really like. This should be the most important factor. If the winery has a style that you love or that makes wines that suit the foods that you eat often, chances are you will love receiving their wines regularly. I’m a member at one club that has special wines that are only available to club members. That makes each shipment even more special!
2. Look for benefits that you will enjoy and can actually use. Some wine clubs have some great benefits that range from discounts on all purchases to special wines that are only available to wine club members. I used to manage one club that let you name a row of vines in their vineyard! Most offer some kind of perk for visiting them, usually free tastings for your group or a special tour of some kind. If you aren’t planning on coming to the Okanagan, these will be largely useless for you. Some wineries to special events for their members in other cities in the form of special dinners or meet ups. I suspect this will become more common since people may not be traveling as much as they used to.
3. Choose a committment level that you can handle. Most wine clubs have very little committment requirements but some do. The usual minumum is to purchase about 12 bottles per year and I know of one high-end winery that requires only 6 bottles. If that sounds like a lot to purchase from one winery, consider your yearly total above in the second paragraph (52). Instead of buying them in 52 different trips to the liquor store, you are now purchasing more of them in one shot and you can even have them shipped right to you.
I’ve been managing wine clubs for 5 years and helped out with them for another 4 before that. I’ve been a member of a wine store’s club before but it wasn’t until last year that I actually joined a winery’s club. Now that I am a member of three clubs and enjoy the thrill of opening that box of wine when it arrives. Most wineries include in-depth tasting notes or information about the wines. One includes recipes with each shipment and another includes a hand-written thank you note, which I think is the ultimate in classiness because it shows that they really appreciate my business.
Advice for wineries: I have heard of wine clubs that include nothing but the wines. I’m not sure why this happens because in my opinion, that’s a great way to alienate your customers. Wine club members are the most loyal fanbase for your brand. You can be sure that every time one of those bottles are brought out to be enjoyed when guests come over, they are going to tell their friends where they got this wine. A wine club shipment is not just a box of twelve bottles of wine. It’s twelve opportunities for a loyal customer to tell their friends about your how much they love your winery.
Even if you still think that wine clubs are out of your league, this is a great time to try one out. Visit the website of a winery that you have enjoyed in the past, either in person or through their wines, and check out what they have to offer for their wine club.
Have you been a member of a wine club? Share your experiences, negative and positive, in the comments below.
Cheers from wine country!