A Guide to Joining a Wine Club

There are so many reasons to sign up for a wine club subscription as there are reasons to drink wine. Deciding what type of wine club to subscribe can be as easy and painless as you want it to be, but you must be clear what you really looking for and know exactly what you are getting into.

Joining a wine club can be a rewarding experience. In this guide we will guide you through the process of selecting the wine club to join.

  1. Are wine clubs worth it?
    Joining a wine club can be an excellent choice, specially if you are an individual who wants to experiment with various styles of wine but have little to no time to go to local wine shop.
    Another advantage to wine club membership is the access to small wine production from ‘mom and pop’ wineries who cannot afford shipping licenses or marketing.
  2. Can the wines be shipped to your address?
    Every state has its own laws, so make sure the winery can actually ship to your home.
  3. How much a wine club membership costs? 
    Find out the number of shipments per year, the number of bottles shipped each time, and ask the winery about average costs per shipment.  Make sure that free wine club membership will not end up costing you a small fortune per year not only on the wine, but also on shipping costs.
  4. Are discounts being offered?
    Does the discount apply to wines shipped to you, wines purchased at the winery, or both?  If you receive a wine in your shipment and you want to purchase additional bottles, does the discount still apply for additional purchases or not (and is there a time limit on that discount)?  Does the discount apply to large format bottles (magnums, etc.) or just 750 ml bottles?  Be sure to also ask if wine purchase discounts apply to all wines, or just some wines (frequently the discounts do not apply to “library” wines).  The more likely you are to take advantage of wine club benefits, the more reasons to decide “yes” about signing up.
  5. What special treatment can you get on future trips to the winery? 
    See if the wine club membership includes special perks, such as free tasting, and how many guests you may bring with you.
    Check if there are discount on other merchandise sold by the winery (T-shirts, cookbooks, housewares, food products, etc.) and if so, what is the discount on those items?  If the winery offers other programs such as tours or food and wine programs, see if those have discounts as well for wine club members.  Seriously assess how many of these perks you (and/or your close friends you expect to return with) will be able to utilize.
  6. Do the wine club membership benefits extend to any other wineries?
    Sometimes multiple wineries have a common owner and wine club membership at one gets you free tastings and/or purchase discounts at other wineries, even if you don’t get wines shipped from the other wineries.  See if this is happening, and/or appeals to you.
  7. Is there a penalty for canceling your membership at a later date, and if so what is it?
    Your financial situation may change down the road, you may not like the wines as much as expected over time, or you may find yourself with too many wine club memberships to manage.  These things all happen, and wineries are used to it.  However, if you sign up for a wine club only to turn around and cancel it two weeks later because all you wanted was a free tasting, well then that’s just plain tacky.
  8. Does the wine club shipment involve allocations, and what happens if you don’t purchase your full allocation?
    Some wineries don’t care if you don’t purchase the full amount of bottles offered, while other wineries (usually smaller, “cult” ones) may decrease your priority on their list and/or drop you from their list if you don’t purchase everything they want you to.  There is no wrong answer here – you just need to make sure the winery’s business philosophy works with your personal preferences.

Wineries love their wine club members because they represent almost guaranteed sales, even at a discount the winery will usually make more profit per bottle than through retail distribution, and happy repeat customers result in a fun environment when you return to the winery in person.

Wine clubs are a enjoyable for consumers too.  Guaranteed delivery of wine from a winery you like, discounts on purchases, special treatment on future visits, and personal invites to special events are always fun.  You just need to make sure when you join a wine club it’s the right one for you, and the questions above should help you determine that.