If you’re stumped for Valentine’s Day gift ideas, consider one of the many popular wine clubs that have emerged. Give your Valentine a bottle of great wine and they’ll drink for a day. Give your Valentine a wine club subscription and they’ll drink for a lifetime — responsibly, of course. It’s true that unwrapping a bottle of vino on Valentine’s Day, even a nice one, might be somewhat anticlimactic. On the other hand, introducing your partner to new and interesting wine options that are hand-picked by a sommelier and delivered every month is about as good as it gets. Wine clubs and subscription services have become sophisticated in 2021, but all this innovation and competition presents both a world of opportunities as well as a serious challenge in finding the best wine club for your special someone.
Indeed, wine delivery services and subscriptions have become even more popular during the pandemic for obvious reasons and a jam-packed wine club category can make it challenging to find the one that best for your wine wants and needs — or those of the person you’re buying for. Knowing a little bit about each wine subscription service will help you pick one that perpetually pleases with inspired monthly selections of boutique wine bottles from every corner of the wine-producing world. When you can’t make it to the winery to try new vine vintages, the right wine club will bring the best of them to you.
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Wine clubs aren’t new, but they’ve been given some serious upgrades with a changing wine landscape, evolving buying habits and technological advances. There are well over 800 wine clubs and subscription services in the US alone, offering varieties from small wineries, limited-batch and private label wine, personalized quality wine bottles to fit tasting notes and flavor preferences and much more you simply can’t find at a package store. Many of these personalized wine clubs go far beyond choosing between red, white and sparkling wine, introducing members to quality vintages and opening the sprawling world of wine to anyone, anywhere.
Today, newer online wine clubs and services launch with an understanding of niche branding and purchase patterns, taking advantage of slick interfaces and advanced wine-tasting algorithms, while some older operations scramble to catch up. This all makes the monthly wine club world even denser, and though it’s true that competition keeps prices down, you have to wade through a sea of online wine purveyors to find the absolute best wine club for your tastes and habits.
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So then, we ask: Which is the best wine club or wine subscription for you, your budget and preferences? You may want to start by asking yourself a few questions that go beyond simply red wine or white wine. Do you want a wine service that is highly curated to your specific tastes? Do you have a roster of old favorites or would you rather try (mostly) new and different wine? Perhaps you’d like a master sommelier sharing their tasting totes and opinions of certain bottles? Then there are vegan wines, naked wines, organic and biodynamic wines to consider, each with a niche wine club or two specializing in them. Most importantly you must decide what a good quality bottle of wine should cost you.
If all of the wine club subscription options seem overwhelming, we get it. It’s like being in the wild west of wine country without a guide. That’s why we canvassed the landscape to uncork the most delicious wine delivery options — from subscriptions that specialize in monthly bottle surprises to services curated to your exacting vino standards. These offer thoughtful selection, great customer service, helpful tasting notes from trained sommeliers and tremendous overall value for any wine lover, delivering fabulous bottles straight to your wine rack, fridge, cellar (or couch — we don’t judge). Below you’ll find important information on the most popular wine clubs to help you find the best wine subscription service for you.
Note that this list was originally made before the coronavirus. We continue to monitor the operational capacity of each company and regularly update the article accordingly.
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Our picks were chosen through a mix of personal experience, reviews from industry-leading wine and food sites and customer reviews from third-party review platforms such as TrustPilot and HighYa. We also took into consideration factors such as customer service, ease of site navigation and breadth of wines to choose from, but to be clear we did not personally test every service. We’ll update this as we try new services.
Formerly known as Club W, Winc first asks customers to take a short quiz and then presents dozens of good wine choices and four highlighted recommendations that should match your palate for a monthly subscription. If you already know what you like, you can choose which wines to add to your box and use the site’s filter options to find sweet wine, international wine like French wine and vegan wines (yes, that’s a thing).
You don’t have to pick four wines, but it’s generally the easiest way to get to the free shipping minimum. If you don’t curate your box or forget to skip the month, your top recommendations will be shipped to you. Winc also sells both its own wines and bottles from independent wineries.
At $13 per bottle and up, Winc provides an overall great value for the wines and a user-friendly website. As a wine club member, you’ll also receive a credit toward your next purchase for any wine you don’t enjoy. Plus, you can rate the wines (between one and five stars), which improves your future recommendations and helps others make decisions.
You can skip your next delivery if you’ll be out of town, but you cannot pause your subscription if you need a longer break. Introverts should know that you need to cancel via phone or online chat (the latter being the fastest way).
Novices and connoisseurs alike can build lasting brand loyalty with Winc’s wine selection, but be warned: some wine club subscribers might get tired of its stock in a few months if they want something different with each delivery. Either way, we think there’s something for everyone in this popular wine subscription.
Leave it to Martha Stewart to make your wine habit simultaneously more affordable and chic. Stewart chooses all of the wines for this club and everyone’s first box is identical (a mix of reds and whites), providing an introduction to the collection. Afterwards, deliveries can be customized to include all reds, all whites or a mix.
You can pick a half or a full case of wine to receive every six or eight weeks, respectively. It’s $50 for six weeks and $90 for eight weeks, so whether you go with the half-case or full-case option, each bottle works out to be less than $9.
You’ll also get tips on proper serving techniques, pairing choices and as you might guess, general entertaining wisdom with each case. In order to cancel or skip, you’ll need to reach out to customer service.
If you’ve graduated from the Gallos and the Cupcakes and want to include more nuanced, complex and higher-priced premium wine in your life, Firstleaf might be for you. Its palate quiz is one of the most involved, asking for varietal (pinot noir vs. shiraz, for instance) preferences in addition to using several household name wines as taste benchmarks. It also asks you about certain tasting notes and qualities you might prefer in your perfect wine — such as minerality — in contrast to similar quizzes which assume many don’t know what that means. In short, this is probably the best wine club for a wine enthusiast who has the basics down and is ready to launch into expert wine tasting territory.
Firstleaf offers six bottles per month for $90 — $15 per bottle — based on your results and monthly ratings and the first month is half-price. You can schedule the delivery frequency however you please (according to the company, most customers pick an every other month schedule), and can swap out each of your selections through your account, but if you don’t like the replacement, you’ll have to email customer support. Otherwise, skipping a single order, putting your account on hold, reactivating it, and canceling your subscription altogether can all be done through your online wine club account.
Cellars Wine Club ($29 and up per month) actually offers 12 different wine clubs that you can switch between, based on your preferences. A wine expert sommelier team tastes and chooses the wines for the clubs every month. Ultimately, these sommelier experts pull from the same pool of wines, but the individual sub-clubs cater to specific tastes and categories.
Most of these sub-clubs ship a wine box with two wine bottles, but there are also single-bottle, red trio and full case (a dozen bottles) choices. Clubs are curated by themes like taste (Sweet Wines Club), wine regions (West Coast Club which offer California wine options such as wines from Napa Valley) and even wine scale ranking (90+ Point Club). While other services, especially palate-based ones, box you into experiencing certain kinds of wine, Cellars allows the wine drinker to be adventurous from wine shipment to wine shipment without compromising quality.
You can set the number of wine shipments, frequency and the start month for each club and mixed clubs let you choose your ideal reds-to-whites ratio. Switching between clubs can be done online through your account, but if you want to cancel your subscription all together, you have to reach out to customer service.
No online wine tasting quiz here. Vinebox lets you try before you buy with its quarterly wine subscription. Instead of getting stuck with entire bottles of random wines, you get a tasting kit with nine small vials delivered every three months.
The twist-top vials hit the middle ground between a tasting pour and a standard glass pour. This way, you can try these wines and maybe even have enough to pair with a meal or just unwind at the end of the day. You can also double your box — saving 10% — if you want to get a friend or significant other in on the tasting experience. Vinebox uses a special rebottling process to preserve the wine’s taste, and each tube can keep the wine good for up to three years.
Until last year, Vinebox was a monthly wine subscription service. The customer experience has changed only slightly, but the wine curation is focused even more on discovery than before. You still have control over your preferred red to white ratio for your boxes.
If you really like one or more of your testers, you can buy a whole bottle on the Vinebox website (a perk for subscribers only). If you sign up for a quarterly subscription ($79 and up per quarter), you get a $15 credit towards a full bottle every three months. If you pay for the full year, it’s just $72 per quarter. You’ll also save $8 per quarter if you order wine for two people instead of one. We also like that it’s really easy to skip a month or cancel your subscription right from your online account.
For some people, wine is a way of life and The Panel gets this. Each month a group of winemakers, sommeliers and other wine experts blindly taste a wine selection. You’ll then receive three or six of what they determine as the winning vinos. You can also explore wines from various regions with the custom blind tasting packages that include a range of options from premium Italian reds to California wine picks.
There are three tiers of club membership at $99 per month and up which also give you access to The Panel’s lounge in Sonoma, California, as well as invites to special events. The most premium membership ($299 per month) includes perks like cellar consultations. Any membership level can reach capacity as subscriptions ebb and flow, so we can’t promise that you’ll be chosen right away (or at all).
For Francophiles, this wine club seeks to replicate the sommelier in a fine French restaurant or wine bar but from the comfort of your home. For one, all the wines come from France, but the team selecting them also lives and works in French wine regions and thus are intimately acquainted with the nuance of the product. To further drill down on the sommelier experience, SomMailer includes thoughtful food pairings and in-depth descriptions with every bottle.
To sign up for SomMailer, you’ll choose either three bottles ($99 per month) or six bottles ($192) to be delivered monthly and then select all red wine, all white wine or a mix of both. Subscriptions to SomMailer can be canceled anytime, but if you want to just try one box or gift a box of three or six French wines to a friend, you can do that too.
The best part is if you find a wine you really love, SomMailer will sell you a case of either three, six, or 12 bottles a la cart. This is great because you may not be able to find every wine you try in your local package store.
The popularity of biodynamic wines aligns with a growing desire to consume more natural foods and this organic wine club has its finger on the pulse of that shift in preferences. Organic grapes are a great place to start, but biodynamic farming and processing doesn’t deteriorate the soil or add traditional winemaking additives like artificial sugars to natural wine.
Plonk Wine Club pulls biodynamic wines from all corners of the globe. As with everything else that’s organic, this is a pricey box ($110 per month) that only contains four bottles. You can also order a dozen at a discount, but instead of getting an additional eight unique wines, you’ll be stocking up on three bottles of each of that month’s picks.
A vegan wine club? Now, we’ve heard it all. Knowing whether or not a wine is vegan at your local wine shop is nearly impossible and you often need to do some sleuthing if you want to ensure it is. Not so with this vegan wine club, which aims to take that research off your plate and fill your glass with quality vegan wines every month.
Subscriptions start at $140 per month (plus $20 shipping), but for $92 you can choose or gift a starter box that includes three premium bottles of vegan wine. If you do know what you want, simply subscribe to either Red Lovers, Light Lovers or Signature Club. The three wine clubs ship six wines per quarter from international vegan wineries and you can add vegan cheese pairings from Miyoko’s Creamery. You can also change what kind of box you receive every month. In order to change your subscription type or cancel it, you need to email their team before your next shipment.
Want a party in a box? Wine Down Box sends you a standout wine with perfect cheese and cured meat wine pairings. You might have a vague idea of which cheeses go with which wines, but the rules don’t always apply to complex, nuanced bottles.
Each box includes a bottle of wine and the perfect cheese, meat and artisanal crackers to pair it with. The perishables ship separately from the wine, but the packages are staggered so that they reach your home at about the same time. You’ll also get tasting notes for pairing to help turn you into a charcuterie expert.
Wine Down Box starts at $63 per month if you subscribe for the year with shipping included.
Maybe wine isn’t your drink of choice, but it’s always nice to have a few great wine bottles around. Ninety Plus Cellars ships rebranded wines from reputable wineries every three months. Meaning, they purchase a small percentage of bottles from vineyards with histories of highly rated wines and repackage them.
This way, you get three or six standout bottles each quarter for a fraction of their cost. For $50 per quarter and up, you can get the three best wines of the season, six reds or a mix of six reds, whites and occasional rosés and bubbly. It recently added the option to choose a dozen reds or a mix of a dozen bottles, in case you want to stock up for a party or the holiday season. Some of the older, legacy wine club companies still do four shipments a year, but we think Ninety Plus offers a better value and has a more user-friendly website.
Simple to use and straightforward, if you’re looking for the convenience and discount associated with wine delivery but not the commitment of a full subscription service, you might try Wine Insiders. The wine delivery service offers a careful selection of wines including reds, whites, sparkling wine, rosé all under $20 with zero subscription or monthly commitment and free shipping on six bottles or more.
Which subscriptions didn’t make the cut and why
Our picks were chosen through a mix of personal experience, reviews from industry-leading wine and food sites and customer reviews from casual enthusiasts via third-party sites like TrustPilot and HighYa. We also took into consideration customer service, ease of site navigation and breadth of selection.
Though media companies are credited with kicking off the wine club renaissance in 2008 (think The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times), they use one of a few, massive wine merchants to fill their orders. As a result, these companies, along with older clubs like Laithwaite’s and Turner Classic Movies’ essentially pull from the same lot, often marking up prices in the process. The lack of value and unique offerings excluded these services from our list. Some of the older clubs like Vinesse and California Wine Club do deliver a high-quality selection, but they also have text-heavy sites that are exhausting to navigate as well as cancellation policies that involve tedious phone calls.
Winc and Firstleaf are great examples of quiz-based wine clubs that offer customizable breadth to consumers. However, Bright Cellars, which also uses a quiz to discern customers’ likes and dislikes, did not make our list. We found that this particular club ships lackluster wines, the palate quiz often spits out the same or nearly identical recommendations for very different people and its customer service could be better.
Wine Awesomeness, which taps into millennial wanderlust with its international offerings, gets tons of press (it even publishes its own magazine). Despite this impeccably crafted aesthetic, the club’s subscribers and reviewers found the wines boring and also reported some serious shipping issues.
Tasting Room was considered for our trial-size wine pick, but it has gained a reputation as a bait-and-switch service. Most online reviewers loved the introductory taste test, only to be disappointed with the wine curation afterwards.
In recent years, food-delivery services have also gotten into the wine-subscription service. Both Blue Apron and HelloFresh rolled out wine subscription add-ons to their popular meal delivery services. Blue Apron’s smaller, half-liter offerings tend to be more premium than HelloFresh’s, but both have a strong hit-or-miss reputation and don’t take your palate into consideration by only providing direct meal pairings, which is why they ultimately didn’t make our list.
We absolutely loved the premium, boutique winery offerings of Pour This from renowned sommelier Ashley Ragovin, but her subscription service has been terminated. We looked into SommSelect as an alternative, but its selection is more closely aligned with that of The Panel than the rare finds Ragovin could produce.
The Panel’s main competitor was Illinois-based Cooper’s Hawk Wine Club, since both offer in-person perks. However the value and experience of Cooper’s Hawk is greatly diminished if you don’t live in Illinois, partially thanks to shipping costs and bottle markups. Even with local benefits, the Cooper’s Hawk wineries have more of an industrial aesthetic, and you would be limited to offerings from its domestic vineyards.
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This article was written by J. Fergus and originally published earlier on Chowhound.