Are Wine Clubs a good thing? Are they good value? Why might I join one or more?
By Master of Wine, Christopher Burr
During "lock down" membership of Wine Clubs has increased dramatically, and by and large new members are enjoying the new experience. There are now at least twelve major UK wide national Clubs, and many smaller local ones, so for the major ones I have produced a table of what they all offer.
But first, why would you consider joining one? Speaking to our users there are a number of key aspects that wine lovers find attractive and useful;-
Firstly, it is so convenient to have wine delivered straight to your door, rather than having to carry heavy bottles, and most Clubs deliver for free if the order is over a certain size.
Secondly, it is an easy way to experiment with new and different wines, and most Clubs offer excellent advice, good tasting notes and educational material. So it is an easy way to learn about different wines, and if you don't like the wine, they nearly all offer a money back guarantee. So, it is a low-risk way to experiment.
Thirdly, they mostly have monthly or quarterly subscription/saving schemes and when there is enough in your account you can redeem your savings, often at a discount, for a case or more of wine of your choice. And one Club even offers you interest on funds in your account!
Finally, on joining and for special purchases, most of the Clubs offer a significant money off benefit for the first order. Some also offer free glasses or a decanter and some free extra bottles. Some have wine fairs and tastings to go to. All of which are a considerable attraction on first joining, and may make you consider joining more than one!
But before you look through the offers and incentives, let me give you a few words of friendly advice.
You join a Wine Club to get good wine at a fair price. Some wine ranges are undoubtedly better than others. Most of them have a few "stars", a lot of good honest regular well- made wines, and a few which are mediocre!
So if you start by trying a well know favourite against what you normally drink, you will soon see which is better and also best value. Remember you can always send a duff bottle, or one you really don't like back and get a refund.
Also whilst there are deals and incentives, always check prices, sometimes difficult, but Clubs are not always the cheapest, as they offer extra services, and often the wines are not directly comparable.
Check delivery costs to make sure you don't end up with a big charge for sending two bottles to the Outer Hebrides!
I have to admit I am a member of three Wine Clubs, one I use a lot, one I use occasionally, and one I am yet to start their saving scheme as I haven't yet seen a wine I am keen to try.
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Updated 25th September 2021