You’re probably celebrating happy hour from the comfort of your own home lately. But buying wine or your preferred choice of beverage is more complicated than usual: Even though most liquor stores are open around the country, quarantine and social distancing guidelines say it’s better to avoid stores if you can.
Hence the spike in online grocery orders and wine delivery. Instead of ordering wine as the need arises, right now could be the perfect time to consider signing up for a wine club. These subscription-based plans deliver a selection of wines, picked by an expert based on your input and selected preferences, to your door every month or so. Whether you like hearty reds or crisp rosés, there’s something for every pallet out there, and you’ll save money compared to buying wine by the bottle at the store.
In order to help you figure out which is the right club for you, we asked some of our favorite wine bloggers and sommeliers for their recommendations. But first, before you sign up for a wine club subscription, consider the following:
• Examine the commitment and cancellation policy. It’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into — and how to get out of it if you decide it’s not for you. Some clubs charge you quarterly, while others bill annually or by the month, and you generally get a discount if you take the risk of signing up for a longer commitment.
• Pricing can be complicated. When browsing wine club subscriptions, it’s often unclear how much you’ll have to pay until after you’ve answered questions about your preferences and signed up for an account. Part of why wine club pricing is so complicated is that each company has a huge variety of subscription plans — with different pricing for each option.
• Beware of extra fees. Many clubs charge shipping fees, though it’s often possible to get free delivery with certain subscriptions or a minimum purchase.
• Shipping isn’t available everywhere. Some states have laws against home delivery of wine and other alcoholic beverages. If your state prohibits shipment of alcoholic beverages directly to consumers, you probably can’t sign up for a wine club subscription.
• Take advantage of new subscriber deals. Many wine clubs give you a discount on your first order. By all means enjoy it — but be aware that you’ll be paying more after the initial discount is gone.
• Choose your wine subscription plan carefully. Within each wine club, there are often multiple plans and options to choose from. Think about the styles and quantity of wine your household is likely to want, and then look for a plan that comes closest to matching those needs best, while also offering a good mix of convenience and savings. Then, after a few months, if things aren’t working out as you’d imagined, adjust your plan, or cancel it if need be.
Below are some of the best wine club subscriptions out there, as recommended by sommeliers and wine bloggers we spoke to. Consider it a starting point in your search for the best wine subscription package for you. For what it’s worth, in addition to the recommendations below, we’ve also heard good things about wine clubs like Winc and Vinebox, among the hundreds of others on the market.
Best Wine Clubs
• From $39 per month
Sommelier Jörn Kleinhans has been in the game for a while. He is the owner of the Huntington Beach, California-based The Sommelier Company, a nationwide resource for guided wine tastings, and is one of the leading sommelier panel moderators in the country. He likes Kermit Lynch, which he calls “the most interesting wine club for long-term wine lovers. This famous importer has discovered many of the leading wineries in Europe and beyond, and brought them to the United States,” he adds. “Members receive a varied selection from classic regions around the world each month, and it’s clear that the selection of the wines was done by competent wine specialists.”
• From roughly $60 per month
Lee Levy, a Brooklyn-based writer and founder of The Wine Club Reviews, which rates and compares various wine subscription services, loves the service Bright Cellars as much for its algorithm as its selection.
That algorithm “helps them curate the right wine for me, based on a questionnaire I filled out when I signed up and based on the feedback I’m adding to my profile after every delivery,” she says. Before signing up, you’re asked to rate your favorite candies and juices, so the company gets a sense of your taste. She also likes that “they make it simple by offering four bottles per month. I feel it is exactly the right amount of wine bottles per month for most people. Also, the value for money is very good – for an affordable price you get quite unique hidden gems wines, mainly from small vineyards from all over the world.”
• From $90 per shipment for 6 bottles
A wine club doesn’t have to feel like a big investment. If you’re trying to sample new varieties on a budget, Levy recommends Firstleaf.
“With award-winning wines at around 40%-60% off normal retail prices, their rates are super affordable. This wine club offers great wine selection from Napa, Sonoma and Washington and other places as further afield as Argentina and France,” she says. “Another great feature First Leaf offers is the option to choose the frequency of your delivery – you can choose how often you would prefer to receive your wine club box – every 1, 2, or 3 months, which allows maximum flexibility based on your consumption.”
• From $159 per shipment of 6 bottles
If you’re on a special diet but you could still use a drink, Dry Farm Wines has a way for you to take guilt-free sips. Deanna Kang is a California-based professional chef and founder of the Asian Test Kitchen, which provides healthy recipes and instructions for Asian cuisine. She knows a bit about nutrition, and says Dry Farm Wines is “as far as I know, the only exclusively organic, paleo wine club subscription, and they are keto too!” adding that as a bonus, “the wines are lab tested for sugar content.”
• From $45 per month
We all like to cheer for the home team. Sophia McDonald Bennett, an Oregon-based freelance journalist and a member of the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, likes Cellar 503 because it helps dispel some misconceptions about her home state. “Owner Carrie Wynkoop is focused on shining a light on small, artisan producers throughout the state, not just in the Willamette Valley,” she says. “She also does a lot to create community within the wine industry and educate people about different wines, spreading my favorite message, which is that Oregon is much more than pinot noir.”
• From roughly $45 per month
If money is tight, just know that Martha Stewart has got you. Stewart personally curates her wine club, which “offers with no doubt the most affordable option, only $7.49 per bottle! Outrageous by any standard,” Levy, from The Wine Club Reviews, says. While Levy notes that the selection isn’t as personalized as some clubs, “after getting three deliveries in the last few month, I can honestly say the wines you get for this price are really good and enjoyable for cozy drinking at home.”
• From $189 per shipment for 6 bottles
Unfortunately, none of us know how long this self-isolation period is going to go. If you are looking to stock up for a while then Paige Comrie, a San Francisco-based Certified American Wine Expert and blogger, recommends the Napa/Sonoma-based Peter Paul Wines, which is currently offering a “hunker down special to stock up on their wines during COVID, which includes six bottles of wine at a discount and free shipping,” she says. “Their winemaker is the first Mexican-American descended Master of Wine in the world and produces beautiful wines that are bold and statement-making, but also elegant and refined.”
• From 10% off regular prices
There’s something to be said for narrowing one’s focus to do one thing very well. Comrie is “a huge fan of Gary Farrell, a producer of stunning single-vineyard pinot noirs,” she says. “Their wines are a breathtaking example of how terroir plays such an important role in wine and how dramatically different the same grape can be depending on the weather patterns, soil type, and amount of sunlight it receives.”
• From $84.95 per month for 3 bottles
Doreen Winkler is a New-York based natural wine sommelier and founder of Orange Glou, which she calls “the world’s first, and only, wine subscription service devoted solely to skin-contact wines,” otherwise known as orange wines. As someone who owns a wine club, she recognizes when one of her peers does a top-flight job, and recommends MYSA Natural Wines for the selection and for its eco-conscious ethos.
“MYSA donates 1% of all sales, not just profits, to support environmental initiatives that offset the impact of shipping wine via 1% for the Planet and the Carbon Fund. Holly Berrigan and co-founder Niclas Jansson are based in Spain and source all of their European wines themselves, exclusively introducing to the U.S. market small producers who practice sustainable farming and low-intervention cellar methods such as Domaine de l’Envol (France), Vinessens (Spain) and Aldo Viola (Italy),” she says. As a nice bonus, MYSA also “produces podcasts and blog posts about natural wine and moderates a growing online community that connects natural wine lovers worldwide.”