Why wine clubs are the best thing since sliced bread…
In pondering the best way to buy wine, I asked myself the question, do I have a wine buying problem?
I think I do. I think I have a wine buying problem when 1) I’m buying wine online at 4:35 a.m. in the morning, 2) have a ton of great wine downstairs in the basement, and 3) am living on a very tight budget.
So what do you do when you have a wine obsession like I do? You scour the Internet in search of the very, very best deals and that just happens to come in wine clubs. Yes, wine clubs, but I’m not referring to your standard wine club procedure: go to winery, love the wines, and sign up for a monthly or quarterly package from the same winery. While this method is great for those who absolutely love one particular winery and wine type, I like to try wines from everywhere and at all price points—but honestly, I don’t have the budget to do so!
I’ve decided that the only ways to handle my wine obsession is to 1) physically go to all the liquor stores in Denver (this is currently the only way to buy wine) in search of the best deals on wine, or 2) search online and see what is available at a great price.
Below, I’ll describe three different online wine clubs that I’ve had some experience with and which you might also be interested in.
$69 FOR 12 TOP RATED WINES: WSJ Wine
My first thought was to check out Amazon Wine. As an Amazon customer, I love getting the best price on things and getting my shipment within two days. I have to admit, I have an Amazon obsession. However, I was disappointed in the selection and lack of packages, and honestly, I wasn’t sure what to buy if some of my tried and true wines weren’t available there. I quickly abandoned this wine-buying option.
Then I remembered that when I first moved to Denver, I received mail with, well, a lot of junk, but in it, there was a flyer from WSJ Wine. I respect and used to read the WSJ (Wall Street Journal) when I had time, a long-long-long time ago. I figured that, being WSJ, the company was likely to have a decent selection, and it appeared that I could get an all “Reds” Discovery package.
This interested me more than anything. Red wines always cost more, and while I can appreciate a white wine, I generally tend to lean red. About a week later, I received my package of twelve red wines ranging from Malbecs to Cabernet Sauvignon to Pinot Noir. I haven’t finished all the wines, but so far, every single one of the wines I’ve tried has been really good. I even got to try a Coppola wine as well, and it was quite good. However, in order to continue getting these great rates, I paid $69.99 for the intro Discovery package plus $19.99 for S&H and then additional tax, making a grand total of around $95 for twelve bottles of wine plus two Riedel glasses. The average cost of wine came out to about $8 a bottle for this package.
Once you join, then you have access to more wines and are sent a package of twelve wines at $149.99 plus $19.99 for S&H, bringing the average cost per bottle to around $14. This is still a great deal, and you can adjust the schedule if needed. If there is a wine you don’t like, you simply let them know, and they’ll refund you the cost of the wine. The good thing, too, is that it is easy to cancel should you choose to. Overall, I was very impressed and surprised at the quality of these wines.
ONLY $20 TO JOIN: Firstleaf
Another option is to try three wines at once based on your preference in whites, reds, or a mix, and by U.S., International, or Mix. This option was created by the magazine Food & Wine and is called Firstleaf. The barriers to entry are quite small, and $19.99 includes the S&H for three bottles. It is somewhat of a Netflix of wine; you then get to rate the introductory wines Yay or Nay, and additional selections for your next six-bottle shipment will be created. The next shipment is determined by how many bottles you consume a month. If you are likely to consume three bottles a month, then they determine that a six-bottle shipment every two months is right for you. You can of course, adjust as needed, based on your needs, to four, six, or eight bottles every two or even three months. I signed up for three bottles a month and therefore a six-bottle package cost me $79.99 plus $9.95 S&H. I was able to get the six-bottle package without the S&H cost, making future packages for the year $13.34 per bottle—not a bad deal.
I personally picked the International option as I was interested in seeing what all would be included. I received a beautifully packaged box about a week later with a thank-you card and the introductory package of three wines. As of now, this seems like a great price. Now I just need to try the wines and see if they are indeed worth it. I am in the process of trying them, but I’m sure they will be up to par as this is a joint venture between Sunset and Food &Wine magazines. I’ll post an updated review on the wines later.
Below are a few screenshots of what to expect:
BUY AS YOU GO AND SUPPORT NEW WINEMAKERS: Naked Wines
And yet a third option, and perhaps one that a lot of people may be interested in as it doesn’t include a monthly subscription, is Naked Wines. A few years ago, after having attended a Bloggers Conference in Portland, Oregon, I got a chance to try Naked Wines (not to be mistaken with Naked Winery). Naked Wines has a very interesting setup where you can initially join with a $100 voucher which is applied to your first purchase. Generally, this will allow you to buy anywhere from a 6-pack to 12-pack case with some additional money. Or, you could use this $100 and apply it to a few select wines that you might be interested in. However, you may quickly realize that you’d rather try them at a better price, and you might consider trying a few others at the same time for the same price. With this in mind, you generally go for a wine pack of a number of wines, even those reserved for exclusive “Angels.”
“Angels” at Naked Wines are people, like you and me, who decide to invest in these blossoming winemakers. As an Angel, you are supporting hundreds of winemakers internationally who have a dream and want to sell their wine but who individually wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of a larger distribution partner such as Naked Wines.
Naked Wines makes it possible for these winemakers to get their wines out to the general public, and, in return, the winemakers sell their wine at reasonably discounted prices so that people like you and me can try them. To become an Angel, you invest a monthly amount starting at $40 a month which can be later allocated toward the purchase of future wines at a special price. If you like a certain wine, then you can buy more through Naked Wines at a great price. Click here to get the $100 voucher for your first pack.
As I’ve been rating red wines, I personally went for the Carnivore 12-bottle case and would have had to pay $134.99, which included S&H. That brought the price of this Carnivore case to about $11.50 a bottle, taking into account taxes. Shipping is free, if the purchase of over $100, and $9.99 for an order of under $100.
In full disclosure, I was able to apply a goodwill voucher of $70 to this purchase, and I was able to get the wine for around $65, making this a steal for me. However, at generally $11.50 a bottle, this might yet be the best price I’ve seen. I’m looking forward to the nice assortment of Syrah, Zin, and Pinot Noirs that I’ll get to try. Needless to say, I am all set for now on wine. I’ll be reviewing them all here soon and will keep you in the loop. Enjoy the discount of $100 and perhaps apply it the Big Reds six-pack?
I hope that this information on wine-buying has been useful to you. And, yes, wine clubs can be the best thing since sliced bread! Enjoy your wine!