Wine clubs were once a stodgy expression of middle class taste. Subscribers were sufficiently interested in wine to buy and drink it on a regular basis, but not confident enough to make their own selections at the wine store. Now that we get meal kits, beauty supplies, wardrobe staples, and boxes of snacks through subscriptions, wine clubs are back—expanding into a market they were pioneers in creating. Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, two of the biggest names in meal kits, have their own wine clubs, as does professional start-up bro, Gary Vaynerchuk. And what, after all, are services like BirchBox but millennial iterations of what wine clubs invented.
As someone who worked at a small, neighborhood wine store for several years—and who frequents two lovely local stores currently—I have to say that asking for recommendations and having a relationship with a store is hands down, the best way to discover and learn about new wines. Individual wineries often have their own clubs too, and if you’ve visited a place and loved what they were pouring, this can be a very nice way to stock your wine fridge.
Still, there’s a real place for some of these newer wine subscription services and clubs, especially if you don’t have a store you like nearby, or simply don’t want to spend time shopping. Here are a few wine clubs that have changed up—if not disrupted—the subscription model in ways that make raising a glass easier and more delicious than ever.
Sommelier recommendations at home
If the thought of handing over your credit card information and then receiving a random selection of wines on a monthly basis bugs you, take a look at Weekly Tasting. Sign up and you’ll receive a weekly email or a notification via their app with information about the wines of the week. Three certified sommeliers—all women who are buzzy and interesting wine world figures in their own right—make the selections, which are grouped according to grape, region, or theme (like, wines that go with takeout, or easy reds). Every week you can choose to have a box shipped to you, or not.
Each wine pack comes with tasting notes and a link to a tasting video. Your account includes a personal “cellar” where you can make notes on what you liked and what you didn’t. All three of the sommeliers picking the weekly wines are young, and part of a major industry shift to focus on smaller producers—along with the very welcome idea of wine as both an everyday beverage and something handcrafted and special. These selections are a good way to keep tabs on what’s new and interesting and vital in the wine world right now.
You know what you like
If Weekly Selection is about trusting sommeliers to pick interesting new wines, Winc and Bright Cellars are about using technology to help you identify your own palate and match wines to it. Both start off with a quiz that asks you questions like how you take your coffee, which mixed drinks are your favorites, and which fruits you favor, to get a baseline on your palate. Bright Cellars then matches you with four wines a month, so you don’t need to make any decisions. Winc presents you with choices that suit your flavor profile and leaves it up to you to build a box a la carte, with free shipping on four or more bottles. Both clubs allow you to go all red, all white or a mix, and Winc includes some sparkling wines, ciders, and a pretty substantial rosé selection as well.
One of the promises of Winc and Bright Cellars, is that the more you engage—by rating the wines you try—the better they’ll be able to match you with new and interesting wines. Just like a wine store, except without all that human contact.
You’re noncommittal, or just don’t drink that much
In my house the concept of “leftover wine” is more of a theory than a provable reality. If you live alone, or your partner doesn’t drink wine—or you don’t want your roommates drinking the second half of your bottle—check out Vinebox. Each month you receive three or six single-glass pours of wine that come packaged in sleek vials that look like large-scale perfume samples. Several friends have told me that they like to send Vinebox as a gift, and have gotten rave reviews from recipients. Personally, I would hoard the empty vials with the idea that I would do something cool with them, but an actually crafty person could probably think of multiple uses.