Between trying to identify notes of pencil shavings, boot leather, and sour cream; attempting to pronounce the names of impossible French chateaus; and understanding what the hell terroir means, the wonderful world of wine can be an intimidating place for those just starting to dip their toes into the water.
Even if you’re a seasoned drinker, the recent onslaught of new wineries plus improvement in international distribution means stopping by the wine store to grab a bottle can be an overwhelming and time-consuming affair. That’s why joining a wine club—a.k.a. a subscription service that sends you quality bottles on the regular—is often a wise move for curious newcomers and more advanced wine lovers alike.
The wine world runneth over with options, many of which are much more affordable than you might think. So which to choose? We sipped our way through the lot to bring you nine different wine clubs that offer you the best booze for your buck. Because nothing cheers you up after a long day quite like a box of tasty vino waiting on your doorstep.
Originally called Club W, this popular pick gives you four individually priced, self-selected bottles per month, with shipping free of charge. They source their bounty by joining forces with vineyards and winemakers to create a huge selection of limited-release wines.On any given day, members can choose from a wide range of bottles that run the gamut from zesty Cali refreshers to food-friendly French numbers and big bad Chilean Cabs, all for bargain prices. Not sure where to go? Take the quick six-question “Palate Profile” quiz and Winc will generate a box for you based on your personal tastes. P.S. Greatist readers get $20 off their first order. (Bottles start at $13; winc.com)
This unique, streamlined model focuses on off-the-beaten-path, small-batch varietals that you’ll most likely never encounter at your local liquor store. The West Coast-dominant portfolio stocks both classics and up-and-comers with plenty of natural and biodynamic options.Membership is also fairly flexible. Sign up for red-only or mixed lots of either three or six bottles delivered monthly, every other month, or quarterly. You can also skip or cancel your membership at any time.The coolest part, though, isn’t the masterful curation but the fact that these guys also man a swank, appointment-only tasting room in Chicago’s restaurant-centric West Loop where trained wine consultants lead prospective members in private tastings to figure out which package works best for them. If you can make it in, trust us—the handsome, rustic-chic decor and catered hors d’oeuvres make those hard-to-find gems that much more appealing. (Plans start at $79 per month; winestyr.com)
Here’s the thing: No matter how much you love your wine, there will always be times when finishing an entire bottle before it goes sour just isn’t in the cards. That’s why the geniuses behind this innovative company treat members to pint-size, by-the-glass variety packs instead of full bottles, making it one of the most fun options out there. Depending on the plan, either three or six samples arrive monthly, packaged in neat little 10-centiliter test tubes filled in a patented closed-nitrogen environment to ensure freshness and ward off oxidation during the rebottling process.Each box contains a personalized assortment of European reds, whites, and rosés based on your flavor preferences and drawn from a small producer-focused list orchestrated by renowned sommelier Tyler Kennedy. Month-to-month, three-month, and 12-month terms are available and if you absolutely must get your hands on another glass (or two or three) of your favorite blend, just log into your account to cop a whole bottle.(Plans start at $25 per month; getvinebox.com)
Wine pro Etty Lewensztain backs this adventurous monthly subscription where boozy thrill-seekers prepay for three, six, or 12 monthly dips into some of the world’s most exciting selections. The emphasis here is on an international array of natural, organic, and biodynamic wineries as well as lesser-known grapes from Central Europe, Italy, and Spain.It’s a bit pricier than some other models but, considering the scope and quality of the list, it’s well worth the extra bucks (plus, Lewensztain offers a 100-percent money-back guarantee if a bottle isn’t to your liking).Curated all-red, all-white, or mixed packages come in in four- or 12-bottle sets along with handy tasting notes, food pairing guides, and even recipes for the at-home gourmand, so you’ll want to start planning that five-course dinner party now. (Plans start at $110 per month; plonkwineclub.com)
If you couldn’t tell by the name, this modern iteration is geared specifically toward wooing us picky millennials. Hand-selected by a professional tasting panel accompanied by guest experts, this club’s stock is fueled not only by flavor and aroma but also by the stories behind the label.Bottles representing lesser-known regions and grape varieties rub elbows with offbeat charmers like a canned Californian Sangiovese or the limited-edition Lekker Rosé, a tropical fruit-laden collab between Wine Awesomeness and a prominent South African winemaker.And here’s the real kicker: The monthly three- or six-bottle shipments revolve around a particular, sometimes quirky, theme (“Summer Vibes,” “Grilled Cheese,” “Taco Night”) and include a copy of the company’s self-published mini-magazine, theblacklabel, loaded with backstories, tasting notes, food pairings, recipes, and recommended playlists for heightened imbibing. Awesome, indeed. (Plans start at $45 per month; wineawesomeness.com)
This club stands out from the pack not only because it works one-on-one with highly regarded wineries to bring customers a steady stream of award-winning bottles at a hefty discount, but also because its model relies entirely on member feedback.Once you’ve told them what you’re looking for—red, white, or both, international or domestic—they’ll send you an intro package of three bottles priced at $5 each (plus shipping). Sip them, rate them, and get ready for your monthly six-bottle allotment, continuously adjusted to reflect on your evolving preferences, to start rolling out for $79.95 per month plus shipping. You also have the option to swap a bottle out before it ships just in case you’re not in the mood for something floral. (Spoiler alert: That ain’t gonna happen.) ($79.95 per shipment; firstleaf.club)
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of partaking in a Blue Apron meal delivery kit, you pretty much know the drill here. BA puts a bit of a different spin on wine clubbing, though, by sending you tidy packages of private label vintages in five 500-milliliter bottle stints.In case math’s not your strong suit, that works out to about two-thirds the size of a standard bottle. The cool thing about these baby bottles is that they make each order super versatile, especially since you can pick and choose from monthly curated lists.Pair each with a different meal each week using the nifty printouts or taste your way through a variety of different wines in one fell swoop. It’s a bargain in its own right at $10 a bottle plus shipping but will be particularly enticing to folks already living the Blue Apron lifestyle, as the offerings are designed to complement the brand’s weekly food menus. ($65.99 per month; blueapron.com)
Launched in 1972, this is the granddaddy of all wine clubs, and there’s a reason it’s still kicking. Membership levels range from as low as $24.96 plus shipping for two tried-and-true classics (all-red, all-white, or mixed) ordered on a monthly, bi-monthly, or tri-monthly basis all the way up to the “Case Club,” which gets you a quarterly lot of 12 mixed bottles and runs from about $150 to $250, depending on the package grade.There are also tons of specialty options, including rosé-only subscriptions, a delicious Bordeaux series, and a high-end Pinot collection. For an added personal touch, second-generation owner Paul Kalemkiarian—his father basically invented this whole wine club concept—selects all the wine himself and offers something for every palate. (Plans start at $24.96 per month; wineofthemonthclub.com)
Developed by two MIT grads, this subscription service keeps things simple: Visit the site, take the quiz, and they’ll set you up with four bottles tailored to your taste buds each month for a square $60 plus shipping.The difference lies in the selection process, which is based on a unique algorithm that evaluates 18 different attributes within in each wine to perfectly sync your package to your preferences.Bottles are sourced from all over the world with the intention of introducing the drinker (i.e., you) to something new and exciting like a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc or a spicy Syrah from Puglia, Italy. And if for some strange reason you don’t like what you get, they’ll replace it for free. ($60 per month; brightcellars.com)