Should I Join a Wine Club? Ask Yourself These Questions
Joining a wine club can be a fun way to experience new wines from a wine maker or vineyard you enjoy. Joining a wine club often also comes with other benefits such as free tastings, an exclusive wine club tasting room, discounts on single bottles and cases, and wines only offered to wine club members. I really enjoy going wine tasting and have found a few winemakers that I enjoy enough to drink multiple bottles exclusively from that winemaker; however, I have yet to take the plunge due to my answers to these questions:
What is my wine budget and how much do I typically spend on a bottle of wine?
Before joining a wine club you should figure out how much you spend monthly (or quarterly as many wine clubs ship quarterly) to see how much of your wine budget will be going to being a part of the club. The key here is to make sure that your spending on wine will not reach an unsustainable level when you join the club. Personally I buy 1-2 bottles of wine per week, typically in the $4-6 range and less often in the $10-20 range. My monthly wine expenditure if I buy 6 $5 bottles and one $20 bottle in a month is $50. On a quarterly basis that amounts to $150 and 21 bottles of wine. If I were to sign up for the quarterly wine club at Chateau Ste Michelle I would pay anywhere from $45-90 per quarter for two bottles of wine. That would be roughly half of my wine budget for only 10% of the bottles of wine we drink! That means I would have to cut out 10 bottles of wine from my regular budget just to receive two unknown wines at a much higher price than I typically pay. Given that Chateau Ste Michelle is one of the less expensive wine clubs, my current wine budget simply cannot accommodate a wine club membership.
Before even considering joining a wine club I would want to make sure that the cost of the club took up no more than 20% of my current wine budget. That would still allow us to try lots of new wine and drink as much wine as we currently do without increasing our overall wine budget.
How much are the other benefits of the wine club worth to me?
Joining a wine club is not just about quarterly shipments of wine from your favorite winery. It may also give you an excuse to head over to the tasting room once in a while to get free tastings, pick up your wine club wine, or buy wine at a discounted price. Often times you can also bring friends in for free tastings, which gives wine club members the opportunity to take friends out for a good time with no up front costs. If you typically spend $25-50 on a bottle of wine, then the wine club member discount at a winery that has bottles around that price would be advantageous. In that case, the wine club would actually be saving you money which would allow you to stretch your wine budget further!
Free wine tasting also has value; if a single wine tasting costs $15 and you like to take your significant other wine tasting quarterly, joining a wine club could save you $30 per quarter.
How much does variety matter to me?
I love to try new wine, which is why I would not devote over 20% of my wine budget to buying wine from any one winery. Buying wine from a single winery limits you to the flavors of the regions where that wine maker gets their grapes. If you are still in the process of expanding your palate and trying wines from regions around the world, limiting yourself to wine from one area probably doesn’t make much sense. If, however, you have decided on what kind of wine you like and you have no desire to drink wine that may not live up to your standards, devoting your wine budget to a few wine makers makes sense.
The bottom line: you should consider joining a wine club if:
You already spend an equal amount of money per bottle of wine that you would pay for each wine club bottle
Your overall wine budget is at least 4 times that of the cost of the wine club, unless you are ok with drinking wine from only one winery
You will use the other benefits of the wine club such as reduced prices, free wine tasting, and the ability to bring friends in for free tastings.