USA Today with its popular Top 10 Lists of this and that included wine clubs last year.
One category that got my attention was the best wine subscription clubs. Why the focus on subscription boxes at the exclusion of online retailers with wine clubs is anyone’s guess. My guess is ad revenue.
Dont know who is responsible but the candidates, the choices made by USA Today, are pretty lame. The shows an East Coast bias and apparently nobody ever checked out the clubs and looked at what each offers. Like the wines for example. And the prices.
However, the crack team involved in this blog has been faithfully following 36 candidates, each claiming to have the best hand curated deals for members, exclusive offerings of super values, rare wines and great vintages and the next cult wine.
Or all of the above. Along with free corkscrews, aprons, and super-duper introductory offers. Coupons and vouchers are readily available.
Looking over the feeble lineup of candidates from USA Today, my vote goes to wineaccess.com. It was a tough decision. I have mixed feelings about this site.
But most of the time, the wines offered are real, not custom made, and the prices are good. But, yes, the hype can get thick and, yes, they over-rate wines. And the sales pitch runs on and on.
Too bad the other candidates were mostly from the subscription box world, only a part of the online wine selling world. You are missing out on many great wines and super deals when you subscribe and get locked in.
I’ll go into a little more detail below to explain why I’m suspicious of many of these wine box subscription programs. Those that ask a few questions about your taste preference and claim to be able to”curate” wines especially for you are blowing smoke.
You can do better looking elsewhere.
But spoiler alert: here are the best, most exciting sites to Explore in 2020, especially during the stay at home time.
My top 10 wine club sites offer real wines.
Wines from most subscription box clubs, like nakedwines.com are special, custom made wines. Not available elsewhere. So the market price is meaningless.
Looking over the other USA candidates, it is time to remove web retailers with subscription boxes who have nothing much to offer. Martha Stewart? Yes, she has to go.
So, to mix metaphors, let’s begin by throwing the following wine clubs off the island:
http://www.somMailer.com This one is relatively new and has no track record. I dont think much of the wines selected. They are ok and he provides good background. But USA Today must believe because the guy is French, he must know wines inside and out.
www.wineinsiders.com A no-brainer here because the prices are simply ludicrous, unless you think $29.99 for a Gascogne white or $39.99 for a common Bordeaux Superieur are awesome deals. My favorite 2019 Gascogne white from Jean Paul retails for $7.99. Neither coupons or Groupon offers with a 15 bottle introductory cases can save this one.
www.marthastewartwine.com Yes, we are throwing Martha, our much-beloved entertainment expert, to the sideline. To be frank, there is no evidence her good taste is invoked here. since she sold the brand. The wines selected are common and appear on several other sites. And there are a number of over-priced private label wines with cute names. This is a sad case of a celebrity branding a wine club and then allowing others to take over and opt for ordinary, over-priced wine.
No way Martha could have chosen or hand curated such mediocre wines. Sad, but a fail.
www.vinesse.com. Has been around for 20 years, but has failed to keep pace. Recent offering of 6 “World Class Wines” for $29.99 plus 2 Pinot Noirs as a bonus suggests it is waking up. No discounts on the few, real wines offered. Sad CA selection (3 Zins, 0 Sauvignon Blanc) and no wines rated over 90 by anybody. Something named Plank Walker is your top Napa Cab? Really? Prices start at $19.99 a bottle. Gone!
While we are at it:
Before air travel came to a standstill, almost all airline wine clubs like the United Airlines wine club uses vinesse for its member wine deals. So does Alaskan Airlines. Unless you are totally desperate for miles and mediocre wines, forget these clubs.
www.wsjwines.com This site once offered members well-chosen wines. But now the Wall Street Journal seems to have outsourced the wine selection process to another website and the wines are quite unexciting. Best advice is to sign up for the 15 bottle introductory offer for $69.59. Then cancel the minute the box arrives.
And before we close, we have also dismissed as losers the wine clubs from national geographic, AARP, Walmart, Hound & Hare, and my local pet store.
Oh, and the NRA, can you believe it, also has a wine club. This is no cheap shot: the wines offered are way off target.