I’ll begin by saying this is not an anti-wine club article. If I was a wine producer I would have a wine club program as it is a legitimate offering of any wine producer.
These are some of the types of messages I got about people’s wine club memberships in 2020 and 2021.”
“I need to reduce my club memberships“
“Help–I have too many wine”
I am surprised in 2020 and 2021 that I got more of these types of messages more than ever before. There is a belief that more people drank more wine last year; more people were buying less from restaurants (on premise) and more from DTC. Also, some people and I did ask in detail more questions: ‘why were they drinking less’ or at least not drinking their wine club wines – many responses were that they had fewer special occasions. Some people felt the cost of their membership, in particular, as many wineries were closed due to the pandemic for large part of 2020 and some part of 2021 that they could not benefit from in person tastings. The wine club membership felt weighty.
Dependency on visiting a winery to feel engaged?
So many of these people felt their wine club wines were only for special occasions and hence they were collecting more wines and not drinking some of what they are collecting. Also people do excuse wine inventory build up if they feel they experience their wine club producer in person. I did ask how about attending virtual tastings their wineries offered? Interestingly, while many did attend no one opened a bottle of that producers wine up during the virtual tasting?!
But this reach out to me signifies that people are still afraid to enjoy what they buy and especially wine club wines because these are often higher bottle price points than what they buy at a wine retailer.
So there are two bookend holders for what is creating stress in wine club memberships and it is an extension of what people feel about wine in general: if you will the left book end is fearing drinking more expensive bottles of wine and the right book end is fearing too much aging on wines or perhaps fearing the wines that are past their prime.
I have suggested to people to remove these book end mindsets about wine. I’d say when I walked someone through these mindsets they didn’t know they had them or were at least conscious of them. Probably obvious but wine is to be enjoyed and not feared (there is plenty of wine out there and you can buy a new bottle to replace the last one enjoyed) and also developing an appreciation of wine by enjoying more aged wines. We are still in a mystified wine period and it is not just based on particular generation but it is all generations from my observation We are still in this conundrum and in my chief mission has been to demystify wine.
Simply if a winery club wine price points are higher than you feel comfortable drinking then why be in that particular wine club? The benefits you get from a membership may not be worth what you spend per year. One of the benefits people do enjoy is a free tasting for two or more people and yet the cost of paying for those tastings would be less than if they purchase one years worth of wine club wines. Yes, California wine tasting fees (particularly Napa and Sonoma) are expensive, very expensive; higher than Oregon, Washington and well any regions in the US and even abroad.
I have very much enjoyed the wine club memberships I have participated in and I strategically managed them and felt I got value out of them. The gratis tastings were not the driver – the whole experience is what drove me to enjoy them and maximize my experience. I engaged with special events for wine club members and I took advantage of wine club-only wine offerings and even purchased more because I thought were compelling and were important to me. Also, I let some of the wines enter into my cellars library and was very comfortable for letting my wines age. I have been comfortable with drinking what I did get in my shipments and not just for rarefied occasions. In the past, I have made a special event in my own home to enjoy it–and maybe that is with a few people for a nice dinner.
Your wine club membership should fit in with your comfort level of wine acquisitions on a per bottle cost basis.
Five Things to Think About In Acquiring Wines: write each of these down in your journal or a spreadsheet from the five points below
- What is your wine budget?
- How many bottles does your household drink per week?
- When do you drink your wines? Rarely, Only for Special Occasions, Routinely
- What is your per bottle spend that you feel comfortable in spending?
- Write down on a spreadsheet or in your journal your spending on wine (easy to do and I’ll show you a budget below); knowing what you are spending can help to ease your discomfort with your wine club and/or wine purchasing in general and you can make course corrections if necessary
Annual Wine Budget Example
I do not know anyone who does this. I do recommend it because it is a measure that might make you feel more comfortable or at least feel more certain about your wine purchases. In this example, this wine club consumer spend 44% of their annual wine budget in one wine club and the difference of $806 is what one has to spend for the year outside of the wine club.
Empower yourself and take strategic ownership on your memberships and by this extension this can be how you view your other annual budget items. I do this to manage my online subscriptions.
Five Strategies to Manage your Wine Club Memberships
- Start and stop memberships as needed: elevate club level membership level – decrease or increase quantity, styles (all reds, all whites or mixed), pausing membership for quarter, etc.
- Find a membership and producer with prices you feel comfortable with (review your budget match your comfort in spending to your wine club)
- If you are okay with more expensive wines in your club membership when do you plan on drinking them? Have a plan – write it out
- Be okay with engaging with what you have – create a special occasion, gift your wines as well
- Find comfort in laying down your wines – taste from the wine club memberships library wines – tasting aged wines and see if it fits your palate. Sometimes your wine club winery has opened up a library wine for tasting when you visit–ask them
I think if you have knowledge on how to manage your winery club wines you can make the decisions to make your purchasing more comfortable. I paused my membership on one producer and unfortunately the allotment I wanted had changed when I joined again and that can happen. If you take a break from your wine club membership you can re-start at anytime in the future. You will, of course, be welcomed back–no need for feeling guilty.
Being engaged with what you own is important and I would urge don’t “collect” wine in anticipating it will be worth a fortune in the future. But collect so that you can consume with those near and dear to you. As one of the people who reached out to me wanted to sell their wines. Most likely if they could find a place to sell their wines (auction house, retailer) they would not get the full price they paid for the wines and well why should they–the intermediary needs to make a profit as well. The wines this person had amassed was not filled with remarkable or even rare wines.
There are no expirations on wine and with that being said there are no guarantees that wines will age infinitely. Take ownership in the wines you buy insofar as feeling comfort and confidence in what you are buying–actively managing your membership and your purchases so they are in line with your budget and palate. Take control and strategically manage your wine club membership and non-wine club wine purchases to find satisfaction in what you are buying.
© 2021 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award, my original art work and all designs of James the Wine Guy. James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.
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