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the skinny on wine clubs
Wine aficionados speak a language all their own: mourvedre, viognier, tempranillo! And what does “it has legs” mean? Or how about “nose”? Are we still talking wine here? You don’t have to be an expert or have a cellar full to love great wine, but, just like any hobby, it’s fun to be in the know.
A wine club membership could be just what you’re after. They have access to some of the greatest wine regions around the world--Bordeaux from Pauillac, super Tuscans from Bolgheri, Syrah’s from Stellenbosch. And these outstanding wines can all be delivered directly to you, complete with background information on the characteristics of the region, tasting notes, and great dishes to accompany the wines.
Wine clubs literally offer you a world of knowledge so that you can gradually build your palette and delve into a deeper understanding of how wines are produced and what creates their unique flavors. And you can do so from the comfort of your home, around friends, without feeling left out by wine chatter you don’t understand.
With thousands of wines to choose from, it can take you years to discover the world’s best wines, and, let’s face it, there are some bad wines out there. Why waste your time and money digging through the worst to get to the best? A wine club offers you their expertise to help you quickly find wines that speak to your tastes and to introduce you to delicious wines that may be new to you.
Wine clubs started as local events, and you can thank Paul Kalemkiarian Sr. of Monrovia, California, who is credited with opening the first wine club out of his package store in 1972. While you can still find neighborhood shops and restaurants that host wine clubs, much of the market has moved online and become highly specialized. There are now clubs focused on Oregonian wines, on organic wines, and there is even a group that only tastes wines produced by females.
Today, large organizations, such as the New York Times, have wine clubs, as do notable individuals like Martha Stewart, and, yes, the abundant wineries of the world still advertise their services to wine lovers who can attend wine tasting events either locally or on the grounds of the vineyards. However, online clubs allow wine lovers to experience quality wine without leaving the comfort of their home. That benefit is especially important during the pandemic we’re currently experiencing.
Why You Should Join
Wine clubs have changed. Gone are the days when cheap wine was the best you could get from wine clubs claiming to provide exclusive options. Some clubs have created an online version of the cool wine boutique, offering tastings of wonderful off-beat (and often hard to find) varietals. Some clubs are more eco-focused and offer wines from vineyards who practice sustainability. Still others are designed for the beginner who doesn’t want to spend a bundle but wants to try lots of new stuff.
The point is there’s a club for every taste and temperament. You can learn a lot about the wine you're tasting, it’s background and vocabulary, or you can just dig right into tasting. After all, you don’t have to speak wine to enjoy it. And joining a great club is like having a personal sommelier to help you with pairings and best drinking practices . . . but without the price tag.
In the world of wine, everybody has a guy (or gal). Someone at a local store or restaurant who offers wine suggestions that somehow get passed on to you. But who is this guy (gal)? There are truly knowledgeable wine enthusiasts who work in local establishments, but they are equally as likely to be people selling off unwanted stock or pushing the latest promotion.
Shopping for yourself can be equally as challenging. How many times have you gone to the store, searching the aisles for the perfect wine? All those rating systems, WIne Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and the rows and rows of bottles with names and grapes you’ve never heard of. So, you turn to the guy walking aimlessly down the same aisle or the guy stocking the wine (whose experience stops there).
Investing in a wine club means you have experts at your fingertips who know what pairs well and what you’ll like based on what you’ve tried before. Wine clubs often help you cut costs as well, offering discounts on their supplies or cutting prices on bulk orders. Plus, it’s convenient. One less thing to worry about for that date or family dinner. You show up with a beautiful, full bodied red, and you’re a hero for the night.
Virtual wine tasting. It’s a thing! We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Our government has deemed (thank God!) liquor and wine stores as essential businesses. But who wants to drink alone? Especially if you were used to frequenting wineries or wine bars. Finding a wine club that is connected to their audience is important. They’re prepared to give the people what they want. Typically, wine clubs specialize in more than just wine. Whether it’s a great recipe, a cheese suggestion, or an entire charcuterie board included in the box. Find one that delivers on more than taste, but the experience as well.
Give It A Try
The best thing about a membership, is that you can try it out and see if it’s for you. Ask questions, compare prices, and, at the very least, try something new. If there was ever a time to have alcohol delivered, it’s now! So, light a candle, lay out a plate of prosciutto, some thinly sliced asiago cheese, pour a little of that Oregon pinot that just arrived today. Tilt it in the glass so that the light reflects off its deep rich color, bring it to your nose and inhale. Or forget all that and just drink! It’s okay; you’re in a wine club. Another enticing selection will soon be on its way. You can study up, then become a true oenophile . . . or maybe just being a good old-fashioned wine drinker is enough.