Rolling Stone Magazine - July 2023

Rolling Stone Magazine - July 2023

Bottle (Delivery) Service: 8 Wine Clubs to Keep Your Racks Well-Stacked

From small-batch offerings and female-fronted wineries, to curated picks for oenophiles, here's where to stock up on wine online

THANK THE GAMAY gods, because it has never been easier to get high-quality vino from producers around the world, all delivered from appellation to your address in record time thanks to the best online wine clubs.

Whether you’re mad for Malbec, gaga for Gamay, or crazy for Chianti, there’s a club for you. Are you a newbie who appreciates lengthy tasting notes, or are you ready to dominate the sommelier exam? There’s a club for you. Watching your wallet closely or itching to spend that stimulus on all the Sangiovese? There’s a club for you too. Even if you only want to drink biodynamic wine made by women, yeah, you guessed it — we’ve found a wine club for you.

“There’s a club for all of it; so many options out there, each curated with a different perspective,” says Coly Den Haan, som/owner of Los Angeles’ boutique Vinovore and curator of her own monthly club, WOLFPACK. “Wine clubs are an amazing way to try new wines that might not be on your radar or in your normal drinking comfort zone. Some people love taking the thought out of what to buy and there’s something to be said for the ease of wines that feel like a little surprise present coming to your door,” she continues. “Clubs also make sure you have wine stocked for a special dinner, a gift in a pinch, or a cure for a bad day.”

What Are the Best Wine Clubs Online?

To ensure you’re covered should any of those need-bottle moments arise, or if you’re simply looking to expand your palate and continue your wine education beyond the limited inventory of the corner bodega, we’ve rounded up some of the best wine clubs to try online. Pull up a wine glass, pick a favorite bottle and settle in for a good night.

1. Winc

One of the first direct-to-consumer online wine memberships, California-based Winc was established in 2012 and now creates and bottles all of its inventory, including a clean collection called Wonderful Wine Co. and an assortment of vegan vinos. The first step is answering six questions that allow them to profile your palate and then make four recommendations that match your mouth feel. After enjoying them at home, you rate them, which further refines your profile and their recommendations. And they believe so strongly in their algorithm, that they will never make you pay for a bottle you didn’t like. This club is one of the only ones that throw hard ciders in the mix.

Timing and Pricing: Starts at $13 a bottle plus shipping. Customers chose how much they want to order and can either choose exactly what they want to receive or leave it up to Winc to decide. Bulk buying of 12 or more bottles earns a discount. A successful referral scores credit. There are no charges to skip months or cancel. It also doesn’t cost extra to upgrade to Winc Select for more prestigious and premium wines.

2. Martha Stewart Wine Co.

Not only does the OG doyenne of domesticity handpick all the wines offered in her namesake club, Stewart also provides exclusive serving, pairing, and entertaining directions and suggestions, which makes this is a particularly good club if you’re gunning for that “hostess with the mostess” title amongst your friends (you know, once it is safe to return to party throwing).

New members all start with the same group of bottles, carefully curated to give a comprehensive introduction to her cellar. Stewart is particularly keen on Italian and French varietals, but her inventory hails from all over the globe. Opt for all red, all white, or a mixed club. Sometimes the mixed club contains something with bubbles or sweet dessert swigs. The best part: if you don’t love the wine, they’ll replace it for free. (That’s how confident M. Diddy is in her taste.)

3. Vinebox

Introduced in 2017 by Rachel Vodofsky and Matt Dukes, this quarterly club has been kicking glass and taking names ever since. The club’s box-o-plenty is part art piece, part convenient storage, and part science project as each contains nine single-use test tubes of European wine. The by-the-glass approach is well suited to solo drinkers, slow consumers who have a hard time finishing bottles before they turn, and folks who live for variety as the team of sommeliers mixes together just-corked concoctions, old-world makers, blends from up-and-coming regions, or decades-old gems found deep in cellars. You’re just as likely to get timeless an amphora-aged white as a medium-bodied Mencia from Spain or a vertical from Bordeaux.

Timing and Pricing: Boxes are released every three months. Purchase one for $79, two for $158, or a full-year of vials (four boxes saves you $28) for $288. During the holidays, they offer a fan-glasstic 12-night advent calendar for $129. Annual members receive $30 in full-sized bottle credits every quarter while quarterly members get $15, which is great for when you sip something you simply must have more of.

4. Bright Cellars

Milwaukee has long been known as a beer town, but when two MIT grads used science as a starting point for a wine subscription service there in 2014, the town scored some street cred with the Sauvignon and Sangiovese crowd. Like Winc, the Bright Cellars experience begins with a quiz about your food and beverage preferences. Answers to “How do you take tea?” and “What’s your favorite type of chocolate?” are fed into a formula, which matches your results to wines from around the globe. Everything they carry has been assessed by a proprietary 18-attribute scoring system and the generated ratings are used to identify your ideal liquid mates. Reviewing your lot leads to more data points and in turn increased compatibility on your next order. Tasting cards are heavy on education for those wetting their whistle. A premium level is available and will welcome sparkling editions in 2021.

Timing and Pricing: Your Bright future includes either four or six-unit subs at $20 per bottle. New members get 50 percent off their first delivery. If you get coupled with a varietal you’re sure you won’t enjoy, you have 24 hours to sub something else. It only takes a quick text, email, or call to adjust or skip shipments.

5. Plonk Wine Club

Ever tippled a Teroldego, feasted with a Fiano, or uncorked the wares of Armenia, Uruguay, or Slovenia? We hadn’t either until this decade-old club came into our lives. Owner Etty Klein, certified by both the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and the American Sommelier Association, culls from the world’s natural, organic wineries. She’s a sucker for small batch, wild/native yeast fermentation, indigenous fruit varieties, minimal intervention vineyard practices, unfiltered vintages, and underrated untapped wine countries. Cheekily named a British slang term for cheap wine, first shipments include a double-hinged corkscrew. Other bonuses? Members can cancel or skip shipments any time and ordering extra servings of your favorites is easy in the online shop.

Timing and Pricing: There are a lot of choices to make. First, do you want four ($110 a month), six ($160 a month), or 12 bottles ($285 a month)? Do you want them to show up monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly? Should the box include all red, all white, or have a mix of red, white, rosé, and sparkling? And finally, is it a gift? Prepaid three-, six-, and 12-month subscriptions are sure to be a hit, even with those typically difficult to shop for.

6. Blue Apron

Most people know the name Blue Apron as a meal kit delivery company. Far fewer realize BA is also a full-fledged winery licensed to ship its in-house creations to 31 states and DC. While you can forego the food service and opt for wine-only, the boozy side of their business makes an ideal companion for the convenient dinner arm, as entrees are scheduled to line up with the wines on offer each month.

Each small bottle (500ml instead of the usual 750) is perfectly-portioned for two to enjoy over one meal. Wines are assigned across 12 flavor categories, providing an easy-to-follow flow for pairings. Your education is continued in a hefty booklet.

Timing and Pricing: Six mini-bottles a month costs $75.99. You can also order a la carte by the themed bundle (think warming wines or a potluck pack) which are made up of three to 12 bottles. Prices vary depending on the bundle, but you can always include a message if it’s a gift. 

7. Wine Awesomeness

No quizzes, no gimmicks, no elaborate packaging, no experimenting with making their own, and, most importantly, no pretense or snobbery. Just a reasonably priced product that arrives quickly and goes down easily. The Brooklyn-based founders of this eight-year-old merchant wholeheartedly believe wine is a vehicle for travel and so they scour the world from top to bottom to find captivating folks making interesting, occasionally boundary-pushing wines. Some of their picks even come canned. The digital wine cellar includes tasting notes, winemakers’ stories, recipe pairings, suggestions on what to listen to while enjoying, personal ratings, and reviews. Time to hit the awesome sauce!

Timing and Pricing: A three-bottle membership is $49 a box while the six-bottle box will set you back $79. Both memberships come with a first stab at new, unlisted, and small-batch wines, free delivery, monthly member perks, 20 percent off reorders, and wine cellar access.

8. FirstLeaf

Choosing wine to give as a gift can feel stressful, but Firstleaf takes the pressure off by offering professional recommendations from a curated selection of bottles.

After answering a few brief questions about the type of wine you’re looking for (sweet or dry, red or white, buttery or bitter), you’ll be presented with six bottles for consideration. Firstleaf says they analyze “billions of data points” to find the wines that will fit your flavor profile the best.

Firstleaf can help you find the perfect wine for a stay-at-home dinner, gifts for your friends, or a few new bottles to share with your colleagues or family in the days and weeks ahead. Honestly, it’s a great #TreatYourself gift to get for yourself too, especially if you can’t visit family face-to-face this year.

Timing and Pricing: You can get your first case of wine (six bottles) for just $44.95, plus receive free shipping on the first 12 months of your subscription (a $120 value) if you sign up right now. You can also get single bottles for around $20 each.

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