It’s no secret that Direct to Consumer online sales have been thriving in the last two to three years, but did you know that the 36 per cent of the DTC sales are performed through a Wine Club? The concept is no new: back in the ’70s prestigious magazines and newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times had (and have) wine clubs. But the Internet and the online sales has brought this to another level. It’s something that is not so common in Europe, especially in Italy, where I am from, so here is how wine clubs work and why they are so successful.
Wine clubs in the US
In the US, shopping is all about how convenient it is for the consumer, and buying wine is no exception. People who lack the same depth of knowledge and understanding of wine as those who have intensely studied it look to those who know what they are talking about to advise them what to drink. Oftentimes, these people seek out a service that compiles palate preferences and delivers a few options each month in the hopes that they will find a few new favorites. Nowadays, wine club membership services are becoming all the rage, and they are causing a bit of a shift in the marketplace in favor of this type of convenience.
Wine clubs are generally a place where many beginners explore their preferences for wines because they aim to create a deeper appreciation of wine for novice wine drinkers, and they take the guesswork out of the equation. Some subscriptions are intended to be budget-friendly, and others are specially curated for specific wine regions each month, but they all have generally the same idea: members pay once a month to have a box of select wines sent directly to their house.
The appeal to wine clubs stems mostly from the desire to learn more about an industry and wine flavor profiles overall. Therefore, these wine clubs are reaching another segment of the population that otherwise would be unlikely to venture out of their current wine preferences.
How do wine clubs work?
As mentioned previously, wine clubs pretty much work the same across the board, but how do these wine club service providers source their wines to send across the country? Well, some of them hire winemakers and source directly from several small-scale wineries, whereas others have what are called private label wines, which are commonly made from bulk orders of pre-made wines with a rebranded logo. The latter option is difficult to trace back its origin (winery, grapes used, etc.), and, if you like it, it is unlikely you will find something else just like it.
In order to determine the best fit for wine club subscription packages, consumers must identify if they are signing up for more of an educational purpose or simply to have new wines delivered to them without having to wander through a grocery store. For instance, one of the numerous wine clubs, California Wine Club, is a California-based wine club that has several different wine series that focus on small family-owned wineries. These types of wine clubs share with consumers their passion for wines, which encourages their customers to develop their awareness of lesser-known labels, as well. Furthermore, they emphasize bringing the small-scale wineries to the masses, and, by sending out their wines through the better-known wine clubs, this goal is achieved.
Winc Wine Club
Winc probably one of the most popular now, it is a wine club membership service that curates wines for its members and utilizes their preferences to select wines they believe their members will enjoy most. Formerly called Club W, Winc is a California-based winery with a growing online membership business. It was founded to make wine more accessible to the consumer—to give the consumer options and make it “easier” for them to enjoy their wines.
In an effort to separate themselves in a competitive market and focus more on the customer, Winc operates its business by having the customer fill out their “unique Palate Profile” to gauge their preferences. However, instead of asking directly what types of wines you already enjoy, the assessment asks you things like how you take your coffee, your preferred saltiness of the foods you eat, and how willing you are to try wines outside of your comfort zone. Also, Winc allows you to have the final say in what wines you are actually purchasing, so you never have to commit to a wine just because they selected it for you.
Other popular wine clubs can be found here:
The best wine clubs for Wine Enthusiast: here
What do I think?
I personally don’t like the idea of someone else picking what I should drink. I truly enjoy the research and the scouting, it’s the fun part of the wine shopping to me, but I understand that I am more an exception than the rule. What I am afraid of is that these big online wine clubs are driving the taste and the palate of many new wine lovers. Young men and women who approach wine for the first times will learn and build their preferences through the choices of business driven anonymous wine sellers and not feeding their own personal curiosity, exploring the wine regions glass by glass, picking up bottles from the wine shop, where they could have a conversation with the owner who selected those wines.
That’s just my personal opinion, as European, grown up with wine on the table everyday as a complement of the meal, but I understand that in the US habits and drinking traditions are different, as consequentially the wine shopping preferences.
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