As a group of wine enthusiasts, it will come as no surprise to anyone that the Walkabout Crew belong to a number of wine clubs. And by wine clubs we mean subscriptions managed by wineries that provide discounts and/or special offers to members. Most require a minimum annual purchase and quite often the level of discount increases with purchase volumes. Some wineries have multiple wine clubs, including some that are restricted in number and guarantee members first pick of the premium wines each vintage.
Our one word answer to the question of are they worth it is YES.
However… it is worth doing your homework before joining a wine club to make sure you are getting genuine value. Here are a few examples of wine clubs with some ideas about how to decide if they are worth joining.
Tahbilk has two wine clubs, regular and Plus. Regular club members sign up to a mailing list at the cellar door and receive a newsletter four times a year (by post as well as email if preferred), free shipping on all dozens (straight or mixed), access to special offers, of which there are lots each quarter, a decent discount on cellar door prices, both at the cellar door and through the online store and occasionally get a phone call from the winery offering large discounts for end-of-vintage stock when the new vintage is being bottled. Plus members get even bigger discounts on specific wines but must sign up for a minimum 12 bottle delivery four times per year.
House of Arras has a few different clubs available, some with waiting lists at the time of writing. If we were to join one (hypothetically speaking) our choice would be the EJ Carr club. It is expensive at $1200 per year but guarantees you $1700 worth of wine each year and access to the hard-to-find bottles which don’t make it to the retail shelves. Another sparkling wine club is the Chandon Etoile (stars) wine club which is just under $600 per year ($198 three times per year) which gives members a six pack of hand-picked bottles, nearly always vintage sparkling and often some older vintages just nearing their prime.
Other clubs let members pick their own wine selections and offer different levels of discount based on the volume purchased. Staying in the Yarra Valley, Boat O’ Craigo Docks Club gives members a 10% discount off all wine if they buy 12 bottles per year, 20% for 24 bottles per year and 30% for 48 bottles per year (delivered four times per year as either a dozen or two half-dozen bottles). Quite often, these discounts apply to any other purchases made throughout the year and some add free delivery on dozens purchased which is quite a saving in itself.
Our suggestion is to work out how much you are likely to want to consume in a year and then halve it. This is the maximum level of commitment you want your total wine club delivery to be. Why? Easy – there are so many more wineries to explore and you need to keep room in the cellar!