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Whining About Wines . . . Wine Clubs

I read an interesting blog last week chronicling a reader’s dislike of wine clubs in general. We’re not talking your run-of-the-mill ‘Wine of the Month’ type club here (and not that I have anything against that club or others like it in particular).

He was talking about a number of wineries’ individual wine clubs, and his disappointment stemmed from his experiences as follows:

* Many of the clubs seemed to be using the club to sell off wines that do not sell well elsewhere.

* Many of the clubs sell wine to their club members are prices that are somewhat higher than can be found in the retail market.

* Many of the clubs ‘bundle’ their wines, requiring you to purchase a number of different wines in order to get the ones you really want.

I was absolutely blown away to hear this, as my experiences with individual winery wine clubs has generally been quite positive. I’ve never felt ‘taken advantage of’ by receiving ‘second rate’ products AND I’ve always felt that the prices I received were lower than could be found elsewhere. In addition, I found that these clubs are a way to ensure access to difficult-to-find wines as well.

I have experienced this last point, though, and those wineries that have continued to practice this bundling have lost my business, as well as others I know.

I’ve tried to learn from this in putting together my own wine club. Though it’s a bit difficult to organize, I’ve tried to make my club as ‘open’ as possible and allow pretty much any kind of substitution you’d like . . .

For instance, my first shipment in the Spring consisted of 2 bottles of our 2008 rose, 2 bottles of our 2008 The Outlier (Dry Gewurztraminer), and 2 bottles of our 2006 Cuvee Christie. I had a handful of club members who preferred all reds – no problem. I had a few that wanted all whites – no problem again. And I had a number that wanted to order a few extra bottles – no problem (and I covered the freight charges for these customers!).

I’m interested to hear your experiences with wine clubs – both those from individual wineries and those put together by retail stores or other third parties. I’ll be sending out our Fall Club shipment in the next few weeks and want to make sure we ‘do it right’ (-:

Thanks in advance for sharing!

Cheers!

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