Online alcohol sales have skyrocketed since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and going “out” for drinks now means back-to-back virtual happy hours or Zooming with friends and family, sometimes for hours at a time. Not surprisingly, all of this has us stocking up on alcohol more often than usual, which is where smart services, like wine subscriptions, come in handy.
Signing up for a wine subscription eliminates the hassle of waiting in line outside neighborhood liquor stores or relying on maxed out local booze delivery. At a time when keeping the pantry stocked requires more thought than planning a two-week vacation (remember doing that?) there’s a lot to be said for the convenience of having bottles of wine picked by an expert arrive regularly and reliably, with next to zero effort.
Along with the obvious benefit of keeping supplies fully stocked, joining a wine club can provide a sense of community, connecting members with other wine enthusiasts and winemakers around the world, and be a way to learn about something new. Before diving into whether a club is a good fit, check the fine print regarding potential snags with delivery, as alcohol shipping laws vary by state. It gets pretty complicated, down to particular wines and specific zip codes with restrictions attached.
Here’s a look at the best wine subscriptions for everyone from the casual wine drinker to the serious collector. Because running out of canned tuna is one thing, but running out of rosé is quite another.
Best for Biodynamic, Organic and Natural Wines
Plonk Wine Club
Price: Starts at $110
Membership options: 3
With no sign of the natural wine trend falling flat, Plonk scours the globe for vineyards that skip using pesticides, commercial additives, and chemicals. Many are located in emerging wine regions and harvest lesser-known indigenous grapes. Members literally swirl a mouthful, with interesting varieties like Assyrtiko (Greece), Treixadura (Portugal), and Refosco (Slovenia).
There are three clubs from which to choose—all-white, all-red, and mixed—each offering four- or 12-bottle options sent monthly, quarterly, semiannually or yearly. Mixed cases are packed with three bottles each of four different wines. Prices start at $110 per month, and shipping is free on every order. Plonk gets bonus points for having an expansive list of states it delivers to, with Hawaii, Alaska, New Hampshire, Mississippi and Utah as the handful of exceptions.
Best for Oenophile Newbies
Wine of the Month Club
Price: Starts at $38
Membership options: 13
The company that originally disrupted the wine retail business is still going strong nearly 50 years after its founding. Its website may not have the same appeal as some eye-candy-colored startups, but cool design details can’t measure up to years of experience, with second-generation owner Paul Kalemkiarian at the helm.
The club is perfect for the wine novice who wants to develop their palate and learn more about variety and regions, with minimal commitment. There are 10 two-bottle-per-month clubs that start at $38 including shipping, which allow members to dabble in pinot noir or Bordeaux or leave choices in the capable hands of experts with the “Classic Series.” Information is clearly presented and explained without assumption of prior wine knowledge.
When the time comes to take it to the next level, there are options for ordering six- or 12-bottle shipments, including a “Mystery Club” to put acquired tastes to the test.
Most Accessible for Everyone
Price: Starts at $39
Membership options: 2 (plus a separate rosé club membership)
The idea of a profile quiz may seem gimmicky, but Winc’s method is far savvier than simply ticking a box for white or red. It’s designed to assess the subtleties of the palate, and asks about things like coffee preferences, whether citrus or earthy notes in food get a thumbs up or down, and degrees of adventurous eating. And, most importantly, the short exercise seems to work. Tastes are further fine-tuned over time with member ratings.
The site is very user-friendly, with straightforward information about plans, the wine selection process, and pricing. Members can filter a list of options or take recs from the pros. And all of their wine is handcrafted and produced through partnerships with select winemakers.
Monthly membership starts at $39 (plus $9 shipping); choose four months and shipping is free, with the cost per bottle coming down to about $13. Their “Insider Access” membership comes with a $59.95 monthly fee attached, which can be redeemed as credits toward bottles purchased on their website. Winc also has a separate rosé club—the Summer Water Societé—from May through August, which in years past has sold out fast.
Best for Discovering New Wines
Membership options: 1
For serious wine drinkers who know what they like but want to expand their repertoire, Firstleaf is the answer. The brand sells itself on its wine-geek algorithm that runs members’ wine ratings through 13 billion data points, helping its team hone in on refining individuals’ profiles. But that doesn’t mean joining is a hands-off experience. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: the more time put into reviews and fine-tuning preferences, the better the result.
Like other sites, the first step is taking a quiz, and concierges are on call to discuss further tweaks to improve shipments. While there’s a ton of flexibility for customizing a mix of white and reds, choosing regions, and nailing down delivery dates, there’s only one membership option. It’s $90 including tax for a half-case, which comes out to a reasonable $15 per bottle.
Best for Wines by the Glass
Membership options: 1
Anyone whose taste buds are bored halfway through a bottle of wine will want to join this club. Vinebox banks on tempting members with the tease of wine by the glass, reasoning they’ll clamor for a second pour.
The irresistibly packaged set of nine 10-centiliter servings—which look like vials of luxury perfume—add to the mystique of receiving something that’s exclusive and highly coveted. It also presents an opportunity to taste top vintages and small-production releases that would otherwise be out of reach, targeting an audience with a sophisticated palate. (That distinction is made very clear on their website: “If you're adamant that you only like sweet wines or California Red Blends, then we're probably not the right club for you.”)
Membership runs $79 per quarter—individual glasses come out to a not-cheap $8-$9—with seasonally focused editions like the current “Vineyard Fresh” box, featuring a rosé, a new Beaujolais, and a Tempranillo. Shipments come with info on tasting notes, suggested pairings, and recommendations for bottles with similar profiles. A $15 credit ($30 for members who pay annually) is also included for the purchase of the full-sized-bottles of favorite tastings.
Best Mid-range Option for Serious Wine Drinkers
Price: Starts at $99
Membership options: 3
SommSelect is the next best option for serious wine drinkers who aren’t investment-level collectors with cavernous private cellars. Like its name suggests, wines that make the cut for this club are selected by a somm—master sommelier Ian Cauble, in fact, from Jason Wise’s first documentary “Somm,” released in 2012 at the Napa Valley Film Festival.
Considering the quality of international artisanal wines and the rigorous selection process, the $99 per month, four-bottle “Drink Like a Somm” club is a relative steal. Specific regions or grapes are given spotlight treatment in each shipment. There’s also the popular “Somm Six” option and the “Blind Six”—six bottles wrapped in black tissue paper and numbered—for those seeking a palate challenge (or at least a fun Saturday night wine-tasting-activity), both priced at $199.
Most Affordable for the Best Value
Martha Stewart Wine Co.
Price: Starts at $50
Membership options: 2
Few can achieve Martha Stewart-level perfection for dinner party success. Why not skip the pressure of choosing wine and let the queen of home entertaining take over? Even better: her good taste doesn’t cost a fortune. Martha personally samples and handpicks every wine on offer, chosen from vineyards around the world.
Do the math and get two bottles at the club member price for about as much as a fast casual salad—that’s roughly $7-$8 per bottle. There’s the half-case and full-case club: six bottles every six weeks at $50 per shipment or 12 bottles every eight weeks for $90 per box, with a curated selection of all white, red, or a mix. Shipping is free and wines that customers don’t like are replaced for no extra charge.
Best for Rosé
Vinley is a relative newcomer to the wine subscription biz, and it aims to please millennials in the market for wine that’s pricey enough to impress friends and party hosts—and looks ultra chic for photo shoots. Of course, the thing to drink from Memorial to Labor Day is rosé, and one of Vinley’s clubs features just that, along with Champagne, cava, or prosecco for $59 per month.
When the weather turns cold and cravings shift toward wine to pair with heartier fare, there’s an “Adventurers Box” that delivers two- to three-bottles selected from up-and-coming wineries worldwide, for $59-$79. Pretty tasting cards accompany every bottle.
Best for Variety of Membership Options
Cellars Wine Club
Price: Starts at $29
Membership options: 12
This well-established wine club is all about variety when it comes to membership. Cellars Wine Club started doing business in the mid-90s, and its solid roster of box options—ranging from single-bottle to boutique wines from the West Coast—truly offers something to suit most drinkers.
Popular club picks include “Premium,” with bottles of wine from locales like South Africa and New Zealand, “90+ Point” for best-rated wines, and a celebratory “Champagne Sparkling” club. Prices start at $29 and cap at $369 for a case of 90+ point wines that average out to a mere $12 per bottle. Choose from quarterly, bi-monthly, monthly, and one-time delivery.
Best for Champagne
Price: Starts at $199
Membership options: 3
Bubbly lovers who won’t settle for prosecco or cava can turn to Fatcork for filling their flutes. There are three membership options, with prices that reflect quarterly shipments: “Classic” costs $199 for three bottles (plus $9.95 shipping); “Fancy” runs $249 for four bottles, including one tête de cuvée (top blend); and “Extra Fancy,” at $349 for six bottles, half of which are tête de cuvée.
Every box highlights a specific tasting theme to school members on the details of each bottle. All of their Champagne tends to be dry or extra-dry, produced on grower-owned farms with vines that are at least 20 years old and yield limited batches. Unfortunately, North Dakota residents will have to find their bubbly fix elsewhere, but Fatcork delivers to every other state in the nation, plus Washington D.C.
Best for Access to Up-and-coming Independent Winemakers
Price: Starts at $40
Membership options: 1
Naked Wines isn’t set up like a traditional wine club, but it does give members a chance to join a wine-centric community—and feel good about helping independent winemakers hone their craft. In fact, members actually get a stake in the business by setting up “angel” accounts and depositing $40 a month as spending money for purchasing vino. Not a bad deal.
While myriad options are available from wineries worldwide, buying is a relatively easy task thanks to a bevy of filters and curated content with recommendations. Members can follow favorite winemakers, which is a nice way to establish a connection with the person putting wine on your table.
Best for Wine Drinkers With Wanderlust
The Grand Tour
Membership options: 1
When long-distance travel plans are on hold, the next best thing is to take a trip with one’s taste buds. The Grand Tour is the brainchild of Master Sommelier Dustin Wilson (another alum from the documentary “Somm”), hailing from Tribeca’s upscale Verve Wine Co., which also has a San Francisco location.
Focusing on small producers from around the globe, monthly installments transport members to a different destination, focusing on famous wine regions like the Loire Valley and under-the-radar locales on the verge of becoming oenophilehotspots. It’s $95 per shipment, which includes four bottles of wine, plus an insiders’ look at winemakers’ tasting notes, suggestions for pairings, and general information on the featured region.
Best for Occasional Wine Drinkers
Ninety Plus Cellars
Membership options: 5
This club is tailored to the wine drinker who would rather savor an excellent bottle with a special meal than uncork an average zinfandel with weeknight takeout. The best way to gauge wines that won’t miss the mark is to go for those with a 90-plus rating—which is all that Ninety Plus Cellars offers.
Quarterly shipments start at three bottles for $50, six for $95, or a case for $180. Options include mixed boxes or all-red (which may be a dealbreaker for those who prefer white) and shipping is free. Wines are internationally sourced from best-in-class vineyards as close as Napa and as far-flung as New Zealand. As of this writing, the company isn’t shipping to Utah, Michigan, Mississippi, or Kentucky.
Best for the Wine Collector
Sotheby’s Instant Cellars
Price: Starts at $5,000
Membership options: 4
Aspiring and established connoisseurs alike can take advantage of Sotheby’s wine retail business through its collection management and advisory service, launched in 2018. It’s geared toward clients interested in exclusive vintages as investments to build a portfolio—and who want the same assurance of quality and provenance with their wines as with their blue-chip art collections. A team of knowledgeable experts provide complimentary consultation, personalized assessment of acquisition goals, and assistance with purchases, including buying at auction.
Prospective members to this exclusive club should be comfortable dropping—at minimum—$115 on average per bottle. It isn’t a traditional wine club where signing up automatically means monthly shipments, but rather a more intimate wine-buying experience tailored to individual needs and preferences.
There are four levels of commitment, starting at $5,000 for 50 bottles, where sample selections include a 2018 André Dezat et Fils Sancerre Rosé for a mere $22.95 to a 2016 Jean-Marie Fourrier Latricieres Chambertin priced at $275. Top-level membership caps off at $25,000 for 90 bottles at $300 on average (a 2012 Angelus Saint Emilion for $545, anyone?). The only caveat: currently, the service is only available in six states, plus Washington DC.