Among the thousands of wine clubs out there, these seven subscription services stand out, including one known for collaborations with Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, Nicole Scherzinger and Jason Momoa.
COVID lockdowns dramatically upended purchasing habits everywhere, including in the wine business. With restaurants shuttered and home-bound happy hours commencing early and often, digital U.S. wine sales rose 32 percent to $760 billion in 2020, per a report from wine-business analyst Rob McMillan of Silicon Valley Bank.
Many oenophiles also turned to monthly and quarterly direct-ship wine clubs to keep their home cellars stocked. And while wineries, distributors and shops used to be the main drivers of wine clubs, now experts, restaurants and the tech world have jumped in.
For those who are either overwhelmed (or underwhelmed) by what’s available in stores — and dig the ease of doorstep delivery — curated wine clubs, with anywhere from a few bottles to a dozen a shipment, offer a solution as well as discovery and a way to “travel” to other regions and countries.
Wine clubs have been on the rise for more than a decade. “Now there are thousands of wine clubs,” says Etty Klein, who founded online wine shop Plonk in 2009 and added a wine club (plonkwineclub.com) in 2011. “That pandemic year saw the largest growth I’ve seen in 11 years and it continued. It set a new standard for everyone selling wine online.”
Describing her choices as “off-the-beaten-path, hidden-gem wines you’d never find on your own,” Klein puts an emphasis on responsibly farmed, low-intervention wine that’s sourced globally and value-priced. Plonk has three choices: all red, all white, or — the most popular — mixed ($110 to $285 a month, four to 12 bottles). Shipments come with paired recipes.
“The space has changed a lot,” says Plonk’s Klein. “There’s a dividing line between a quality club and tech companies that are algorithm-based, millennial-facing clubs and have people take quizzes to get their taste profile.” (A sample: Which candy would you pick out of a bowl if “some lunatic mixed Skittles and M&Ms in the same bowl?”) Klein doesn’t believe in that methodology and each shipment is a surprise. Says Klein, “My take is curation.”