With so manyflooding the market all scrabbling for a piece of your monthly budget, you may be wondering which is the best wine of the month club or home delivery service to try. There is likely to be no single right answer, but there are differences worth investigating to help you pick the best subscription to suit your specific tastes and needs.
Though wine subscription services and online wine clubs have exploded in recent years (God bless technology), the idea of having a bottle of wine picked for you on a monthly basis by a knowledgeable source is hardly new. The first-ever wine club started in California, according to the Los Angeles Times, but not in the vine-friendly regions that might have just sprung to mind. In 1970s Palos Verdes, pharmacist and wine enthusiast Paul Kalemkiarian Sr. acquired a neighboring liquor store. His wine knowledge dwarfed that of many of his customers, so he started making monthly wine recommendations. Eventually, he began delivering wine picks to his loyal customers, and the original Wine of the Month Club was born.
Related reading: What is the difference between natural and organic wine?
By 2006, there were an estimated 800 wine clubs or wine subscription services in the United States alone offering wines from boutique wineries, small batch and private label , personalized wine to fit flavour preferences and everything else you couldn't previously get at the liquor store. Today, younger services understand the power of niche branding and are tapping into the millennial market, making the wine home delivery world even denser. And though it's true the competition will help keep overall wine prices lower, if you're a novice enthusiast and potential subscribers you have to wade through hundreds of wine services with a wide variety of price ranges, shipping frequencies, overall wine volume and winery conditions.
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So which is the best wine of the month club or subscription for you, your budget and habits in 2020? You may start by asking yourself a few questions. Do you want one curated to your specific tastes? Perhaps have some wine experts to tell you what's good? Are you into vegan wines? What about biodynamic? And what should a "good" bottle of wine cost? If all of these choices seem overwhelming, we get it. It's like being in . That's why we canvassed the wine club landscape to uncork the best memberships for you -- from wine subscriptions that specialize in monthly surprises to services carefully curated to your exacting ideas of what makes an on-point sauvignon blanc. These wine subscription services and wine of the month clubs offer thoughtful selection, great customer service and tremendous value for any level of , delivering fabulous bottles straight to your for the dinner table or (or on the couch -- we don't judge).
Best wine subscription for most people
Best budget-friendly wine subscription
Martha Stewart Wine Club
Best customizable wine subscription
Cellars Wine Club
Best wine subscription if you like to try before you buy
Best sparkling wine and rose subscription
Best wine subscription with in-person perks
Best biodynamic and organic wine subscription
Plonk Wine Club
Best vegan wine subscription
Best wine subscription box for cheese and charcuterie lovers
Wine Down Box
|Best subscription for semipro wine drinkers||Firstleaf||$80/month|
Best subscription for people who don't drink a lot of wine
Ninety Plus Cellars
Our picks were chosen through a mix of personal experience, reviews from industry-leading wine and food sites and customer reviews from third-party sites like TrustPilot and HighYa. We also took into consideration the wine club's customer service, ease of site navigation, and breadth of wines to choose from, but to be clear we did not personally test every service.
Formerly known as Club W, Winc asks customers to take a short quiz and then presents dozens of good wine choices and four highlighted recommendations that should match your palate for a monthly subscription. If you already know what you like, you can choose which wines to add to your box, and use the site's filter options to find sweet, international and vegan wines (yes, that's a thing).
You don't have to pick four wines, but it's generally the easiest way to get to the free shipping minimum. If you don't curate your box or forget to skip the month, your top recommendations will be shipped to you.
Winc sells both its own wines and bottles from independent wineries. A bottle of winc wine is generally a hit more than a miss, while the indie wines rarely disappoint.
At $13 per bottle and up, even with the occasional poor pour, Winc provides an overall great value for the wines and user-friendly site. You receive a credit toward your next purchase for any wine you don't enjoy. Plus, you can rate the wines (between one and five stars), which improves your future recommendations and helps others make decisions.
You can skip your next delivery if you'll be out of town, but you cannot pause your subscription if you need a longer break. Introverts should know that you need to cancel via phone or online chat (the latter being the fastest way).
Novices and connoisseurs alike can build lasting brand loyalty with Winc's wine selection, but be warned: some subscribers might get tired of its stock in a few months if they want something different with each delivery. Either way, we think there's something for everyone in this wine subscription.
Leave it to Martha Stewart to make your wine habit simultaneously more affordable and chic. Stewart chooses all of the wines, and everyone's first box is identical (a mix of reds and whites), providing an introduction to the collection. Afterwards, deliveries can be customized to include all reds, all whites or a mix.
You can pick a half or full case of wine to receive every six or eight weeks, respectively. It's $50 for six weeks and $90 for eight weeks, so whether you go with the half-case or full-case option, each bottle works out to be less than $9.
You'll also get tips on proper serving techniques, pairing choices, and as you might guess, general entertaining wisdom with each case. In order to cancel or skip, you'll need to reach out to customer service.
If you've graduated from the Gallos and the Cupcakes and want to include more nuanced, complex and higher-priced wine in your life, Firstleaf might be for you. Its palate quiz is one of the most involved, asking for varietal (pinot noir vs. shiraz) preferences in addition to using several household name wines as taste benchmarks. It also asks you about certain qualities you might prefer -- such as minerality -- in contrast to similar quizzes which assume many don't know what that means.
Firstleaf offers six bottles per month for $80, based on your results and monthly ratings, and the first month is half-price. You can schedule the delivery frequency however you please (according to the company, most customers pick an every other month schedule), and can swap out each of your selections through your account, but if you don't like the replacement, you'll have to email customer support. Otherwise, skipping a single order, putting your account on hold, reactivating it, and canceling your subscription altogether can all be done through your online account.
Cellars Wine Club ($29 and up per month) actually offers 12 different wine clubs that you can switch between, based on your preferences. A team of experts tastes and chooses the wines for the clubs every month. Ultimately, these experts pull from the same pool of wines, but the individual sub-clubs cater to specific tastes and categories.
Most of these sub-clubs ship two wine bottles, but there are also single-bottle, red trio and full case (a dozen bottles) choices. Clubs are curated by themes like taste (Sweet Wines Club), region (West Coast Club) and even wine scale ranking (90+ Point Club). While other services, especially palate-based ones, box you into experiencing certain kinds of wine, Cellars allows you to be adventurous from shipment to shipment without compromising quality.
You can set the number of wine shipments, frequency and the start month for each club, and mixed clubs let you choose your ideal reds-to-whites ratio. Switching between clubs can be done online through your account, but if you want to cancel your subscription all together, you have to reach out to customer service.
No online wine tasting quiz here. Vinebox lets you try before you buy with its quarterly wine subscription. Instead of getting stuck with entire bottles of random wines, you get nine small vials delivered every three months.
The twist-top vials hit the middle ground between a tasting pour and a standard glass pour. This way, you can try these wines and maybe even have enough to pair with a meal or just unwind at the end of the day. You can also double your box -- saving 10% -- if you want to get a friend or significant other in on the tasting experience. Vinebox uses a special rebottling process to preserve the wine's taste, and each tube can keep the wine good for up to three years.
Until July of last year, Vinebox was a monthly service. The customer experience has changed only slightly, but the wine curation is focused even more on discovery than before. You still have control over your preferred red to white ratio for your boxes.
If you really like one or more of your testers, you can buy a whole bottle on the Vinebox website (a perk for subscribers only). If you sign up for a quarterly subscription ($72 and up per quarter), you get a $15 credit towards a full bottle every three months. If you pay for the full year, you'll get a $30 credit each quarter. We also like that it's really easy to skip a month or cancel your subscription right from your online account.
Bubbly and rose lovers can finally get their fix without leaving their house. Vinley Market ships out two bottles each month at $59 per month: One bottle is always sparkling wine (Champagne, cava, or prosecco) and the other bottle is always a rose. You're always ready for a celebration with this subscription. We doubt you'll get tired of these refreshing wines, but if you do, you can cancel through your online account or via email.
Is your rose habit a little more serious? Winc's Summer Societe delivers a sweet rose throughout the summer months in magnum bottles or smaller, glass-portioned bottles. The membership is currently sold out, but it recurs every summer and you can buy regular size bottles through a normal Winc membership.
For a drier, more portable rose, Una Lou also offers a summertime subscription in different quantities of four-pack cans (equivalent to two wine bottles). Ninety Plus Cellars also does a seasonal subscription for its assortment of dry roses.
For some people, wine is a way of life, and The Panel gets this. Each month a group of winemakers, sommeliers and other wine experts blindly taste a wine selection. You'll then receive three or six of what they determine as the winning vinos.
There are three tiers of club membership at $99 per month and up which also give you access to The Panel's lounge in Sonoma, California, as well as invites to special events. The most premium membership includes perks like cellar consultations. Any membership level can reach capacity as subscriptions ebb and flow, so we can't promise that you'll be chosen right away (or at all).
The popularity of biodynamic wines aligns with a growing desire to consume natural, organic foods. Organic grapes are a great place to start, but biodynamic farming and processing doesn't deteriorate the soil or add traditional winemaking additives like artificial sugars.
Plonk Wine Club pulls biodynamic wines from all corners of the globe. As with everything else that's organic, this is a pricey box ($110 per month) that only contains four bottles. You can also order a dozen at a discount, but instead of getting an additional eight unique wines, you'll be stocking up on three bottles of each of that month's picks.
Knowing whether or not a wine is vegan at your local wine store is nearly impossible, and you often need to do some heavy sleuthing if you want to ensure your bottle is vegan. Vegan Wines wants to take the research off your plate and fill your glass with vegan wines every month.
For $98 and up per box, you can choose from a starter box which includes three premium bottles or subscribe to its Red Lovers or Signature Club options. The latter two clubs ship six wines per quarter from international vegan wineries and you can add vegan cheese pairings from Miyoko's Creamery.
You can also change what kind of box you receive every month. In order to change your subscription type or cancel it, you need to email their team before your next shipment.
Want a party in a box? Wine Down Box sends you a standout wine with perfect cheese and cured meat wine pairings. You might have a vague idea of what cheeses goes with different wines, but the rules don't always apply to complex, nuanced bottles.
Each box includes a bottle of wine and the perfect cheese, meat and artisanal crackers to pair it with. The perishables ship separately from the wine, but the packages are staggered so that they reach your home at about the same time. You'll also get pairing notes to help turn you into a charcuterie expert.
Also, shipping is included in the $70 per month cost, and you can cancel anytime.
Maybe wine isn't your drink of choice, but it's always nice to have a few bottles around. Ninety Plus Cellars ships rebranded wines from reputable wineries every three months. Meaning, they purchase a small percentage of bottles from vineyards with histories of highly rated wines and repackage them.
This way, you get three or six standout bottles each quarter for a fraction of their cost. For $50 per quarter and up, you can get the three best wines of the season, six reds, or a mix of six reds, whites and occasional roses and/or bubbly. It recently added the option to choose a dozen reds or a mix of a dozen bottles, in case you want to stock up for a party or the holiday season. Some of the older, legacy wine club companies still do four shipments a year, but we think Ninety Plus offers a better value and has a more user-friendly website.
Simple to use and straightforward, if you're looking for the convenience and discount associated with wine delivery but not the commitment of a full subscription service, you might like Wine Insiders. The brand offers a careful selection of wines including reds, whites, sparkling, rosé all under $20 with zero subscription or monthly commitment and free shipping on six bottles or more.
The key to Wine Insiders, however, may be to take advantage of their special wine sets of four or six bottles or seasonal offers like the 2019 Summer of Rosé which consisted of three monthly shipments of six well-rated bottles (18 total) of the pink stuff for a flat fee of $255, including shipping cost.
Which subscriptions didn't make the cut and why
Our picks were chosen through a mix of personal experience, reviews from industry-leading wine and food sites and customer reviews from casual wine enthusiasts via third-party sites like TrustPilot and HighYa. We also took into consideration customer service, ease of site navigation and breadth of wines to pick from.
Though media companies are credited with kicking off the wine club renaissance in 2008 (think The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times), they use one of a few, massive wine merchants to fill their orders. As a result, these companies, along with older clubs like Laithwaite's and Turner Classic Movies', essentially pull from the same lot, often marking up prices in the process. The lack of value and unique offerings excluded these services from our list. Some of the older clubs like Vinesse and California Wine Club do deliver a high-quality selection, but they also have text-heavy sites that were exhausting to navigate as well as cancellation policies that involve tedious phone calls.
Winc and Firstleaf are great examples of quiz-based wine clubs that offer customizable breadth to consumers. However, Bright Cellars, which also uses a quiz to discern customers' likes and dislikes, did not make our list. We found that this particular club ships lackluster wines, the palate quiz often spits out the same or nearly identical recommendations for very different people, and its customer service could be better.
Wine Awesomeness, which taps into millennial wanderlust with its international offerings, gets tons of press (it even publishes its own magazine). Despite this impeccably crafted aesthetic, the club's subscribers and reviewers found the wines boring and also reported some serious shipping issues.
Tasting Room was considered for our trial-size wine pick, but it has gained a reputation as a bait-and-switch service. Most online reviewers loved the introductory taste test, only to be disappointed with the wine curation afterwards.
In recent years, food-delivery services have also gotten into the wine-subscription service. Both Blue Apron and HelloFresh rolled out wine subscription add-ons to their popular meal-delivery services. Blue Apron's smaller, 500 milliliter offerings tend to be more premium than HelloFresh's, but both have a strong hit-or-miss reputation and don't take your palate into consideration by only providing direct meal pairings, which is why they ultimately didn't make our list.
We absolutely loved the premium, boutique winery offerings of Pour This from renowned sommelier Ashley Ragovin, but her subscription service has been terminated. We looked into SommSelect as an alternative, but its selection is more closely aligned with that of The Panel than the rare finds Ragovin could produce.
The Panel's main competitor was Illinois-based Cooper's Hawk Wine Club, since both offer in-person perks. Unless you live in Illinois, the value and experience of Cooper's Hawk is greatly diminished, partially thanks to shipping costs and bottle markups. Even with local benefits, the Cooper's Hawk wineries have more of an industrial aesthetic, and you would be limited to offerings from its domestic vineyards.
This article was written by J. Fergus. It was originally published last year.