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10 best wine clubs that make discovering new vinos easy

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Terry Kirby
Wednesday 29 September 2021 17:46
<p>Expand your knowledge while enjoying delicious discounts and exclusive vinos</p>

Expand your knowledge while enjoying delicious discounts and exclusive vinos

The choice of wine offline and online is truly massive, whether it is high street supermarkets or their websites, big online retailers or the vast number of smaller provincial wine shops or niche suppliers that can now offer their hand-picked wines to the world.

But all this can be a bit formidable for those who don’t necessarily have the time to wander the supermarket aisles,  browse endless websites or perhaps lack a bit of confidence and expertise in making their wine choices.

That’s where wine clubs come in – many online retailers big and small now offer subscription plans where you can sign up for regular deliveries of usually six or 12 bottles – perhaps every month or every quarter – chosen for you according to your general preferences.

Styles and prices of plans differ from company to company, but most offer discounts on standard online prices and/or special wines that cannot be bought by non-members. However, initial membership fees, delivery costs – sometimes waived against larger orders – and the fact that in many cases you are committing to regular payments need to be borne in mind, although most plans offer the chance to pause or vary your orders as well as refunds or swaps on any wines you do not like. And wine clubs do offer the warm feeling of being part of a community, the opportunity to expand your wine knowledge and try different styles from interesting winemakers as well as tasting notes and food matching tips.

To assemble our 10 best, we have compared prices and tasted our way around some of the biggest and more exclusive clubs across all price points, so here are our 10 best wine clubs for 2021.

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The best wine clubs for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – The Wine Society wine without fuss or vintage cellar: From £85 for 2 months,
  • Best for extra background on the wines – Majestic Wine Club: From £99 a case (every 3 months),
  • Best for tasting before you buy – The Online Tasting Club: From £29.95 per kit,
  • Best for half bottles – The Little Fine Wine Company: From £64.95 a case,
  • Best for tailored wine preferences – Tivoli Wines: From £110 per case,
  • Best for choice of plans – Virgin Wines Wine Club: From £59.88 per case,
  • Best for variable discounts – Laithwaites Wine Clubs: From £65 per case,
  • Best for supporting small winemakers – Naked Wines Angels: From £10 a month,
  • Best regionally based wine –  Stone Vine and Sun Doorstep Dozen: From £90 per case
  • Best for fine wines – Connaught Cellars Wine Club: £150 one-off fee,

Wine Society Wines: Without Fuss or Vintage Cellar: From £85 for three months,

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

The Wine Society, a non-profit body founded in 1874, has a vast range of wines from all over the world and at all price points. It has a reputation for quality and value for money as well as the reliable excellence of its own label “society and exhibition” ranges. Joining is easy and costs a one-off lifetime membership fee of £40.

This would be a great Christmas present. There’s no obligation to buy, but members can then join one of its two subscription services: wines without fuss or vintage cellars. The former offers a choice of five plans, such as lighter wines, French classics or wine rack essentials, and each comes with 12 bottles of red, white or mixed, every two months at prices ranging from £85 to £149 a case. The latter package is more expensive but these deliver fine wines for cellaring of up to 15 years at prices starting from £35 a month, with a heavy emphasis on the classic French wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. In terms of variety and value, it’s hard to beat.

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Majestic Wine Club: From £99 a case every three months,

Best: For extra background on the wines

Rating: 9/10

Majestic claims to be the UK’s biggest wine retailer, with 190 stores nationwide and a comprehensive, easy to navigate website. Having been launched only last month, Its wine club is the newest on the market and is a much revised version of their previous concierge club.

Prices start at £99 a case and it offers quarterly selections of themed wines chosen by two “masters of wine” not available elsewhere on its website, launching with a selection of “hidden gems of France”. Each case is accompanied by a well-illustrated glossy booklet with information about each wine, the producers and food matching ideas with recipes. There are also QR codes in the booklet which link to more online content about the wines and video explainers. And if you want to buy any more of any of the wines, Majestic will make that happen.

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The Online Tasting Club: From £29.99,

Best: For tasting before you buy

Rating: 8/10

Winner this month of the International Wine Challenge Innovators of the Year, this club is simply a great way to sample and learn about the wines before buying. It uses a custom-built machine, which decants wine using an inert gas that shields the wine from the oxygen that degrades it, so they arrive fresh to your door in eco-friendly, lightweight tasting sachets, small enough to go through your letterbox.

Kits of six 100ml samples, enough for a small glass, start at £29.99, but if you join the club there are discounts for monthly or six-monthly memberships. Each kit is linked to a live, interactive, hosted online tasting show on such upcoming themes as northern Italy, the wines of Bordeaux, and wine and cheese – with the option to purchase a box of appropriate cheeses. Club members can then buy the full bottles in singles or in mixed cases.

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The Little Fine Wine Company: From £64.95 a case,

Best: For half-bottles

Rating: 9/10

This is another brilliant idea that gives flexibility for serious wine drinkers. Whether one half of a couple prefers white and the other red or you just want a couple of classy glasses for a midweek dinner – these half-bottles are your answer.

The Little Fine Wine Company subscription offers a variety of plans for four or six half-bottle selections for monthly or quarterly delivery. Prices start at £64.95 a case and some can be paired with online tasting classes too. Not all wines come in half-bottles of course, but those few that do tend to be at the more premium end, from reliable producers and the prices reflect that. But it’s also a great way to sample some serious wines without breaking the bank. There is also the facility to buy full bottles of most of the half-bottles too.

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Tivoli Wines: From £110 per case,

Best: For tailored wine preferences

Rating: 8/10

Tivoli Wines, who are based in the lovely Regency town of Cheltenham, are typical of this kind of excellent, local, family run wine shop. With carefully and lovingly curated selections of terrific wines, Tivoli can now enjoy national, if not global, exposure online.

Its wine club allows members a range of preferences for their mixed cases of wine, to exclude, say, wines made from merlot or pinot grigio grapes, or to mix in various combinations of red and white. You can then have them delivered monthly, every other month or quarterly, at a starting price of £110 for 12 bottles for their “silver case”, rising to £220, including delivery, for the top of the range “platinum option”.

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Virgin Wines Wine Club: From £59.88,

Best: For choice of plans

Rating: 7/10

One of the most well-known retailers out there, with a great selection of mid-priced wines, Virgin offers three very different subscription options. Each one involves an initial starter case of 12 mixed wines for £59.88 but after that bottles are picked per your preference.

Joining the “discovery wine club” commits you to the delivery of quarterly mixed selections, while the “justreds club” offers, well, a different selection of red wines. In both clubs, the prices are discounted from the main site and you can purchase more wines at that price, while you can opt out of cases or change the wines offered.

The “wine bank” on the other hand, is a savings club. You can choose to deposit between £15 and £100 with no obligation to purchase – although not buying rather defeats the whole point – to which Virgin will add £1 to every £5 saved, and also throws in free delivery. The different plans are very clearly outlined on the website, so consumers can compare and contrast.

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Laithwaites Wine Clubs: From £65 per case,

Best: For variable discounts

Rating: 8/10

Laithwaites, one of the largest online retailers, claims to have the biggest wine club on the market, with around 100,000 members. It has a huge range of wines, but is strongest in the £10-20 bracket.

Its current introductory seasons wine plan – at £65.00 for a case of mixed wines, which is a substantial discount on their normal prices – comes with four free Dartington crystal glasses, a free bottle of prosecco and the regular quarterly case of mixed wines for £107.88, plus delivery. This is, again, at least 10 per cent, sometimes more, off the normal advertised prices and is also accompanied by tasting notes.

Laithwaites also have a variety of other plans with prices ranging from £80 to £180 and feature more premium wines or country specific selections, such as Spain or Australia. As with other clubs, deliveries can be paused or the wines changed, sometimes to take advantage of bigger individual discounts.

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Naked Wines Angels: From £10 a month,

Best: For supporting small winemakers

Rating: 7/10

The USP of Naked Wines Club is that it connects wine drinkers directly with a small number of independent wine-makers around the globe, whose biographies feature prominently on its website. Signing up to the club as an “Angel” will cost you a minimum of £10 a month, which can be increased in multiples of £5 – and which the company says goes straight to fund these wineries and producers, thereby increasing the “feelgood” factor for drinkers.

In return, consumers get up to a 33 per cent discount on retail prices when they order, although there is no commitment to order a certain amount. Members also get an extra free bottle every month if they order a case, as well as invitations to wine tastings and other events.

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Stone Vine and Sun Doorstep Dozen: From £90 per case

Best: Regionally-based wine club

Rating: 8/10

This is another club run by an excellent bespoke regional wine merchant, in this case based near Winchester. There are four types of doorstep dozen plan’s to choose from – stone, vine, sun and celestial – which range from £90-£150 each (increasing to £100-£160 on 1 October).

All cases include two bottles of each wine, half red and half white, drawn from its selection of wines from around the globe, and at 10 per cent lower than normal prices. Delivery is free, tasting notes are included and cases can be organised as monthly, every other month or, with the latter two options, just quarterly. The wines will be picked from both the old and new world, with a particular emphasis on Rhone, Burgundy, Languedoc-Roussillon, Loire Valley, South Africa and South America.

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Connaught Cellars Wine Club: £150 one-off fee,

Best: For fine wines

Rating: 9/10

This is one for those willing to invest in fine wines, and it helps if you live in central London to take advantage of the memberships. Connaught Cellars is an upmarket wine dealer and tasting room near Marble Arch, which supplies many top restaurants in central London and elsewhere, as well as private clients, specialising in classic wines, particularly from France and Italy.

For a one-off lifetime fee of £150, membership to the club will give a 10 per cent discount on all purchases, whether that be single bottles or whole cases, with special emphasis on fine and rare wines, many of which are hard to find elsewhere. You also get a 20 per cent discount on weekly wine tasting events, hire of the tasting rooms, members-only events and advice on building a fine wine cellar.

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The verdict: Wine clubs

There are a wide variety of clubs to choose from here and much will depend, as with all wine buying, on your own budget and your existing knowledge of the wine world. Some of these clubs and subscription services are more obviously for starters and those who prefer to put the burden of their wine choice on others. Others cater for those with a bit more of an idea of what they are buying as well as those who want more exclusive purchasing plans, perhaps to build a wine cellar.

For all-round value for money catering for both the novice and the knowledgeable, and from a club that has been around long enough to know its stuff, we think the two Wine Society clubs offer the wine consumer the best value for 2021.

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Check out our best online wine shops for restocking your cellar without leaving the sofa

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