Winery Clubs & Allocations: The Enemy of Variety

Over the past few years, I’ve slowly broken up with all but two of my winery clubs and mailing list allocations. The juice isn’t worth the squeeze. As much as I might love a particular wine/winery, I don’t need dozens upon dozens of bottles of it. I have a limited amount of space in my cellar, and a limited amount of $$. There’s so much great wine in this world. If I fill my cellar with wine club and mailing list allocation wines, I don’t have any room (or resources $$) for variety.

How did I get here?

Many years ago, I took a piece of advice from Jay McInerney . . . via his book,
A Hedonist in the Cellar (I don’t actually know Jay McInerney).  But the advice really stuck with me:  Get on as many winery mailing lists as you can.  So I did.

Patience and a little bit of stalking paid off, and became a member of more than a dozen wine clubs, and somehow I managed to secure allocations from a dozen more.  And here’s how this works — once you get an allocation, you have to keep ordering each year, or you risk losing your allocation altogether.  So you order. And the wine accumulates. And before you know it, you have 64 bottles of wine from the same winery. And very little money.

Subtle message from the Mr. Armchair Sommelier

Winery clubs offer several “benefits” that I never took advantage of:

  • Access to special events: Yeah, I don’t do crowds. Plus, it’s great that you have a big annual release party, but I’m 3,000 miles away. I’m not flying out there for that.
  • Complimentary tastings: I seldom visit wineries anymore (they’re too crowded). And again, a complimentary tasting at a winery 3,000 miles from me is worthless.
  • Discounts on purchases. Usually, this is for case purchases. And I don’t need another case of wine I already got with my club wines.
  • Access to exclusive, club only wines. This is annoying. One of the reasons I don’t visit wineries for tastings anymore is that the wines they offer for public tasting aren’t the wines I want to taste. They always have this grand list of reserve/special wines . . . but they aren’t available for tasting. They are only for purchase, and/or only to club members. I’m happy to pay a premium for a reserve/special tasting. Offer one.

One of my biggest peeves with winery clubs/mailing lists is required allocations — this really burns my biscuits. I used to be a member of a winery’s very exclusive (and slightly pretentious) club. My allocation was 3 bottles per year. OK, fine. The next year, I went to buy my allocation and tried to select 3 bottles, but couldn’t. What the? My only option was to buy my new full allocation, which was now 6 bottles. At $150/bottle. Seriously?!? If your wines are so special that you have a waiting list filled with people dying to buy them, then certainly you can allow people who are already on your list buy what they want. You aren’t going to run out of customers.

Let me buy what I want, and I’ll keep buying. Tell me how many bottles I have to buy, and I’m out. If there was an option to customize my wine club/allocation purchases (allow me to choose which wines and how many bottles), I might rethink this.

I have a modest wine cellar.  I have hundreds, not thousands of bottles.  I just don’t have the room or the resources to stockpile wine from clubs and mailing lists. In an age where I can track down just about any wine on the internet in three clicks, I’ve realized I don’t need winery clubs and allocations. I need variety.


One comment

  1. Another great post. I love that you’re opinionated. You should be. This is important information. I have never done this, but I have joined a wine club, called First Leaf. They send you wines “chosen” for you and your tastes. Their initial questionnaire is short and I couldn’t see how it informed them much. Obviously it hasn’t. I keep getting sent chardonnays, even though I specifically said no to Chardonnay. And no rieslings. They’re all award winning wines, but it’s almost scary opening them. I’m trying to broaden my horizons, cause living in a small town, and living in OK where the distributors are limited in what they can bring in, i just stick with my usual. but I don’t think this club is helping me. One wine was such garbage my friend and I both practically gagged on it. At least you get to rate them online, and supposedly they look at your ratings. We’ll see… I’m getting my next box this week.


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