What features make an exceptional wine club?

I am developing a wine club at the winery as an introductory option to the mailing list, offering primarily our appellation blends of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Syrah and would appreciate any insights into features you like, or dislike about any current clubs you belong to, have belonged to or would want to belong to. For starters, the factors I think are the foundation include

  1. Frequency (quarterly, semi-annual, annual)
  2. Options (variety, volume, pricing)
  3. Shipping incentives
  4. Collateral inclusions (welcome gift, maps, notes, history, interviews)

Many thanks.

For me, quarterly is way too much. I wind up dropping from many lists because of the sheer volume coming at me. And while I don’t mind getting some vineyard choices, I don’t want to feel like I am paying for experiments.

Guaranteed allocation periods instead of “first come, first served.” This is a biggie for me.

Annual or semi-annual if I have to do something to buy wine, quarterly if it can be a “subscription” and I get my wine automatically.

Special wine club wines that will not be sold elsewhere - lends a feeling of exclusivity and allows the winery to make small lots of fun stuff.

No need to include shipping, simply because it varies by location.

Surprise “toys,” small things like a corkscrew the winery thinks is a good one make a cool inclusion. (I went tasting at Williams Selyem with my in laws and they gave us some pretty pinot glasses as parting gifts. I still smile in a big way when I use them.)

Special tasting/treatment at the winery - being treated well as a member of the wine list. Maybe a side tasting room, or no charge for a tasting.

A chance to purchase more of a wine that I received in my mailing list shipment and liked.

Case discounts encourage me to buy more.

Release day parties for those who can attend.

Sometimes, a small, special bottling of a different wine that you toss in as a gift for your ‘regulars.’

a few ideas**, w/out knowing the exact business model:

  1. try to coordinate Club Orders to coincide with favorable shipping months (i.e. April & October). of course, then you’ll be part of the OMG MY CC IS ON FIRE! WHAT SHOULD I DO??? problem.

  2. offer different number of bottle selections within the club, i.e. 3 Bottle Club, 6 Bottle Club, etc.

  3. allow Club Members to choose their own wines in each order.

  4. offer a discount on Club Wines.

  5. provide a newsletter and/or tasting notes in each order

  6. try to build the shipping costs into the bottle price. (gets tricky if you’re selling in a retail space though)

**Doug - i’m the wine club director at our winery. if you have specific Qs, feel free to PM and we can discuss in more detail. happy to help.

Getting something that is only offered to club members, an exclusive, if you will.

I generally do not like wine clubs, but I DO belong to a couple that work for me. They are only with wineries where I plan on purchasing more than just the wines that are part of the “club shipment”.

  1. Semi-annual is good

  2. 6 bottles max per shipment for a total of 12/year. I usually add on to the 6 with additional wines I would like to order. I DO expect to get discount pricing on the club bottles and the extras I order. The discount is the main reason I belong to the club in the first place.

  3. I don’t really care about shipping incentives. As long as I know all costs up front.

  4. collateral inclusions are not important to me. Nice to have. Wouldn’t make or break my decision to sign up. The wine does that…

I agree with Greg’s list… semi-annual works best.

Thanks to all of the comments so far. They are well informed and will be helpful as i move forward. Please keep them coming :slight_smile:

Don’t have any mandatory minimum purchase amounts per year to stay in the club.

One winery I know (Harrison-Clarke) offers progressive discounts based on length of time in the club. I thought that was pretty neat.
What winery, Doug?


most wine clubs function with a minimum purchase, e.g. 4 Bottle Club members purchase the four bottles X times per year (whatever the schedule may be).

you’re not really a “club member” if you drop below the minimum purchase level.


And if you don’t want a particular vintage, you’re stuck buying it to remain “in the club”.

And if the winery doubles their prices, you’re stuck buying it to remain “in the club”.

And if you only want certain types, but not the rest of the mandatory package, you’re stuck buying it to remain “in the club”.

[soap.gif] [swearing.gif]

A question was asked, and I answered.

Martinelli Winery

I am in one. Copain. 2X per year, I pick my wines. Free shipping, discount on full price. Easy.

Semi-annual or annual offerings. Quarterly is too much.

Free or discounted shipping is a nice-to-have but not super important.

Glossy marketing flyers. Special tasting events. Expensive pine shipping boxes with your logo branded on the outside. Don’t need 'em! Spend your operating budget on making great wine. Money spent on all that other stuff isn’t necessary.

One I would add as a starting point is having Exceptional Customer Service. Do what you say and say what you do. If you don’t have that as a foundation, the rest of the perks will ultimately not matter, at least to me. Many of the favorites on this Board have that in their business model.


I’m on several mailing lists but only a few clubs. Here are the must haves for me

2 shipments a year
progressive discounts based on bottle commitment per shipment
Discount offered on other wines purchased throughout the year( reload inventory if they are still in stock)
Ability to mix and match the shipment to your liking
Free tasting once per year

The things that folks seem to complain about, hostage orders, non guaranteed allocation, drop you if you don’t buy every year or you drop in allocation or discount, etc are all really related to being on a mailing list instead of in a wine club.

I have to think many of these decisions come down to the business model of the producer. Selling 600 cases of cab at $150 is a vastly different model then selling 6000 cases of pinot, chard, syrah, zin etc. Brand also is a huge issue that determines the sales/marketing model.

The one thing in common they should have hopefully is how to incent and reward customer behavior to drive as much direct sales as possible notwithstanding any significant or strategic relationships with disti, retail and on prem accounts.


As mentioned above, Wine Club and Mailing List should be treated different. If you use a club model with a subscription committment, in exchange for this certainty of a club members’ committment, a benefit should be had. The two most important to me are:

  1. discount on wine- whether similar to Ridge MB or Rhys for a futures opportunity or simply a member discount. Something to acknowledge the 2 way committment of a club as a winery may not always be highly sought after nor in a great vintage.

  2. special releases if possible. Whether small/limited release, or even a first look at a sought after wine in the portfolio- the goal again is to reinforce another, more personal bond.

i am on 1,243 mailing lists but no clubs. I like to be able to pick and choose to rebalance my cellar at a whim. So i guess the only thing that would make me join a club - flexibility - is exactly what clubs are designed to avoid. My wife is a member of one club. We joined it by accident when they offered us a discount and it is low production stuff that we like, so forced allocations is no problem. We get 4 bottles two or three times a year and often buy more.

On many lists, but only two clubs. Both are Chardonnay and Pinot producers, and both give an option to be a “white only”, a “red only” or a “mixed” member. We sign up for the lowest tier to minimize shipping costs, but visit the wineries and buy more of what we like at their various events throughout the year.