Every thought about joining a wine club? Well, we’ve been watching the rise of wine clubs during the pandemic. And there are a bunch of them! They have multiplied over the past months like jack rabbits in the Spring.
But in sorting through them, we have realized finding the best wine club is a lot of work.
Of course, typical for us we have been sifting through all the fine print and comparing wine quality and prices for several months now. Shocker, right? We’ve done all the homework for you.
We have found three important things. And we are going to share all three with you right here and right now.
First, the prices and the quality of the wine offered by wine clubs are all over the map.
With a really broad brush you will find that the cheapest clubs to “join” offer a membership for as little as $40/month for 3 bottles of wine.
In most clubs, you can cancel at any time with a slight advanced notice.
Some of the wine clubs are more flexible than others and let you order every other month or even quarterly rather than every single month. Some let you choose between 6-bottle bundles or 15-bottle bundles. Some throw in one or more “free” bottles of wine with each shipment.
Some clubs ship the wine to you for free. Some don’t. So you always have to keep on eye on that because the shipping can be expensive.
Some of them have slick online “Taste Tests” to determine for you what wines you might like. We found most of these of dubious quality because as honest as we were in going through the tests, most of the resulting wine suggestions were way off of our palates. Of the four of us who took one or more of these online tests, only one of us remotely thought the results were accurate. If a person has no idea what his or her palate is, well, the one thing that will result is that you will get a wide array of different wines to choose from. These companies say they apply an algorithm to refine what they send you. But honestly, the tests were all so far off for us, we doubt much validity of that claim. We share this just as a word to the wise. Although we do find it an intriguing marketing idea.
Usually the cheaper plans include only domestic U.S. wines and the wines are “curated” for you. That’s a fancy way of saying you don’t get to choose the wines, the club does.
In fact, most of the clubs curate the wine choices for you. And in the better ones that is fine. It all depends of who is doing the curating! And, of course, it depends on what wine they are curating from.
Even in curated clubs, in almost all of them you get at at least a basic choice of Red, White, or Mixed wine bundles.
In the better clubs, you have a much larger latitude of bundle choices. You will find in some of the clubs you don’t know what specific wines you will receive until they arrive on your doorstep. A few give you “probables,” with a reservation of right to change to a higher priced wine if their reserves of the advertised wine runs low. We found all of the substitutions to at least be in the same category of wine.
The cost of these wine clubs typically range from about $40 a month upwards to several hundred dollars a month. The higher priced ones typically ship you 6 bottles or 15 bottles a month, often with a few “free” bottles thrown in. The price of the club usually indicates at least the general quality of wine. We emphasize the word general here.
Some of the pricier clubs offer wines from all over the world (usually including up-and-coming wine areas such as Australia, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa). Some focus more on European wines, some even a bit more on French wines. Price tends to go upwards with each bracket: U.S., World, Europe, France — pretty much what you might expect by wine quality.
It is difficult to compare prices on wines shipped by a lot of these clubs because they often purchase from small wine houses and vineyards that don’t have wide circulation. So unless you purchase that particular label through the wine club, you probably aren’t going to find it anywhere else unless you buy it locally where the vineyard is.
Now let’s be clear here though. Small labels you have never heard of does not mean bad or even mediocre wine.
Many small labels produce in limited quantities of exceedingly high quality. Often they are family-owned vineyards that have been in business for decades, or even centuries.
Wine clubs are a GREAT way for these kind of family vineyards to gently expand distribution without a large capital outlay or a big risk. So we are all for the general idea. The only thing is, you have to trust that the club buyers know what they are doing when they put together the bottle bundles. It all comes down to the quality of the wine they are choosing for you and what price they pass it on to you.
Sorting through the different options can be quite daunting. And honestly, some look like really bad deals to us — particularly the ones that focus on American wines and then pop you with high shipping costs.
Second, a good wine club is an EXCELLENT way to taste wine you might not be familiar with at a bargain cost. But a bad one is just that, a really bad deal.
Luckily, the risk to the consumer is low since almost all wine clubs have liberal cancellation policies that are easy for the purchaser to cancel.
And, as most of these clubs preface their explanations, the front-loaded costs of the many layers of “middle-men” jack up wine prices way beyond the actual cost of the wine. This is particularly true when you are reimbursing shipping costs to your local vendor and you don’t realize it. That is exactly what happens in most American wine shops.
All it takes to confirm this is seeing a bottle of wine you can buy in France for $5 on the shelf in an American wine store for $30.
Don’t get me wrong, we are all for businesses making a profit. But it does look like a lot of hands are are taking pieces out of this pie before it comes around to us. We often end up paying for a great big pie and only getting a tiny slice of it.
That is one of the ways wine clubs really make sense and where they offer a great bargain to customers. Much in the vein of 1970s food cooperatives, wine clubs can cut wholesale deals, import in large quantities, take one slice of the pie, and hand the savings on directly to consumers in the sense of an almost-whole pie.
Several of the clubs we found really do offer bargain prices for excellent wines. So not all is hype. But you have to sift through a lot to compare apples to apples instead of comparing apples to disguised pineapples.
With some of these wines clubs, because of the deals they have struck with small wine houses hoping to expand their international presence, you can now get that same bottle that you pay $5 for in France delivered to your front door for between $6.50 and $11 — as opposed to $30 on the local wine store shelf.
So the bargains can be very real. At least in some of the clubs.
With all the respect we have for local vendors, that difference in price for us often dictates whether we buy the bottle of wine or whether we don’t.
And here is the great part for the consumer. If the quality of the wine goes down perceptibly with one of the shipments, all you have to do is cancel your plan.
Third, and this is the MOST IMPORTANT THING WE ARE GOING TO SHARE WITH YOU, we found one wine club that towers over the rest. And I mean TOWERS.
The club is called SPLASH.
And here is why. SPLASH hits the sweet spot of excellent quality for bargain cost. And by that I mean good international wines for under $10 a bottle with free shipping. And, in most cases, what SPLASH offers is closer to $7 to $8 a bottle with free shipping.
These are not bottles from back alley, obscure vineyards in unknown wine regions. These are bottles from established wine houses in Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Portugal, Germany, and France as well as some U.S. vineyards.
And here is our first-hand personal experience.
We recently “signed up” with SPLASH and ordered a curated 15-bottle case of The Rosé Sampler that was advertised on their site for $107.50. There are a LOT of other choices, but this is one we chose to start with seeing the hottest days of summer rapidly approaching.
The Rosé Sampler offered by SPLASH is a mixture of wines from Chile, Spain, France, and Italy — all regions that produce a variety of remarkable Rosé wines. And at $7.17 a bottle, it is impossible to match that deal in any four-corner wine shop we’ve been inside in the United States.
But here is a tip that makes this deal even better. With the (free) Honey app, we were able to apply a discount code on top of that order price that took the cost of our order down to $83.50. So with tax (and free shipping) our total cost for 15 bottles of Rosé from the best Rosé-producing regions in the world was only $88.72 cents.
THAT COMES OUT TO AN ASTONISHING $5.91 A BOTTLE.
After three months of research, there is absolutely NO wine club we have found that offers the quality for price that matches SPLASH.
SPLASH offers both a non-member discounted rate and three membership rates with still deeper discounts.
Other than the non-member packages like we ordered, which we will get to later, there are two basic membership bundles that are truly great deals.
You start with picking a 6-bottle bundle or a 15-bottle bundle. Then you choose Red, White, or Mixed wines. And you can change both of these choices from month to month after you join.
The 6-bottle bundle costs $59. There is no shipping charge and you get a 7th bottle for free in each shipment.
You can order this 6-bottle bundle in Red, White, or Mixed wines. It comes out to $8.43 a bottle if you amortize over the “free” bottle.
For a $10 upgrade fee, you can upgrade the quality of the wine if you wish.
We suggest starting with the basic and upgrading later if you decide to. SPLASH makes it easy to upgrade or downgrade your membership from one month to the next.
The 15-bottle bundle costs $89. There is no shipping charge and you get a 16th bottle for free in each shipment.
And again, you can order this 15-bottle bundle in Red, White, or Mixed wines. It comes out to only $5.56 a bottle when you amortize the cost over the free bottle.
And, like with the smaller bundle, you can upgrade the wine quality for an additional $10.
If you want to try Splash out before you “join the club,” which is exactly what we did on our first purchase, you can see all of the twelve different curated bundles of wine that Splash offers here. This is a GREAT way to dip your toe in the water without making a great big SPLASH.
(Sorry, we couldn’t resist.)
SPLASH also has a few specials they run each month where they feature a few bundles with a discount. You can check out the Featured Curated Bundles at SPLASH and see if any of them suit your wine taste. You can find the current special bundles at SPLASH here.
But whatever your palate, your budget, or your schedule, SPLASH is almost certain to have a bundle and a plan that will work the way you want it to. And the value of wine for price is absolutely stellar!
So Frenchly has very recently become a Splash Affiliate. We were very excited to form an affiliate relationship with Splash because we truly find it the BEST DEAL on wine on the current market.
Because we are a Splash Affiliate, any purchase you make when you branch to Splash’s site from So Frenchly, earns us a small commission. To be totally transparent, So Frenchly has affiliate relationships with other wine clubs that we are not recommending because we stand 100% behind our promise to ONLY give you the best advice about products we have tried and LOVE. Making a tiny commission is not worth deception. Never has been for us. And never will be.
If you see us write about and recommend any other wine clubs — or ANY product — you can rest assured we have tried the product and have found it exceptional enough to pass on information to you.
Be looking for our Reviews on the wines we received in our first bundle from SPLASH. We can’t wait to try all of them. And we can’t wait to tell you about them.
You can find a list of our recent wine reviews here.
And if you are a Red-only wine drinker, be patient because as the heat of the summer passes, we will be buying, tasting, and reviewing our beloved Reds.