Wine Clubs for Enthusiasts, Novices, & Wineries
While not a recent development, Wine Clubs have taken on a new and greater significance with wine enthusiasts and wineries in the past decades since the introduction of the internet.
Legal Restrictions for Wine Clubs
Prior to the World Wide Web, wine production and distribution were contained in what is known as the “Three Tier Distribution System”. A remnant from prohibition, this approach to wine production, distribution, and sales gave each state legislative right to control how this alcoholic beverage would be handled within it boundaries. This is still the case.
Law requires that a winery have a distributor in each state to bring the wine into its territory and the state garners tax for doing so. This represents the first tier.
The second tier includes the sale of the wine from the distributor to the retailer or restaurant. A distributor is prohibited from selling direct to the consumer, as was the winery in most states until recent years.
The final, or third tier, is the sale of the wine to the consumer.
With the internet came increasing pressure for states to allow direct shipments from wineries to their customers. Wine can now be sold direct-to-consumer across state lines in about 40 states. Only 10 years ago that number was in the teens.
Wine Clubs Help Boutique Wineries
So Wine Clubs have proliferated and become a major part of the business strategy for wineries. It has also spurred the growth of boutique and artisan wineries that do not have the brand-strength to compete on the grocery shelves, but can attract enthusiasts through their doors. Wine tourism has flourished with people seeking out these gems of passionate winemakers.
Wine clubs vary in approach from the simple (consumers submit their credit card and receive an amount of wine monthly, quarterly or three times a year), to the involved (wine club members receive privileges, go on trips, are invited to member events, receive discounts, get gifts and a plethora of other benefits).
The most important thing to know about Wine Clubs is, especially in the case of small wineries, that they are critical to their livelihood. Joining a Wine Club is nothing less than voting for their existence. If you appreciate the efforts and product of your favorite winery, joining their Wine Club is a way of ensuring that they will be able to continue contributing to your life and palate. It is also a wonderful way to make friends.