Lately, whenever I browse magazines, newspapers or mailings from wine stores or Internet sites, it seems they always contain eye-catching, multi-color, advertising inserts for wine clubs. Wine clubs are similar to other consumer clubs (DVDs, CDs, Books) that sell and ship their product, typically at reduced rates, at monthly or other recurring intervals. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Zagat and virtually every other food and wine magazine are promoting their special niche offerings. In many cases, and to help close the deal, there is also a one-time special price reduction or gift if you agree to become a member immediately. Even though they are month-to-month contracts, the sellers expect that it will develop into a much longer relationship. Considering the relentless advertising, I must assume they do.
Wine clubs are worth considering for several reasons. First, they are failsafe birthday and Christmas gifts, because your loved one is reminded of your thoughtfulness with each delivery. Secondly, inasmuch as wines are shipped with descriptive tasting notes, the recipient can learn at his/her own pace. Thirdly, because of those tasting notes, clubs offer a stress-free way for beginners to expand their knowledge in the privacy of their own surroundings. This avoids the uneasiness of tasting with a group of strangers, (who, it seems, always know more about wine.)
Many organizations and entities are using wine clubs as a mechanism to strengthen and maintain relationships with their members. And one that really caught my eye was the Feminist Wine Club from the California National Organization of Women. (Which recalls an old and nasty joke about “whine and cheese” clubs.) If you have a NOW member in your circle of close friends, who is also a Pistol-Packin’ Mama, she just might get teary eyed with a club membership gift—and I kid you not—from the NRA Wine Club! That’s right, The National Rifle Association, who, I should mention, also provides a “custom NRA engraved wine box” that she can lovingly rub before each trip to the firing range with her AK 47.
A friend of mine claims that Bronco Wine Company, producers of Charles Shaw wines, (a.k.a. Two Buck Chuck) was planning a nationwide Two Buck Chuck wine club, but the idea was scrapped once they determined that the mailing costs exceeded the value of the wines. He also advises that a Riedel is planning a Stemware Replacement Club for those klutzy oenophiles, like this writer, who have discovered that hand drying Riedel glasses is an adventure far surpassing sniffing and sipping from them.
Lastly, uninformed sources tell me cable TV personalities Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann are in the planning stages for their own wine clubs. The buzz is that Bill’s Bordeaux-styled wine, “Bloviating,” will be a fair and balanced blend of Right Bank varietals, while Keith’s screw-cap version, “Blowhard,” will be a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from socially responsible and bio-dynamically farmed Left Bank vineyards. If those rumors prove true, I would expect that Jon Stewart to be close behind with an F-bomb-laden, newsletter detailing the socio-political implications of demeaning the vinicultural primacy of Zinfandel as “America’s Red Wine.”