If you live in Pennsylvania, there’s never been a better time to join a wine club. Sure, that’s mostly because before August 2016, shipping wine direct to consumers was basically illegal in this state — and now it’s not.
But in general, wine clubs are having a moment. Across the U.S., membership is up 30 percent compared to last year, and most wineries offer some kind of subscription shipping service.
What’s the draw? Unless it’s your job (or a very serious hobby), sorting through thousands of varietals and vintages to find something that won’t embarrass you when you pull it out at a BYOB takes a tone of time. With a wine club, not only does the booze just show up at your door, it’s also pre-curated for you. That doesn’t mean you have no say; different companies offer all kinds of ways to customize your standing order.
Options for Pa. residents are limited to companies that have obtained the Direct Wine Shipper license, but there’s still lots of options to choose from. As you consider which to sign up for, here’s some useful advice from Philly wine pros, experts and vinophiles.
Philly Wine Week secretary, archaeologist and owner of Jet Wine Bar, Rex 1516, and Cafe Ynez
The Plonk Wine Club looks pretty good. They have some unusual, good-quality wines like the Pfeffingen Scheurebe (the Scheurebe grape has great aromatics), a nice Lugana, and I spied a fun “orange” wine. They have wines from all over — I saw Uruguay in there — and a rather “culty” Channing Daughters wine from NY.
DiBruno Bros content and training manager, Philly Wine Week vice president
Glassful is far less specific than Plonk, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The club has the most basic intro, where they quiz you on flavors and aromas that you like that are super general (Do you prefer the beach or the forest? Do you grill your chicken with lemon or bbq sauce?) and then give you recommendations after you sign up. The package is $54 for three bottles of wine, which is completely fair, [and] they specialize in organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines that don’t have added preservatives or sulfates.
Before subscribing to any club, I’d want to check their website and see about what temperature/storage methods they are using at their warehouse, as well as the temperature control methods that they use for shipping.
Manager, Eight Oaks Craft Distillers and former staffer at Saint Benjamin Brewing
Tasting Room By Lot18. I joined because a few years ago they were the only ones able to ship to PA. I also love the sample bottles they sent to help curate for you and the ease of changing the number of bottles I got, from the frequency to the quantity of red vs. white.
Manager, Vintage Wine Bar
Laithwaite’s Wine. This is a seasonal wine club. Every season they will send a mixed case of some really fun wines. You can edit your account for all red all, white or mixed. [My wife] and I love it — great way to try things we may not have picked for ourselves.
Co-owner, Home Sweet Hombrew
Wine Garage makes it their mission to support small, independent producers and winemakers. Especially [important] now that so many NoCal wineries were affected by the wildfires — all the wines in the club are from California. You can choose all-red, all-white or mixed, and there are also opportunities to get in on additional flash sales.