Third-party wine clubs — those that aren’t part of wineries — have always made the Wine Curmudgeon smile. How about the website that rates wine clubs, and that also rates the wine clubs that the site operates? Or the wine club that offers “first-class” cabernet sauvignon from Spain, a concept that makes as much sense as coming here to find cult wine recommendations from Napa Valley.
Typically, most third-party wine clubs don’t tell you the wines you’re going to get or how they pick the wines you’re going to get. They trade on the group’s name, but are otherwise separate; hence a newspaper wine club is a marketing tool that has nothing to do with the newspaper’s wine reporting. Mostly, there’s flowery language — “small-batch wines of real flair and value,” which means absolutely nothing when you try to parse it — and lots of promises about how good the wines are. Plus tasting notes, because all wine needs tasting notes, doesn’t it?
Which makes me wonder: Most of us wouldn’t buy shoes this way, sight unseen and trusting to someone else’s judgement. So why would we buy wine this way?
My newest smile is Global Wine Company, which runs the New York Times and Washington Post wine clubs plus those for retailer Williams-Sonoma, More and Food & Wine magazines, and celebrity chef Michael Mina. Check out the people who run the company — accountants and bankers, and a woman who helped make the PowerBar famous. There is no mention of the “panel of experts” who pick the wines, and about the only wine-related information I could find was this: “GWC handles all global wine sourcing, state compliance, and customer fulfillment, which enable partners to expand their brands into wine and drive recurring revenue.”
Mmmm, drive recurring revenue. How yummy does that sound?