Once more about wine clubs: Wine Insiders

wine clubsThe Wine Curmudgeon’s antipathy toward most non-winery wine clubs is well-known; too many of them sell mysterious wine for too high prices, and the wines are picked by “experts” who are rarely identified. And none of this takes into account the clubs’ shipping charges.

Nevertheless, I am always checking to see what’s new, which is what any good reporter should do. Hence my recent order from a company called Wine Insiders. It claims it approves only five out of every 100 bottles that its experts sample and offers a double satisfaction guarantee (whatever that is).

The come-on? Six bottles of wine, advertised through an insert in one of those mailed to the house coupon things. The club offers 40 percent off the $14.99 price plus 1-cent shipping. Sends like a hell of a deal, even though I don’t know what I’m getting save that the wines are “Delicious reds and refreshing whites.” I know, I know. I’m trying to keep an open mind, too, since the first rule of wine writing is not to make any judgments until you taste the wine. But that $14.99 sounds like grocery store pricing, where the club/member price is $12.99, the sale price is $10.99, and the six-bottle price is $8.99.

Which is why I’ll write more after I taste — which is here, and was about what I expected. If not worse..

Still, this reminds me of the record clubs that were so popular when I was kid. You got tapes (or vinyl, even, if you’re an old white guy) for pennies, the catch being what was called negative option billing, which made you liable even if you didn’t order the music after the first shipment. And the music after the first shipment came with higher than retail prices and expensive shipping costs. As one clever reporter wrote: “Record clubs may have introduced several generations of America’s youth to the concept of collection agencies. …”

Wine Insiders doesn’t do negative option billing (though some wine clubs do, or something similar where you have to buy a certain amount of wine). Still, the concept is eerily familiar, with the very cheap introductory offer and then what seem to be very high prices for the wines you can buy after the first time, like a $25 cava and a $23 rose. The former is from a producer who does a similar $15 cava, while the latter is apparently made by the same Provencal winemaker that does this $9 rose.

But always an open mind, and I would like nothing better to be wrong. Because then I got six great wines for $36, and those are Wine Curmudgeon prices.

For more on wine clubs:
Wine clubs: Are they worth the effort?
Wine through the mail: The do’s and don’ts of direct shipping
“Our panel of experts”


14 thoughts on “Once more about wine clubs: Wine Insiders

  • By Burnsey - Reply

    Good connection between wine clubs and record clubs. They lure people in the same way, cheap now, expensive later.

  • By Rex - Reply

    Even the most respectable, KL, will kill you with shipping prices. If you are shopping specials your end cost is only 60% of the clubs total price. Same wine, importer, distributor.

  • By bonnie - Reply

    so what is the verdict? how were the wines??????

  • By Charles merrill. - Reply

    I would not recommend this wine club. The wine is thin and all bottles taste about the same. I can buy a better wine in my local wine store for $7.00. I was so disappointed. I gave the wine a below average rating.

  • By Jane - Reply

    Thank you for the information on Wine Insider. I almost enrolled . . . and I’m a tried and true skeptic. My mother signs up for any wine club she can and then cancels in a timely manner. But if the wine is nasty, there’s no sense to it even at the low introductory price offered. I used to be a newspaper reporter who dealt with scams and I became quite jaded to too-good-to-be-true introductory offers (cable companies in particular), based on feedback from frantic consumers trying to extricate themselves from their imprudent impulses without having to lose their houses to foreclosure. When doing an internet search for information on Wine Insider, most of the top search results SEEM to be Wine Insider sites disguised as independent reviewers of the awesomeness of Wine Insider. They are just too pro Wine Insider. So I appreciate a curmudgeon’s take on it. I’ll buy my wine from the local liquor store, thank you very much.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      My pleasure, as one ex-newspaperman to another. Most of the third-party wine clubs I’ve used for the blog over the past decade have been like this one.

      Which is one of the problems with the Google algorithm, in that it doesn’t necessarily differentiate between quality results and the most visited results. And the most visited results play to the algorithm.

  • By Cecile Roy - Reply

    I LOVE the name ‘Wine Curmudgeon’!! And I’m so glad I found this site because, via Groupon, I was thinking of sending some wine to my godmother and her husband via ‘Wine Insiders – AND – now I will NOT be doing that.
    You know what’s funny (or ironic) the labels look like something someone printed out at home. Certainly not conducive to, “Hell ya – that wine looks good’!! ; o )

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      Thanks for the kind words. That sort of content is the blog’s reason for being.

  • By Dan - Reply

    Had an initial intro 6 bottle offering for $ 30 incl shipping. Was very dubious. One was average and the other 5 were VERY drinkable – wines I would pay $15-20 for. Do not do clubs but just did another 15 bottle offering (at $7 per) and $50 voucher off of any $75+ purchase and future monthly vouchers for $100 off any $150 purchase. So far very pleased!

    • By STEVEN - Reply

      It is awesome, Dan!!! And periodically they will send you a deal for 15 for $65. AND no shipping… EVER! I love this company.

  • By STEVEN - Reply

    I have been ordering wine from wine insider for about a year now. I’m not sure what you are doing but it is nothing like what I have experienced. For you to compare it to the record thing from when I was a kid is just ridiculous! The only similarity is the mail. That’s it! ha! Lets all keep in mind, this is a business and there will be high margin items but you are in no way obligated to buy them or anything for that matter. My experiences have been top notch. I repeatedly have gotten 15 bottles of assorted wines (I choose european only) for around $70.00 USD. Thats less than $5 per bottle. I have gotten 1 or 2 a month for the last 6 months or so. I drink a lot of wine, have for a long time. That price is better than any store price and the wines can be researched to see actual prices locally. AND if I didnt like a wine they send me a replacement for every one I didnt like with my choice!!!! Last 15 I didn’t like a bottle that I received 4 of…. they sent me 4 bordeaux as a replacement valued at $45 each! You are a fool if you think that is no good. After proof reading this I have decided FINE! Listen to this incorrect assessment…. MORE FOR ME!

  • By Kesara - Reply

    I just joined Wine Insiders today with a similar introductory offer; 6 bottles plus 3 bottles of bordeaux. There’s a sweet 30% off promo code for additional wine so I bought some IGT Chianti and other wines that looked appealing. All told, I spent less than $7/bottle for the wine, so if a couple of bottles are throwaway, I won’t be heartbroken. The “club” is cancel at any time, so I don’t plan on sticking around for a mandatory reorder, but if the wine is good, I might reorder when there’s a promo code. Free shipping on 6 bottles for decent wine isn’t bad at all.

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