Do you enjoy a nice glass of wine (or two) every now and then?
You’re in good company. According to a 2019 Gallup poll, roughly one-third of Americans prefer wine over beer or spirits. That proportion has remained remarkably consistent since then despite impressive growth in craft beers’ and spirits’ popularity during that time.
Staying power notwithstanding, wine suffers from persistent image issues. To the uninitiated, the market appears almost bifurcated, with a wide gulf between vinegary bottles and boxes of bottom-shelf swill and hopelessly expensive investment-grade wine.
That’s never been less true than today, as the vast arrays of highly rated sub-$15 bottles at all but the stuffiest American wine shops make plain. But those arrays are problematic in and of themselves — often overwhelming, even incomprehensible, without extensive research or patient guidance from in-store experts. And amid pandemic-induced retail restrictions and justifiable fears of infection in close, climate-controlled environments, even setting foot in a store might not be worth the hassle or risk.
Good thing wine drinkers and wine-curious folks looking for a change of pace have another choice quite literally at their fingertips (and doorsteps). Hundreds of wine subscription services and online stores that deliver across state lines — often operating under the same brand name — ship to United States-based customers.
Of course, that’s enough to create its own set of decision-making problems. Choosing the ideal wine subscription service or delivery outfit from hundreds of contenders is just as challenging as choosing the perfect bottle in-store.
Fortunately, the best wine subscription clubs and services tend to share some commonalities: high-quality wines selected based on the customer’s color or taste preferences (or both), member discounts or credits on a la carte purchases, and recurring deliveries that are relatively easy to cancel or reschedule. Many of the best also choose the wines for you, taking the guesswork out of buying the perfect wine.
Best Wine Subscription Clubs & Services
These are among the best wine subscription clubs and services for U.S.-based customers. Most pair monthly or quarterly subscription deliveries with inventory available for a la carte purchases at any time. Before you join, check state and local laws regarding alcohol delivery — depending on the rules in your area, some or all services might be unavailable.
Winc’s monthly wine subscription club promises members four hand-selected wines each month. To get started, simply answer a few questions about your wine preferences and palate. Rate your wines as you drink them, which gives Winc the insights it needs to improve its selections each month.
That’s the basic Winc promise designed with wine novices in mind. The reality is more interesting (and customizable). If you’re a more experienced drinker, you can select your own bottles from Winc’s inventory, including wines produced by both Winc and independent winemakers. A recurring subscription does net you a $2 discount on the per-bottle price, typically $13 to $20 at the lower end. Get free shipping on orders of four bottles or more and two free bottles per successful customer referral.
Winc does expect customers to hold to the once-per-month delivery schedule. You can skip one month, but anything longer than that and you must cancel your subscription. On the bright side, if you don’t love a particular bottle, you can claim a credit against your next order.
Firstleaf has a well-deserved reputation as the connoisseur’s wine club — a value-rich, expertly curated subscription that’s full of surprises, even for those who know their way around the tasting room. The secret is a closely guarded algorithm that analyzes billions of data points for every wine in Firstleaf’s inventory. It optimizes selections for each user’s unique tasting profile, which Firstleaf gleans from a brief introductory questionnaire and user ratings on each bottle.
Firstleaf’s high-quality lines come from a vast network of independent producers, many of which operate out of obscure wine regions in Europe and Latin America. Pricing starts at about $13 per bottle. If you don’t love a Firstleaf selection, simply let customer service know and you’ll receive a credit on the next month’s order. You’re also free to shop Firstleaf’s inventory on an a la carte basis or choose a preselected multi-wine pack. Per-bottle pricing on the a la carte side starts around $15 and can range beyond $30, depending on the selection.
Usual’s tagline is unusually descriptive: “A large glass of real wine, by the bottle.”
It’s difficult to imagine a more literal synopsis of Usual’s approach. Each selection comes in a white-labeled 6.3-ounce glass bottle that’s just a bit more voluminous than your typical 5-ounce pour. Bottles are capped, not corked or screw-topped, so you should enjoy them in a single sitting — which makes Usual great for singles seeking a different wine with every dinner. Couples can share a Usual bottle or try more than one bottle in a single sitting, and (perhaps for regulatory reasons) Usual emphasizes that the actual serving size is 5 ounces, not 6.3 ounces.
Usual is moderately priced, with per-glass prices ranging from $6 to more than $10, depending on the type and vintage. Quantities range from six to 24 glasses, with any order over 12 glasses qualifying for free shipping and monthly orders qualifying for significant discounts (up to 20%) to list price. While the bulk-buying feature isn’t helpful for infrequent drinkers, Usual offers a wide enough selection and good enough value to justify large, one-off purchases, even if that means missing out on the recurring order discount.
4. Vinley Market
Vinley Market is a moderately sized monthly wine subscription box that delivers two — sometimes three for customers selecting the “two- or three-bottle” option — 75-centiliter bottles of hand-selected wines. Two-bottle pricing is $59 per month. If you choose the two- or three-bottle option, you must pay $79 each three-bottle month. For two- or three-bottle customers, Vinley Market ships two bottles in some months and three bottles in other months, depending on selection and quality. You’ll know before your monthly box ships how many bottles they’re sending.
Though certainly not ultra-affordable, Vinley Market does advertise “bang for the buck” — meaning premium wines at reasonable prices. And many wines come from smaller producers in lesser-traveled parts of the wine world.
Beyond the wines themselves, Vinley Market stands out in other ways. It’s one of the few women-owned wine clubs around, a big selling point in a male-dominated industry. And it’s self-funded, meaning no profit-hungry venture capitalists or private equity executives looking over its founders’ shoulders. As wine clubs with national reach go, Vinley Market comes about as close as possible to replicating the local wine shop model.
Vinebox is a quarterly wine subscription that includes nine single-serving bottles of wine. Each bottle measures 10 centiliters, or roughly 3.4 ounces, a bit less than the standard 5-ounce glass. All told, each box’s 90-centiliter volume adds up to a bit more than the typical 75-centiliter bottle.
At $79 per box on a quarterly subscription and $72 per box on a four-box annual subscription, Vinebox is not exactly a bargain. But, for drinkers with ample budgets, the price is justified by Vinebox’s exacting standards (and apparently resource-intensive testing program). Just 1% of wines tested by Vinebox’s sommelier staff make the cut, so members have every right to expect the cream of the crop. If you value tasting wine more than merely drinking it and don’t care to select every wine you try personally, Vinebox is perfect for you.
Plus, a Vinebox membership does offer some value beyond the featured glasses. Many of its wines come from small producers in obscure overseas wine regions, and you can’t find them elsewhere in the United States. Vinebox members also get seasonal credits toward the purchase of members-only full-size bottles: $15 per quarter for quarterly members and $30 per quarter for annual members.
6. Bright Cellars
Bright Cellars is a monthly wine club that’s also quite picky, though not quite to Vinebox’s standards. About one in 12 wines tested by Bright Cellars’ sommeliers appear in the platform’s monthly collections, and like Vinebox’s selections, many hail from lesser-known wine regions in Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula.
Bright Cellars’ biggest selling point is a sophisticated algorithm that matches each selection to the customer’s preferences and palate based on their answers to a short onboarding quiz and post-consumption feedback. Each box costs $80 and contains four 75-centiliter bottles, for a transparent (if not ultra-affordable) $20-per-bottle price tag. The biggest drawback here: no a la carte shopping feature.
7. Primal Wine & Club
Primal Wine is perhaps the U.S.’s preeminent online purveyor of natural wines — small-batch wines featuring biodynamic, organic grapes; natural yeast; minimal processing; and few (if any) additives (such as sulfites). Given the category’s bespoke nature, it’s no surprise that Primal Wine is not the most affordable option on this list — it’s difficult to find a 75-centiliter bottle for less than $25. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good value. Natural wine is a world unto itself, and many converts lose their taste for the mass-produced stuff.
The Primal Wine Club is a monthly subscription box that delivers three customized wine selections in the color of your choice: red, white, or rose wine. You don’t have to join the club to shop Primal Wine’s a la carte selection, and every subscription box wine is also available for purchase by itself. Club pricing begins at $85 for three bottles and rises to $285 for a 12-pack.
8. Martha Stewart Wine Company & Club
Martha Stewart Wine Company is the oenological arm of its namesake’s sprawling lifestyle empire. Despite Stewart’s aspirational style, it’s actually one of the better values on this list, though its selections aren’t all standouts — some are more sparkle than substance. But for a la carte pricing starting between $10 and $15 per 75-centiliter bottle on perfectly serviceable wines, it’s a good entry point for budget-conscious folks looking for the occasional glass of above-average wine.
Martha Stewart Wine Club is an even better deal. The Case Wine Club serves up 12 bottles every eight weeks at an average price of about $7.50 per bottle. The more reasonably sized Half Case Wine Club delivers six bottles every six weeks for about $8.33 per bottle. The rub is that neither option is fully customized — the first box is the same for everyone, and subsequent boxes feature hand-selected choices based on your color preference (red, white, or mixed). So if you select all reds, you’re likely to get the same six (or 12) bottles as every other red customer in any given period.
Each of these wine subscription services and online sales platforms delivers value for wine drinkers of all experience levels and palates. If you’re new to the world of online wine-buying or dissatisfied with your current wine club, all are worth a closer look.
There are alternatives, of course. You don’t have to buy every bottle of wine you drink online, certainly not if you have a friendly, well-stocked wine shop in your neck of the woods. Buying wine in person or online from a local retailer is a fantastic way to lend sorely needed support to small businesses during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The smartest move — both for your wallet and your health — is to give up alcohol altogether. But if that’s not in the cards, and if you’re committed to learning more about wine and enjoying exceptional varietals in moderation, then these subscription services need to be on your radar.
Do any of these wine subscription services catch your eye?