Wall Of Wines

If you’ve ever bought a bottle of wine, you have likely faced one of the greatest social challenges known to modern humans – the “Wall of Wine.” Maybe you go it alone, picking a variety you recognize from a vintner you’ve heard of. Or throw caution to the wind and choose the bottle with the brightest label. Or seek advice from the store clerk.

No matter how you tackle the Wall of Wine, your chances of being disappointed or delighted remain about the same. With wine consumption continuing to grow in the United States, value-minded Americans are seeking ways to expand their wine experience without the risk. Wine clubs have evolved in response to the Wall of Wine.

“People join wine clubs for many reasons,” says wine aficionado Bruce Boring, co-founder of the California Wine Club. “Some want the safety of only tasting wines that an expert has sampled. Others are looking for an adventure and want a guided tour.” Hundreds of wine clubs, from independent operators like Boring to vineyard-sponsored clubs, allow consumers to have a wide variety of wines delivered to their doorsteps every month.

“Wine clubs can be a great venue for learning about wine. You can experience a variety of styles from nearly everywhere without the stress of choosing the best ones,” Bruce explains. “Plus joining a club can expose wine lovers to wines they would not typically have access to, further broadening their wine knowledge.”

Choosing a wine club doesn’t have to be as daunting as making a selection from the Wall of Wine. Boring offers the following advice for anyone considering a wine club membership:

* Ask yourself why you want to join a wine club. Do you want to discover new wines or educate your palate? Do you crave priority access to limited production and/or “trophy” wines? Or are you looking for a reliable source of quality wines that you can pair with special occasions or simply relaxing at home?

* A winery-specific club may be the choice for someone seeking a reliable source of quality wines. With a little research and attendance at your local wine shop’s latest tasting, you can identify a vintner whose wines appeal to your tastes and lifestyle. Once you’ve done that, contact the vintner to learn details about their wine clubs. Most offer clubs and details can be found on their Web sites.

* Wine lovers seeking to sample a variety of wines, or enjoy access to some exclusive vintages, may prefer an “adventure club” like the California Wine Club. An adventure club gives the member access to a wide variety of pre-selected wines. Often, members can sample a wine they might never encounter while trying to scale the Wall of Wine.

More than 3,500 wineries operate in the United States. Americans drink more wines from California than from any other region of the world.

Founded in 1990, the California Wine Club offers hand-selected wines from California’s smallest family-run wineries. The advantage, says Boring, is that the average consumer might never be able to find these wines in her local wine shop or liquor warehouse. And smaller producers are able to handcraft their wines in ways that just aren’t possible for larger wineries, he says.

* Does the wine club you are considering support your wine education goals? For example, California Wine Club sends a magazine, Uncorked, with each month’s delivery. The magazine uses a lively, informative style to educate the consumer about the month’s featured wines.

* Will your adventure club forego sending you bulk wines (wines that are blended and don’t come from real working wineries), close-outs that you will never be able to taste again or private label wines (which are often cast offs that a vintner doesn’t like well enough to market under his own label, but will create a private label for the wine if someone pays him enough)? California Wine Club also ensures members can purchase more of each month’s selection if they want to, and at a discount off the normal retail price.

“There is a wine club for everyone,” Boring says. “The key is to find the one that speaks to your heart and your palate.”

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About The Author, Morris Collins
To learn more about California wines and the California Wine Club, call (800) 777-4443 or visit www.cawineclub.com. - ARA