There are thousands of wine subscriptions and clubs all around the United States, all making various promises of having the best wine. But to determine the quality and value of what they’re selling takes an understanding of the fine print, years of experience, and lots of taste testing—all of which we did to find the best wine subscriptions.
We researched dozens of wine subscriptions, went through various signup processes, waited (im)patiently for well-padded boxes, and ultimately tested almost 40 bottles of red, white, orange, sparkling, and more. (Yes, we drank and wasted an intimidating amount of wine, with regrets).
Our qualifications for this river-of-wine testing are various: Hank runs a wine-events business, has a wide-ranging knowledge of wine, and has a wine club of his own (Hank’s Wine Club at the Village Wine Shop in Maplewood, New Jersey); Valerie is a wine enthusiast, home cook, and thrower of frequent dinner parties who writes a cooking column for The Paris Review. Together, we picked out best-in-category wine subscriptions for a variety of tastes and budgets.
Wine subscriptions can come in all forms: sometimes they’ll be from your local wine store (a great opportunity to support a small business) or from an individual vineyard or winemaker. We focused mostly on a third type: standalone online clubs or brands with a wide delivery range that have customizable options so you can choose the number of bottles, frequency, and either red, white, or a combo.
Typically, higher-end clubs source their wine from prestigious independent winemakers while many of the mid-market options have the wine made for them, often by large winemaking entities that service multiple clubs. The former offers more variety and tends to be more precise and transparent about what’s in the bottle, the latter can be a great source of consistent, palate-pleasing wines you don’t have to think about much. Valerie liked taking the online quizzes that some subscriptions offer to match you with your wine while Hank liked seeing many of his favorite wines appear in various shipments and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of some of the more accessible options.
Now, without further ado...
1. Best If You Don’t Know What You Want: Winc
Winc starts off with a quiz, which is popular with wine clubs—you go through prompts selecting foods and flavors you like and an algorithm provides you with an array of wines that are customized to your palate. With Winc, these wines will be its own brands, but unlike many clubs with this business model, the company is upfront about it. Its winemakers are listening to customer feedback and making wines that people want. It must be working because sales were up 80 percent last year and the company went public a few weeks ago.
Many of its brands, such as Summer Water, are so popular that they’re distributed beyond the club like at wine stores. The wines we tried, such as an Altre Món, a Verdejo from Spain, were light and fresh with good pops of upfront flavor.
Price: Starting at $29.95 a month plus tax for four bottles. Shipping is included.
Current deals: Get four bottles for $20.95 during its extended Cyber Monday sale.
Special extras: Ability to pause your subscription, discounts for referring new members.
2. Best If You Do Know What You Want: Picked By Wine.Com
Major nationwide online retailer Wine.com has a club aptly named Picked By Wine.Com. It also starts with a quiz, but this one assumes some basic knowledge of wine and asks for your favorite grape varietals. Based on your answers, the club sends you a personal selection of high-quality wines from good producers, prestigious importers, and classic regions, all well-marked and representative of the way the grape is supposed to taste. Rate how you liked each wine and the club will tailor your future shipments to the feedback. A Domaine Wachau Gruner Veltliner that we tried had the classic Gruner profile of lime, white pepper, and herbs.
Price: Starting at $120 monthly including shipping for six bottles, plus tax.
Current deals: Take $50 off your first Picked box with code PICK50.
Special extras: Bottle-tags with printed stickers to help keep your wine organized, detailed notes on each wine available through the app, access to celeb-led live online chats.
3. Best Value: Martha Stewart Wine Co.
Martha Stewart’s wine club offers some of the world’s finest grape varietals, but sourced in smart ways to make them more affordable than you’d expect. A Reserva de Monvoisin Pinot Noir, for example, contains the elite Pinot Noir grape, but is labeled as being from Pays d’Oc, which refers to anywhere in the Languedoc region in Southern France. It’s not a spot known for its Pinot Noir, but it’s an affordable region to grow grapes. The wine wasn't classic Pinot, but it had some of the grape’s red fruit taste and pleasing acidity. A Vol du Flamant Grenache Rosé made from 100 percent Grenache grapes from the South of France (where you’d want them to be from) was actually vinted and bottled in Napa. Sending the wine over in bulk before bottling saves on shipping costs and is more eco-friendly, too. Both wines had good flavor and structure for the under-$8 price tag per bottle. We were also impressed by the club’s precise and transparent labeling, which often offers descriptions of the contents and food pairing suggestions.
Price: Starting at $89.88 plus tax for 12 bottles, shipping is included.
Current deals: During its extended Cyber Monday sale, you can save up to 42 percent sitewide and get free wine accessories with code CYBER21.
Special extras: A well-produced magazine-style insert with recipes and articles about your wines.
4. Best Splurge: Bounty Hunter
Napa Valley is the most prestigious, highest-rent wine region in the United States, on par with any of the great European wine-growing regions. Its iconic grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, vinted in a style that is big, bold, extracted, and rich. Ultra-premium Napa brands like Keever and Scarecrow make wines that can cost $800 a bottle, but one insider trick is to follow the consulting winemakers who work with these brands and whose projects tend to be small-run and sell out on pre-sale. Bounty Hunter, a club that’s been in business since 1994 and is run by Napa Valley insiders, supplies such wines.
Recent wines from its subscription were a bottle from Vin Perdu made by legendary luxury winemaker Heid Barrett and an “Extol” red blend from boutique producer J. Gregory Wines. The Most Wanted Club has the finest and hardest-to-find selection, such as a bottle from Yount Ridge made by Celia Welch, a star consulting winemaker to Scarecrow and Keever. The Killer Cabernet Club offers only Cabernet Sauvignons, the most popular and highest-profile red wines in the U.S. We weren’t able to test any wines from Bounty Hunter due to the ultra-luxury price point, though we look forward to in the future.
Price: Most Wanted starts at $299 plus tax for three bottles a quarter, Killer Cabernet starts at $199 plus tax for three bottles a quarter. All subscriptions are enrolled in the Trailblazers shipping program, a $99 annual charge that provides free shipping on all club wines as well as most other purchases.
Special extras: A personal “wine scout” to answer questions, plus discounts and free shipping on all additional purchases.
5. Best Wine From Small American Producers: Winestyr
The majority of wine sold in the states is made by a handful of giant producers, making that wine, by definition, mass-produced. Many clubs say they source their wines from quality small producers but in practice, the term “small producer” can mean anything. However, Winestyr, founded in 2011 by a trio of guys with backgrounds in wine sales, wine law, and e-commerce, delivers on that promise, pouring from a star-studded lineup of boutique operations and prestigious vineyards.
Our test box had a 2019 Pinot Noir from Evening Land winery’s historic Seven Springs Vineyard, now owned by Rajat Parr, the former wine director for Michael Mina. The wine is what most have come to love about Oregon Pinot—beautifully translucent and refined, tasting of bright red fruit with a touch of earthiness, smoke, and baking spice.
Price: Starting at $79 plus tax for three bottles monthly. Shipping is included.
Special extras: Member pricing and exclusive access on additional orders.
6. Best Wine From Small French And Italian Producers: Kermit Lynch
Kermit Lynch is one of the most esteemed importers in the world, credited by many as being the first to specialize in small-producer wines known to evoke a sense of place. His entry-level club is named for his acclaimed 1988 book Adventures from the Wine Route, and you can travel along via artisanal discoveries from Italy and France. We loved a standout bottle from biodynamic Tuscan winemaker Elisa Sesti. Her “Monteleccio” is a less brawny, more lightly aged version of a Brunello di Montalcino, one of the world’s most storied wines. It’s made with the same high-quality Sangiovese grapes, and ready to be enjoyed as soon as you open your subscription box.
Price: Starting at $39 a month for two bottles, plus tax and shipping.
Current deals: Now through December 31, you can save 50 percent on your first club package with code NEWMEMBER2021. Exclusions apply on clubs with waitlists.
Special extras: Tasting notes include the wine’s history, food pairings, and drinking window, along with recipes from star chefs such as Christopher Lee, formerly of Chez Panisse.
7. Best Regional Exploration: Cellar 503
Oregon is arguably the U.S.’s most exciting wine region because it has the broadest range of style and innovation in any one state. Cellar 503 brings you the highlights, focusing on wineries producing fewer than 10,000 cases a year. In the past seven years, Carrie Wynkoop has worked with 200 wineries and her picks demonstrate the state’s diversity of geography and varietal. Our order had a bottle of Ayres Vineyard Pinot Noir—a grape you’d expect from Oregon—and a lesser-known Pinot Blanc from the Willful Wine Company, a surprising and complex wine made with notes of citrus and minerality by a female winemaker.
Price: Starting at $45 for two bottles, plus $19.99 monthly flat-rate shipping.
Special extras: Well-written and informative tasting notes, free or discounted tastings at 80 wineries within Oregon for club members.
8. Best For Award-Winning Wine: Gold Medal Wine Club
Offering “highly rated” wines is another area where some clubs employ marketing trickery. Gold Medal Wine Club—a family-owned business and the longest-running wine club in the U.S. since its inception in 1992—is the real deal. It focuses on wines that have won awards from prestigious competitions, such as the San Francisco International Wine Competition, and that get high scores from well-known wine publications, like The Wine Advocate and Vinous. Gold Medal has six clubs, including a Platinum Level for limited-release wines that are considered collectibles. A recent subscription had a Kimsey 2017 Syrah from Santa Barbara County—only 215 cases were produced and it received a 95-point rating.
Price: Starting at $42.95 a month for two bottles, plus tax and shipping.
Special extras: Wines come wrapped in organza bags; option of an artist-commissioned gift box add-on.
9. Best Canned Wine: Maker
Started in 2020 by three women who met at Stanford business school, Maker highlights the boutique California winemakers they work with by putting the maker’s name on the cans. Rising-star Chris Christensen of Bodkin Wines is also consulting winemaker. We especially liked a Zinfandel by Janell Dusi, the great-granddaughter of a storied Zinfandel-producing family, which was jammy and rich, with notes of plums, pluots, and blackberries. The wine had some barrel aging before going into the can, providing more complexity than you’d find in your typical canned wine.
Price: Starting at $97 for 12 cans every three months, plus tax. Shipping is included.
Current deals: Take 20 percent off items in the gift shop through November 30.
Extras: The first shipment comes with an insulated cup in the shape of a stemless wine glass; additional monthly surprises such as chocolates or candles.
10. Best Natural Wine: Primal Wine
While “natural wine” is still a vague category lacking legal definition, many would agree that Primal’s selection is among the best. Natural wines tend to be organic, low-intervention, biodynamic, unfiltered, sustainably farmed, and low in additives. Primal has carried many of the natural wine world’s all-star producers, such as Christina, Meinklang, and Le Coste. The Meinklang “Prosa,” a rosé pet-nat, is a true crowd-pleaser with a sunset-pink hue, notes of rhubarb and strawberry, a hint of funky natural-wine complexity, and delicate effervescence.
Price: Starts at $85 for three bottles, shipping and tax included.
Current deals: Free shipping on orders $90+, take 10 percent off orders of 12+ bottles
Special extras: Shipments don’t include printed materials or freebies, as founder Guido Cattabianchi feels they’re inconsistent with the brand’s environmental focus. Tasting notes are available online.
11. Best For Food Pairings: Crunchy Red Fruit
Seattle-based master sommelier Jackson Rohrbaugh’s personality-driven club launched in January 2020 and offers organic, low-intervention, small-producer wines that come with useful tasting notes and a QR code for a recipe to go with each bottle.
The recipes come from multiple sources and are occasionally developed by local chefs who have also participated in the wine-curation process. Hank tried a 2009 Sierra Cantabria Rioja Gran Reserva with a menu of his own: grilled lamb chops with a North African spice marinade, and tachin, a Persian baked-saffron-rice dish. The term “Gran Reserva” is the highest classification of Rioja, meaning it receives the longest barrel and bottle aging, and uses the most select grapes. The wine was special indeed: big, yet elegant, tasting of dark fruit, leather, and spice.
Price: Starting at $179 for six bottles every two months, plus shipping and tax.
Special extras: There’s always a surprise like pasta, coffee, or chocolate from a local Seattle producer. On our trial month, we got a copy of the wine-and-metal zine Blood of Gods, in which Rohrbaugh was featured.
12. Best For Restaurant Lovers: Eater Wine Club
Every month, editors at Eater ask a local food person—usually a chef or a sommelier—from its network of 25 cities to guest-curate an inclusive wine selection, aiming for geographic and racial diversity.
The wine club launched in 2020, and as would be expected from a who’s who of the restaurant world, the results are the hot wines of the moment. The October box we tested was curated by June Rodil, a master somm and partner in a Houston-based hospitality group. The theme was “black and orange”—the “black” wines were those with a deep, dark flavor profile and the “orange” was a Borgo Savaian di Bastiani Stefano that tasted like almonds and dried apricots.
Price: Starting at $70 plus tax for two bottles per month. Shipping is included.
Special extras: Newsletters from the guest curators with recipes, wine tips, and personal recommendations
13. Best For Design Fans: Club Nomadica
Nomadica’s elegant but fun canned wines are sustainably farmed, low-intervention, and have minimal added sulfur and zero sugar. All the sugar has been eaten away by the yeast in the fermentation process, and no other sugars are added. We love the can’s organic and ethereal design, and that the packaging reduces emissions on shipping by up to 80 percent since cans are lighter than glass bottles.
The subscriptions allow you to choose from five core wines—red, white, rosé, and two sparkling—and a quarterly special offering. These were some of Valerie’s favorites in terms of aroma and flavor notes: the rosé evoked roses, violets, strawberries, fresh sage, and minerality; the sparkling rosé suggested fresh raspberries, pomegranates, and rainwater.
Price: Starting at $57 for 12 cans monthly, tax and shipping included.
Current deals: Take 25 percent off sitewide through November 30.
Special extras: In 2022, the club will offer limited-edition prints by the artists whose works are on the labels; there will also be online wine tastings with the artists.
14. Best For Music Pairings: Blackpool Matt’s
Matthew Gaughan is wine educator from Blackpool, England now living in Petaluma, Sonoma County and currently toiling as a candidate for a Master of Wine certification. His seven club offerings each have a music theme and each month’s shipment comes with a custom Spotify playlist and a specific song pairing for every bottle of wine.
As big fans of sparkling wine, we were particularly impressed with the Champagne Supernova Club, which included a niche sparkler from Hush Heath Estate in Kent, England. Southern England is fast becoming a hot region for top-tier sparkling wine, and this bottle of 2013 “Balfour” Brut Rosé was made in the traditional Champagne method and tasted intriguingly of berries, mushrooms, and dried flowers. Being big music fans too, we loved that Gaughan paired the sparkling wine with sparkling music from Yo La Tengo, Bon Iver, and Dry Cleaning.
Price: Starting at $70 a month for three bottles (plus tax if shipping to California). Shipping is not included.
Special extras: Food pairings and notes about the wines.
15. Best Exclusive Selection: Viticole Wine Subscription
Somm documentary star Brian McClintic founded this wine club, which has a 1% For the Planet designation and focuses on wine made with exacting regenerative and organic practices. To cut down on packaging, Viticole Wine subscribers get 12 bottles of wine twice a year (once in fall and another in spring) of whatever McClintic wants to send. For an example that would dazzle even the most jaded insider: a special bottle of “Cuvee Viticole” in the spring shipment was made by legendary Jura producer Jean-Francois Ganevat, who earned the prestigious title as France’s winemaker of the year in 2018.
Price: Subscribers are charged $99 per month plus tax for two bottles; shipments come twice a year, one case at a time. Shipping is included.
Special extras: Access to special offers, double allocations upon request.
16. Best Look At The Future Of Wine: American Wine Project
Due to climate change, many of the best wine regions, including Napa, Champagne, and Bordeaux, are facing increasing struggles to grow their traditional grape varietals. Innovative winemakers are turning to formerly unsung hybrid grapes like Marquette, Frontenac, and LaCrosse, which tend to be hardier and more disease resistant. Erin Rasmussen of Wisconsin-based American Wine Project sources these and other hybrid grapes from the Upper Midwest to remarkable success with her new wine club.
Price: Starting at $69 for three bottles shipped three times a year. Tax and shipping not included.
Special extras: Access to experimental small-lot wines, events at the winery, discounts on additional purchases.