You’re in search of a good company, good stories, good people, and-to share with them-good wine. What you need is a wine club that will provide you with high quality wines time after time. It must demonstrate excellent customer service. Its methods for packing the bottles must be beyond reproach. And you need to have the price attached to each bottle done so with righteous care.
The government’s lamentable regulations on transporting chosen wines home from travel venues has resulted in an upswing in the number of mail-order wine clubs. We can no longer take home that memorable, full-bodied merlot or that cherished pinot noir.
But the wine club makes it so much easier for us now. All you need to do is choose what service you prefer. How often would you like to receive your wine? Some clubs will sign you up for a monthly or quarterly shipment. Others offer three- or six-month subscriptions.
What price will you pay for a fine bottle?
That depends, I guess; wine clubs are very responsive to consumers’ needs in that regard. Some clubs charge less than ten dollars for a very serviceable bottle. Other clubs base their price on their presentation. You should expect to pay dearly for shipping. Wine is not only weighty to mail, it also requires careful packing and handling.
Many wine clubs will allow you to enter a profile, used to discern your specific preferences and as a basis for making recommendations to you. But many wine enthusiasts are entirely open-minded and willing to experiment, displaying a fun let’s-have-it acceptance of whatever comes next. Why not try a cabernet sauvignon? What about a rich dessert wine? The best thing about a wine club, then, can be the bottle notes that they send along with the wine-teaching you its vintner, its region, or other cultural notes.
In fact, some of the best wines are available only through clubs. Perhaps the grape yield is too limited for retail distribution, and so the experience is shared through these clubs and extended through wine-tasting experiences.
It’s true that many people insist on only red or only white wines. But wines are made to go with different meals, to celebrate different occasions. So we recommend that rather than limit yourself to only one varietal, let yourself remain open. We’d like to introduce you to some of the most popular wines.
Merlot is pressed from black grapes grown from Bordeaux, in California’s Sonoma Valley, in the Chilean central valley, and in Australia. It offers a fruity flavor left on its own, and it’s often mixed with other varietals such as Cabernet.
Cabernet can apply to the full-flavored Cabernet Sauvignon or the lighter Cabernet Franc. The grapes are blue-black and it’s notably from France’s Bordeaux region. Merlot and the carbernet vintages go well with red meats and heavily spiced or sauced dishes.
Pinot noir is one of the Burdundy wines, and one of the oldest wines, processed from dark purple grapes and often producing rare, fine issues. Besides France, it grows in Canada, Australia, and most of Europe.
Chardonnay is a popular white wine, pressed from green grapes, known as a very light wine with a woodsy or oak flavor. It is used to make many fine types of champagne. It is very successfully grown in California and New York, as well as Australia and Italy.
Chablis is a type of chardonnay, presenting with an even lighter tone and aroma. Lighter wines like these are wonderful matches for poultry or seafood dishes.
Any of these wines makes a wonderful choice from one of the many wine clubs. Be prepared to experiment and let yourself be surprised. Whether you seek wine to accompany beef, poultry, bread, cheese, or chocolate, your experiences are guaranteed to delight.
Finding the Best Wine Club
A wine club offers you the opportunity to experience wines you might never come across in your own neighbourhood shops. The best wine clubs function by offering you themes or price ranges for starters, and you can work your way “sideways” from there.
Many of the clubs ask you to pay a membership fee—you can pay an annual fee up front, or you can ask to be billed monthly or quarterly. You will then receive wines that fit your chosen preferences on a monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly basis. The best wine clubs, however, will introduce you to selections outside of your indicated preferences. This enables you to develop a well rounded knowledge base about wines. You are exposed to varietals or categories that you might ordinarily decline to sample.
A wine club helps those who lack knowledge about types of wines and what wines to serve with specific food categories. It also means you will have constant exposure to a wide variety of wines at the best prices available.
Think of your local wine supplier—in some states you must go to state-run stores, and in other states you can find wines at your grocery store. Stand in the aisle at the store and look at the options: They are endless! One wine might cost just a few bucks, and other bottles sell for much, much more. How do you know when a wine is worth the extra cost? What can you learn from the label markings?
The best wine clubs teach you the basics and then beyond. For example, you can learn about wine acidity and sugar content. Acidic wines have a sharp or tart taste. Vintners work very hard to reach just the perfect level of acidity with the grapes they are using. If acidity is too low, the wine tastes dull and flat. If the acidity is too high, the taste goes beyond sharp to an unpleasant sour taste. You will hear a wine described as aggressive when its taste really pushes the limit beyond an acceptable level.
There are two types of acids in wines—tartaric and malic. Both of these acids develop in the grape as it grows. In warmer climates, acidity levels are lower. If the wine contains too much vinegar, the acidity is referred to as volatile.
The best wine clubs will offer you red wine selections with acidity of 0.6 to 0.7.
White wines range a little higher. Anything at or near 1.0 will be too tart.
The wine’s pH is related to its acidity. Remember that higher acidity level is linked to a lower pH, and vice versa.
Sugar content also plays an important role. It plays against the acidity, and it is naturally higher in grapes grown in warmer climates. Look for sugar content to be expressed as a percentage or degrees of Brix. The label or wine notes might indicate sugar content to be at 24% or 24 ° Brix. If the wine is sweeter, a higher acidity level is acceptable; dessert wines will even be above 1.0.
Top wine growers know how to combat unfavourable climate and soil conditions. Under certain circumstances, it is acceptable to add tartaric acid during the fermentation process, to offset unusual weather conditions. The addition of sugar is permitted in some regions, but not, for example, in California.
The best wine clubs will provide offerings in which the character of grape type is preserved and enhanced. You will learn how to evaluate a wine for its finest features, and then to share your knowledge with others.
Buying Wine Online
Welcome to wine lovers everywhere; we’ve got some extraordinary advice for those who want to buy wine online. The truth is that each and every bottle of wine available is actually produced from a very small batch. The same vineyard might yield many bottles in the course of a year, but how many of them are the same vintage, the same acidity, the same pH?
Many people choose to buy wine online for investment purposes. If you buy a young wine from a promising vintner—or, more probably, one that already has established a good track record—you can put your purchases away for a few years. Assuming you’ve made a good choice, your wine will be worth more at a later date. It will be more mature and wine lovers will not be able to find many bottles of that wine, at that vintage, floating around.
Vintners in the Bordeaux region originated the practice of selling wine futures. The process is spreading among oenophiles everywhere, and it is another way to invest in wine or even trade it. It begins with the first tranche, called En Primeur among the French, and refers to casks of wine released to journalists and wine buyers in general. A price is set for the wine, and with a successful wine each consecutive tranche of that same wine will bring more money.
Wine scores have become a popular and effective way for investors to participate in the wine market without knowing the first thing about a good bottle. And just as with any form of trading, prices can be inflated artificially. It behooves the serious wine lover, then, to know what he’s looking for before he decides to buy wine online—or anywhere, for that matter.
The late novelist Robert B. Parker initiated a scoring system that has been imitated and appreciated by many other experts. Parker’s idea was that the best possible score for a bottle of a classic, great wine would range between 95 and 100. During the testing, participants would have no idea of the brands they were experiencing; their scores resulted solely from their opinion of the wine and with no other influence.
Keep in mind that he gave every bottle a 50 for starters—just for all the trouble suffered by the grapes. (Remember Lucy stomping the grapes on the old I Love Lucy show?) Next, he scored it up to 5 points for its appearance and colour.
Then he considered aroma and bouquet, which could merit up to 15 more points. He used the word “aroma” when referring to a new wine’s young smell. As the wine aged and gained character, the aroma developed into a bouquet.
An additional 20 points were dedicated to a wine’s flavour and finish. Parker qualified those terms as the wine’s intensity of flavour as well as its balance and its overall effect on the taster’s palate. Last but not least, a wine could earn its last 10 points depending on its overall quality and its potential for improvement with time.
Parker himself has said, however, that no numerical system can outweigh your own preference for a wine. When you buy wine online, you should read its notes so that you know what nuances to expect—an oak flavour from wooden casks, perhaps, or a tinge of peach or cherry in the grapes.
Many other wine connoisseurs utilise similar scoring systems of 1-100. Other popular rating techniques include a 20-point scale and a 5-star system. When you buy wine online, you should look for a vendor that offers one of these rating systems. You cannot judge by price alone.