I recently received a copy of the book "Alpana Pours". It was a gift from my Chicago friend, Richard Hren, who had heard her speak.
After perusing her first book, I can see why she is the Wunderkind Sommelier (formerly at Chicago's famed Everest, currently responsible for the wine program at all the Lettuce Entertain You restaurants and a local TV celebrity). Her book delivers quick bits of wine etiquette, technique and education (each entry the perfect length for a single bathroom session!)
But as I was happily reading along, I came up short when reading her chapter on wine clubs. Let's just say she's not a fan of them. She's had some bad experiences with wine clubs, apparently.
And while there ARE clubs that dump unsold merchandise on their members, I think you'll find that this is hardly a sustainable business model. People are smart, and the wine club business is highly, HIGHLY competitive. Clubs offering poor value tend to be those at the bottom end of the price spectrum (or the rare unscrupulous winery who finds themselves stuck with a production mistake). You likely know these low-end clubs - one sends me daily spam announcing "a case of fine wine for just $4.99 a bottle!"
But painting all wine clubs with this distasteful brush is akin to calling all things named "Paris" an ex-convict. The wine merchants I know actively seek great value, interesting wines, unique bottlings, and special deals for their club members. The wise ones know their members are their best customers, and treat them with kid gloves, offering good service, a high level of education, and (most importantly) great wines at good prices.
What do you think? Have you ever been part of a wine club and felt abused? I'd welcome your input today...