Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wine Clubbing

Drinking wine can impair your judgment, like the time last spring when my judgment was sufficiently impaired to cause me to smack my forehead into a wine glass. And though my forehead won the contest easily, I was left looking a little bit like a badly drunk, 50 year-old Harry Potter.

Perhaps not as bad as permanent physical disfigurement, wine drinking, or more specifically, wine tasting can also lead to severely impaired judgment regarding wine clubs.

Now, there are two major types of “wine clubs” out there. The ones that you see in the back of magazines are independent rip off schemes. They’re not scams per se - if you sign up, you’ll get your wine. But typically these clubs are for the totally clueless and sell truly hideous plonk from labels nobody’s ever heard of at outrageous mark ups. Actually, they probably make most of their money on shipping, charging double what it really costs to ship the bottles.

Nancy sez, “just say no” to these kinds of wine clubs. Don’t even be tempted by their claims of getting “rare” or “limited edition” wines. Yeah, right.

The other type of wine club is much more enticing, partly because you can actually get some great wines from them. These are the wine clubs run by the wineries. Every winery in America, no matter how small, has it’s own wine club.

It’s the perfect gig. How many businesses have the opportunity to bring you in, get you tanked and then pitch you on the fabulous benefits of getting their incredible product automatically delivered right to your door? Trust me, every business on the planet would love to be able to do this.

And it works. Sadly, even on me.

Here’s how winery wine clubs work. You sign up (“It’s free!!”). Then, two, three, four times a year after that you get the thrill of receiving a credit card bill with an extra $50, $100 or even $400 on it. WTF!?!?! “Honey!! Have you been sneaking out to the casinos again? I thought we talked about your little ‘problem.’”

About the time you get out of the hospital, a huge box turns up on your doorstep full of bottles. Congratulations! You now have two or six or twelve new bottles of wine to drink!

Sounds great, right? Well, aside from the cardiac exercise that I get when the credit card bill unexpectedly arrives, I have some issues with wine clubs.

First of all, they don’t always give you the choice of wines that they ship you. You can imagine how thrilled I am to receive a half-case of chardonnay. “For this I paid $150?”

Second, it ain’t all great wine. For some reason, wines at the winery all seem to taste pretty darn good – especially by the time you get to the fourth or fifth winery. And even if you only sign up for wine clubs at wineries that are really good, nobody is great at every kind of wine. They might make a fantastic syrah but a crappy barbera. Guess which one they send you.

Third, they try to make you feel special. There’s the annual Wine Club Members Only barbecue. The annual Wine Club Members Only dinner and tasting. The annual Wine Club Members Only release party. The Wine Club Members Only special vintage (which of course, is not included in your quarterly shipment, and has to be purchased and paid for separately).

I get it already! I’m special! I’m especially broke from buying all this wine and making all these Members Only trips to some winery 100 miles away to hang out with other “special” people with whom the only thing I have in common is that we’re all especially stupid enough to join a wine club.

And when the Members Only dinner is over, we all hop on the short bus for the long ride home.

I’m not saying “do not join winery wine clubs, period.” I’m saying caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. If you’ve been out wine tasting all day, everything starts to taste pretty good. And after enough stops, your pliability and gullibility go up while your judgment goes down. Before you know it, you’re having cardiac moments with your credit card bill.

So stop and think. Do I really want to sign up for this? Is this wine that great?

P.S. Anyone want to take over a couple great wine club memberships? Fantastic wines! Great benefits! Anyone?

No comments: