So you like wine.
No, you really like wine and want to start a bit of a cellar or broaden your collection without placing a special order from your local liquor commission; what are your options?
I will discuss two wine clubs in which I currently have involvement; a national membership-only wine club and a winery club.
I have been a member of a national membership-only wine club called Opimian for a number of years and I have largely ordered most of my wine from this club. Becoming a member of the club doesn’t require a special invitation, rather you are charged a yearly membership whose cost is determined by the province in which you reside. Each province has it’s own taxation rules which affect both the cost of our membership and the cost of the wine. For me, as a resident of New Brunswick, my yearly membership costs me $71 with tax.
Through the secure web site or by regular mail a member can order wine from a number of “offerings” during an season. Generally there are around six offerings from various parts of the world. The “hook” from the club is that none of these wines are available in Canada at that time, they may show up in a few years as I’ve noted but at the time of ordering they are club unique.
The wine club acts as a club and as an import entity, which allows them to bring the wine into Canada, through the local provincial commissions direct from the wineries they represent through an overseas shipping entity. Some offerings may have the regions of the world repeated because certain distributors represent different wineries. This allows for one distributor to arraign all of their orders at one time and the wine arrives faster at our Canadian doorstep.
The areas of the world that are represented normally are France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Chile, Argentina, United States, Canada and Switzerland. Brazil has been a recent addition to the club and I just ordered some wine from one of the wineries presented. It should be noted that the representation of Canadian wines in the club is minimal at best, because of the laws in place and the volume produced, Canada is not yet a force in the club.
Here’s how it works; a catalogue arrives in your mail or is accessible online in a .pdf file, you peruse and select the wines and the quantity you would like to order. All of the prices for the wines, a description, a picture of the bottle, pairing suggestions and maturity dates are listed beside each. Here is the offering from number 230:
However, you cannot just by 1 or 3 bottles, you must purchase a minimum of a case, “6 bottles” of each wine. If you have never tasted the wine before this is quite the leap of faith and often deters people from joining the club. It has been my experience that the club rarely offers a bad wine because it employs a Masters of Wine to sample all of the wines before being offered. I had a chance to meet her at a dinner last year and she certainly knows her stuff.
The wine is not shipped until that particular offering has closed. One of the sidebars on the club website has a rudimentary tracking section where each winery/distributor has an estimation of shipping dates and arrival times at the Canadian ports. After arriving in Canada the wines are “inspected” by both the Federal and provincial people and are sent to a liquor store where you can pick them up. You receive an email notice when you have wine that is ready to be picked-up.
Normally there is a price point for every wallet type, from daily table wines at $10 a bottle up to $30-$50 with occasional bottles priced higher.
The club has a number of incentives to encourage new members to join such as referral certificates for cases of wine or price reduction when you join through an existing member. Also there are dinners that occur regularly where you get to eat and sample some of the wines. Wine trips are also organized and there is a lot of good information listed on the web site.
The club also has premium programs where you are shipped a number of selected wines from each offering; usually they are accompanied by a note or a nice box. The wines come from the same wineries in the offering but are reserved and are only available if you sign up for these premium programs. For these premium levels your credit card is charged for each shipment you receive and you continue to receive these for the offering year. You must sign up each year to continue to receive these shipments.
My experience has been quite good with the club as the wines have been good and I have discovered wines from Switzerland and Spain that I now order regularly, if you are interested in joining after visiting their site, please contact me as I would receive a referral gift if you joined through me. Cheers!
I have also recently had the occasion to join a winery club from Nova Scotia; Benjamin Bridge.
They are purveyors of fine Sparkling wine and I am excited to receive their product.
Here’s how the winery clubs work; normally there isn’t a membership fee to pay, quarterly you will receive a shipment of wine for which you will be charged. After having signed up for their club, you will continue to receive these quarterly wine shipments until you opt out. With some wine clubs you do not know which wines you will be receiving, however with a large number of clubs you can select the type of shipment you will receive when you sign-up. For example you can choose to receive all red wines, all whites, or a mixture. Many wineries now have “tiers” to their wines, from their everyday drinking to their top-of-the-line wines. The amount that you are charged quarterly would be higher for the better wines. Some even have rewards such as bonus wines if you remain with the club long enough.
I also have the option of buying wine directly from Benjamin Bridge at a small discount and have the possibility of picking the wines up at the winery if I happen to be in the area. Here is what I received for my first shipment before Christmas:
2008 Brut Essence, 2008 Brut and 2013 Cabernet Franc Rosé
Two of these wines will never be available publicly which adds a nice level of exclusivity; which is what you are really paying for.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a cookbook included with my wine order, it’s of very high quality and makes a nice touch.
I am also thinking of joining a wine club from British Columbia but if that happens, well that will be a subject of another post.
I hope that this shed some light on a couple of options in Canada, the Opimian club has a lot to offer and the wines do not disappoint. If you can join a winery club, the east, Ontario and British Columbia all have them and they now ship to all points of Canada.
Uncork a bottle tonight!