The pandemic brought forth an explosion of subscriptions in all shapes and sizes. From groceries to luxuries, sign-ups to regular delivery services leapt by 50% over lockdown in the UK, with the average household the proud owner of a total of seven subscriptions. While many are now dialling down their subscription spree, the interest in regular wine deliveries prevails. With an increasingly atomised wine landscape – from supermarkets and big retailers to niche suppliers and indie wine shops – subscriptions take the legwork out of the selection process.
But there’s more to their enduring appeal says Charlie Stein, head of wine at the Rick Stein restaurant group. ‘The pandemic has made us more adventurous drinkers, be that making cocktails, trying new beers, or expanding our horizons with new wine regions.’ Indeed, The Wine Society saw a twofold increase in sales of Greek and Austrian wines from 2020 to 2021.
‘Outsourcing our drinks selection to online wine clubs and subscriptions has made it easier and more convenient to satisfy our newfound drinks curiosity,’ adds Stein. From cases made for armchair travel, to wine clubs with a purely natural focus, the choice is dizzying. There’s even boxed and bagged wine subscriptions, with the likes of BIB Wine Club and Laylo developing a more premium offering for the format, their covetable designs helping further sell a focus on sustainability.
So where do you begin when committing to a new and regular wine delivery? ‘As a wine nerd, I’d want to trust the company has the right range and that there’s some exclusivity or rarity to the wines,’ says Stein. He recommends looking for added value in any sort of membership, including exclusive tastings with producers and even the opportunity to visit those who make the wine that’s included in your monthly order.
With that advice in mind, here’s a selection of winning wine subscription services offering delivery within the UK.
Eight of the best wine subscription services
The Sourcing Table’s Wine Club
An offshoot of Indigo Wine, one of the UK’s most respected importers, The Sourcing Table launched in 2020 in partnership with wine writer Jamie Goode, James Beard-award-winning winemaker Rajat Parr and globally acclaimed sommelier Paz Levinson. ‘These guys are putting together cases of wine from new and exciting producers with very limited availability, and there’s great added value with a subscription,’ says Stein. Quarterly boxes are curated by industry experts – such as the latest selection from producer Ben Walgate of England’s Tillingham Wines – and deliveries get you sipping wines previously only available in restaurants and indie shops. Once you’re singed-up, expect online tastings and winemaker Q&As, plus a 10 percent discount across the site. Packaging is made from at least 70 percent recycled materials and the biodegradable, compostable inserts double as cute seedling trays. Due to its focus on small-batch production, The Sourcing Table’s club has a limited capacity, so get in fast to nab your spot – or sign up to the website’s newsletter to hear of future opportunities to become a member.
From £150 per delivery of six bottles every three months; www.thesourcingtable.com
Sociovino’s Seasonal Subscription
Working with small organic, biodynamic or sustainable producers across Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, the Sociovino team – which went from supplying UK restaurants like Luca and The Fat Duck to sending out bottles direct to the public in lockdown – aims to encourage independent wine discovery. Every three months, Sociovino selects 12 wines suited to the season. For winter, think full-bodied whites and hearty Riojas and Amarones. Enjoy swotting up with a guide to each bottle, which features details on the flavour profile, the producers and their associated regions, as well as recipe cards from up-and-coming chefs, like Ballymaloe graduate George Williams (@fedbygeorge). All subscribers get 10 percent off further wines, an invitation to special wine club events, and live chat options for even more personalised recommendations.
£150 per delivery of 12 bottles every three months; www.sociovino.com
The Wine Society’s Wine Without Fuss
Built upon over one hundred years of experience and with 180,000 members, The Wine Society has finessed its co-operative model to now take the hassle out of choosing, too. You’ll have to become a member to access its Wine Without Fuss subscription boxes, but it’s a move that comes recommended by Stein: ‘Their buying team are incredible, pricing is amazing, and the quality of wines are exceptional,’ he says. Five plan options come under headings like Wine Rack Essentials, Worldwide Wonders and French Classics. Each pack features detailed tasting and food-pairing notes, and because buyers curate a selection every two months, there’s always something new to try. And if you don’t enjoy a bottle? Get credit, a replacement or a full refund.
From £95 per delivery of 12 bottles every two months; www.thewinesociety.com
Port.Club by Churchill’s
Established in 1981, Anglo-Portuguese Douro producer Churchill’s entered a new chapter when launching Port.Club during lockdown. The aim? To crush port’s stereotype as a formal, stuffy or overly complicated drink. Members receive quarterly shipments of three different ports made by Churchill’s – one for everyday drinking (‘Anytime Port’); one for special occasions (‘Right Time Port’); and one that’s been specially blended for members of the club (‘One Time Port’). ‘We’re lucky to taste experimental blends and early run-offs,’ says the subscription’s co-founder Ben Himowitz. ‘With our club blends we’re bringing that energy and excitement to our members.’ Make the most of your port penchant through virtual tastings with winemakers and discounts on extra bottles. An annual membership includes private tastings and experiences in Porto and at Churchill’s vineyard residence, Quinta da Gricha in the Douro Valley.
£70 per delivery of three bottles every three months (or £240 for annual membership); www.port.club
One for the oenologically curious, Ourglass offers two options: bottles tailored to your tastes or bottles based on the team’s recommendations. Picks are from its 1,500-strong selection of traditional and emerging wines – from red and white Burgundy and Mosel Riesling through to Swartland Cabernet Franc, Oregonian Pinot Noir and varietals native to small Mediterranean islands. ‘We try everything before featuring, and tasters range from UC Davis/Bordeaux University types to gifted amateurs,’ explains co-founder Benedict Johnson. Look out for the beautifully illustrated ‘Welcome to Wine’ guide for newbies, and jargon-free producer notes, food-pairing tips and recipes with monthly mailouts. PerSe Inseparable Malbec from Mendoza, for example, is best sipped with ‘Argentinian asado, caprese stuffed portobello mushrooms, or beans on toast.’ Don’t miss online member tastings based around a theme or specific producer (a recent highlight saw Burgundy-based Australian winemaker Mark Haisma as host). As for shipping, it’s all carbon neutral, and packaging is 100 percent recyclable.
From £50 per delivery of three bottles every month; www.ourglass.wine
Originally intended to open as a wine bar, the pandemic forced founders Edwin Methu-Frost and Jasper Delamothe to launch Oranj as a monthly subscription service instead, focused on natural and biodynamic wines. Yes, there are plenty of rival natural-wine subscriptions out there (many spurred on by subscription-model innovator, London wine bar Top Cuvée), but Oranj is also about the perks. Handpicked by sommeliers from London restaurants – think the Flynn siblings of Rita’s, and Smokestak’s Ben Dargue – each drop comes with a print by a local artist and a digital mix from a London DJ. Members get first dibs on IRL and online tastings, plus partner art shows, pop-up food events and gigs. Although anyone can purchase from Oranj’s online bottleshop, the membership program is by invitation only, so get an existing member to refer you or subscribe to the platform’s newsletter to hear when spots come available.
From £60 per delivery of two bottles every month; www.oranj.co.uk
Tired of spending money on bottles that don’t quite hit the spot? Personalised wine subscription PairUp was launched in mid-2020 by former sommelier Filipe Bhering Reis and four other wine bods who met while working in restaurants. The PairUp journey begins with a personal quiz to map the styles you’re into (questions include traditional lines of enquiry around the flavours you like, plus more obscure queries on your coffeeshop order and where you like to holiday). The team then curates a selection of wine, all from small-scale and independent producers like Spanish sparkling winemaker Raventos I Blanc, and Patagonia’s Bodega Chacra. Get stuck into your new favourites with digital tasting notes, food-pairing suggestions and even a surprise gift from time to time. If you’d like to get a flavour before you go all in, they also pull together one-off ready-to-drink cases.
From £45 per delivery of three bottles every month; www.pairupwines.com
Honest Grapes’ Premier Crew Wine Club
Founders Tom Harrow and Nathan Hill launched Honest Grapes seven years ago, and the guiding principles have largely stayed the same: thrilling wines, a vibrant community and tasting events that stem from a ‘back-to-basics, no-nonsense approach’ to wine. The subscription model is different to those mentioned above: you pay into your account on a monthly basis, but can then enjoy 10 percent cashback on purchases from the platform’s range at your own leisure. Don’t fancy a box this month? Roll over the funds for a future purchase. Bottles are sourced from those who work sustainably – during its last green audit, more than 70 percent of its growers were certified or practising organic and/or biodynamic viticulture. Members can also get early-bird access to big annual fine-wine releases or buy a share of a barrel at auctions as prestigious as the annual Hospices de Beaune.
From £50 per month, with deliveries as you choose; www.honestgrapes.co.uk
Note: This story was first published on 24 November 2021 and updated on 19 Dec 2022