Along with apple pie, hot dogs, hamburgers and baseball, we need to add one more thing to the list of things qualifying as quintessentially American: the monthly wine club.
For many years, I simply supposed that these schemes were universal, but since my references to them in conversations with European friends have been met with some puzzlement, I have come to realise that, while not unique to my country, the wine club represents a particularly American conjunction of wine and capitalism.
American wine clubs are as simple as they are myriad. As a consumer, you typically pay a monthly fee, for instance $49.95, and each month a box arrives at your door with three bottles of wine. Unless you cancel, the charges continue and the boxes keep arriving.
Photographer and wine enthusiast Jean Pedigo lives in Paso Robles, California, and joined her local wine store’s monthly wine club when she moved to the area. ‘Every month we get two bottles of worldly wines for about $30 or so’, she says. ‘It’s been a great way to try more obscure wines we never would have tried or got access to.’
For retailers willing to brave the significant effort of packing and shipping wines (or even just setting them aside for customers to pick up), such clubs can make for predictable and continuous revenue, not to mention driving additional purchases by club members who want more of the wines they received.
This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is available only to subscribers of her web site. If you’re not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($11/mo or $111 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.