Over the years, the online wine club game has changed, dramatically. Part of the change has been driven, unsurprisingly in the wine industry, by regulation. Court case after court case has shown that 3rd party wine clubs are the stuff of the past and new age wine clubs, which are permitted as wineries themselves are the future. Here's a handful of those new age wine clubs to know about today.
1) Winc: Any discussion almost has to begin here. Winc has been pushing the envelope of what's possible for some time. They not only originated, but perfected the current preferred marketing method of collecting email addresses via survey and then converting customers at a later date. They're in the process of being publicly traded, after being the first online wine seller to receive a significant venture capital investment. If any online wine club was going to show us what's next, it might be Winc.
2)Firstleaf: They have a similar setup to Winc, albeit IMO with better wine. The production process for Firstleaf is a bit different than Winc, in that they have more standard winery setups in both Napa and Sonoma. Winc on the other hand pays winemakers to make wine at their own facilities. International wines are often bottled, or at least labeled in their Napa and Sonoma spots.
3) Naked Wines: It's kinda like Shark Tank for winemakers. In essence, a winemaker for Naked Wines receives some funding and then makes wine specifically for the wine club. Then, the wine is listed on their platform. Hopefully sales come. The results can be both extraordinary when done well, or seem like there is a lack of quality control on the downside. The challenge for Naked Wines is that because they are really the only online wine club marketing winemakers, what happens if a winemaker becomes a big star? Will they always continue with Naked Wines, or will they branch off and start their own independent label, only with a significant customer list already in hand?
Ok, so that's the list. Part of the challenge that's come up with the permitting challenges for online wine clubs is that there is now a significant barrier to entry into the space. There are wine clubs attempting the older model, Somm Select probably offers the best wine, but having sold wine at those price points I can attest, it's a tough pull. When we look at Winc, Firstleaf and Naked Wines, it's hard not to see the future of the off premise wine industry.