Wine online – to subscribe or not?

Have you ever stood in front of shelves of wine in your local wine boutique or the wine section at a grocery store and can’t decide what to buy? Maybe you’re a wine connoisseur or just looking for something new to taste – whatever the case, it’s frustrating and time consuming.

Then a friend or colleague smarmily tells you that they’ve just received an order of “some of the best wines in the country”, delivered to their doorstep, no fuss, no queues, and you seethe. “Just join an online wine subscription,” they say. “It’s so easy and convenient.” But which online subscription service, and what are the pros and cons?

Online alcohol sales have skyrocketed since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Not surprisingly, all of this has us stocking up on alcohol more often than usual, which is where smart services, like wine subscriptions, come in handy.

However, before you sign up for a subscription, think about the pros and the cons of these clubs. Here are a few of the best online wine subscriptions (in our opinion).

Wine of-the-month club

https://www.wineofthemonth.co.za/

Wine-of-the-Month Club is South Africa’s longest standing and largest wine club. Started in 1986, its focus has always been to sell wine that an independent expert panel has selected in a blind tasting. The panel blind tastes over 2000 wines a year.  

Included with your panel-selected wines you get the SA Connoisseur Magazine, neck tags for each wine giving you info like where the wine is from, tasting notes, food pairing and when best to drink it. You can buy wine online using the website, or you can browse through the various wines on offer (no membership needed) and make up your own unique selection. Or you can join a wine club and receive a regular supply of panel-selected wine delivered to your door. When you sign up to a club all you need to do is choose red or white, or a mixed case; 6 bottles or 12 bottles, and how often you would like to receive your club pack (every 2, 3, 4 months). No membership is need and there’s also a money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with what you get. Delivery is promised within five days of placing the order. The membership fee is R199 per year (only payable after 6 months).

Cons: Excludes delivery and insurance (this is added when you checkout). 

Partners in Wine

Straight off the name ‘Partners in Wine’ makes you believe you will be getting great service; you’re a ‘partner’, after all! This is a South Africa wine platform that not only sells some of the best wine produced in the country, but also offers additional services, including labelling wines and branding them with your company’s logo. Perfect for corporate gifts or promotions!

The platform is also home to a very active and highly relevant news section, sourcing regular, interesting stories from the local wine industry. You’ll learn why the SA wine industry is still a contender on the world stage; what local winemakers (artisanal and traditional) do what they do and what they’re working on; why buying local wine in a box vs a bottle is not as frowned upon as you may think, and much more.

Partners in Wine also aim to educate wine enthusiasts about their drink of choice and host video series like #MeetTheMaster concept where winemakers share their stories and inspirations with you.

For R99 a month subscription you can get wine at ultra-low prices, with discounts of up to 50%.

Cons: As this is a relatively new venture, the selection of wines is still quite limited with wines from four cellars currently on offer: Jan Harmsgat wines, Renegade Wines, Blackwater Wine, and Swerwer Wines.

The (really great) Wine Club

https://thewineclub.co.za/

The Wine Club’s wine selection is based on the weekly Wine Wizard tastings, where Michael Fridjhon, a highly regarded South African wine judge, rates wines entirely blind (labels out of sight) and scores them using a 100 point system. Delivery is free for monthly orders and you get free access to Fridjhon’s ratings and tasting notes through a complimentary subscription to his Wine Wizard app and website for the duration of your membership. You also get subscription to the Sunday Times print or digital weekly newspaper, or Businesslive website for the duration of your membership. Members also get reduced prices to RMB WineX and other wine shows and events.

Signed up members of the wine club receive their chosen monthly selection (together with tasting notes, and suggested food pairings) delivered free to their door. 

Cons: A once-off joining fee of R295 (this is waived for existing Wine Wizard or newspaper subscribers). Prospective members may buy whatever stock is available after members’ orders have been fulfilled and will have to pay an additional delivery charge (R100 per six bottle case, or per quote for remote areas).

GetWine

Based in Cape Town, GetWine is a South African wine portal which allows you to easily buy superb South African wine online and have it delivered to your door. You can also have wines personally labelled and there are also many different gift voucher options for any occasion. GetWine offers competitive wine delivery rates, with free delivery for orders of R1 000 or higher. Orders under R1 000 are charged a flat-fee delivery rate of R75.

Although it started out focussing on unlabelled wines, its focus shifted to selling both unlabelled and labelled wines from top wine farms at reduced prices. Unlabelled South African wines came into the market after the Rand strengthened against foreign currencies a number of years ago. Many top wine estates could not export their annual wine harvests to European and American shores, resulting in a local surplus of high quality wine. Due to the weaker exchange rate over the last few years there is now lower stock of unlabelled wine.

GetWine also provide information on wineries and winemakers.

Cons: GetWine cannot guarantee vintage and availability due to the number of wines listed on their website.

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