With pubs and restaurants being closed for the best part of the past year due to the coronavirus lockdowns, buying a glass of wine from across the bar seems like a distant memory. And even though the hospitality industry is opening up slowly, you may be cautious about dining and imbibing around others. But if you’re trying to track down a nice bottle (that supports small businesses), it’s a crowded market. How do you sort through the deals and the 24-bottle boxes to find the subscriptions that are actually worth it?
Best overall wine subscription
As was the case for many small food and drink businesses, North London restaurant Top Cuvée was forced to close its doors after the news of a national lockdown last spring. While working out ways to stay connected to their loyal customers and guests, founders Brodie and Max created Shop Cuvée, a delivery service providing wine, beers, and spirits to customers around the U.K. Hannah Crosbie, wine writer and founder of Dalston Wine Club, tells the Strategist UK that “many credit Top Cuvée with sparking their lockdown wine obsession — I think they deserve every bit of credit they get.” Their monthly “Natural Wine Subscription,” which starts at £55 a month for three bottles and £110 for six bottles (including shipping costs), is made up of natural wines specially selected and curated by a team of experts.
“Brodie and Max consider traditional wine marketing as ‘anti-consumer,’” Crosbie says, “so they take a customer-first approach, one that seamlessly blends London youth culture and delicious wine.” Shop Cuvée’s couriers deliver all their wine in 100 percent biodegradable packaging, and if you place your first subscription order before 1 p.m., your wine will arrive the next working day. Crosbie loves that “their natural-wine subscription is a great representation of their cellar; they only send wines they’d be proud to serve in their own restaurant.” Indeed, Shop Cuvée promises to provide a mix of top-quality wines which are always made in a natural way with organic and biodynamic practices.
Best (less expensive) wine subscription
For those with a bit of a tighter budget, freelance wine writer and blogger at @wineawaytheday Archie Patel suggests Wanderlust Wines, which “has a focus on sustainability and organic wines from small producers,” and offers Silver, Gold, or Platinum subscriptions. Patel loves how “accessible” Wanderlust’s Wine Club is, with each case including tasting notes, information on the producers and more, making it a great option for wine beginners.
Sommelier and consultant Fikayo Ifaturoti also recommends Wanderlust; she especially loves how the company “centres their values to elevate small producers.” The different membership options “give you four to ten bottles of organic, biodynamic, and sustainable wines bimonthly,” says Ifaturoti, with many of the wines stocked exclusively by Wanderlust in the U.K. “They typically come with complimentary tasting tickets, sometimes even for a plus one!” she adds. There’s also the option to order a discounted “Discovery Box,” featuring a member-picked selection of wines to “calibrate your palate,” as Ifaturoti puts it. Another bonus, she says, is that “you can gift subscriptions, and you receive information on your wines and can meet their makers, hopefully once the pandemic is over!”
Best wine subscription for beginners
Starting from £40 a month for two bottles, Cépage’s “Learn Your Grapes” subscription features wines specially selected by its in-house sommelier. Every month focuses on a different grape variety, with information packages about each wine and access to informative online content. “This one is perfect for those wanting to learn more about wine and expand their palate,” Archie Patel tells the Strategist UK. With the name Cépage referring to the percentage of grapes in a wine blend, the brand believes it’s vital that wine drinkers know exactly what’s in their bottle, from the grapes to the story behind the production. “I’ve been taken by the branding, artwork, and general passion [of the company] for wanting to educate about wine, as well as just enjoying good wine,” Patel says.
Best wine subscription with free delivery
Fikayo Ifaturoti loves Savage Vines, which she says “have become a favourite for many when it comes to wine subscriptions,” praising its “unique wines sourced from small independent growers, with conscious attention to giving back to their environment and community.” “One thing I particularly enjoy as a wine professional is letting someone else help me expand my mind,” she adds, “and the wide array of indigenous grape varieties here is always a very fun, educational experience.” Don’t worry if you’re new to the world of wines, though, as each case comes with wine maps, tasting notes (which will let you know which food to pair your drink with), and the link to an exclusive podcast going through the process of each wine.
U.K.-wide delivery is always free for monthly subscribers, with members also getting a 25 percent discount to spend on single wines from the site and 15 percent off of mixed-case wines. With a focus on supporting smaller, family-run vineyards, Ifaturoti tells the Strategist UK that Savage Vines is “currently working with 41 (mostly organic and biodynamic) vineyards in Europe, who produce wine in small amounts,” adding that founder Kyle’s “main aim is to give people value for their money, empower smaller winemakers and give wine drinkers the tools to explore.” “It comes in a briefcase box,” Ifaturoti explains, “so your neighbours will be more suspicious that you work for MI6 and not that you’re drinking too much wine.”
Best biodynamic wine subscription
While many of the subscription services we’ve mentioned here do offer organic and biodynamic wines, Vintage Roots is focused on wines which are majority organic, natural, biodynamic, and low-sulphur. “Many of my clients in recent times are keen to buy naturally made wines,” explains wine consultant, writer, and founder of Sumilier Wine Services Sumi Sarma, “to avoid unnecessary additives either for health-related issues or simply as a matter of choice to show support to such producers.” Local delivery is free, and you can also speak to the owners about ordering your wine from overseas.
While Vintage Wines doesn’t offer a traditional monthly subscription service, you can speak to one of its wine advisors about setting up regular orders — or order one of its mixed cases (for example, a “no-sulphur” or a “best of Sicily” case) and reorder whenever you choose. “Vintage Roots gives you flexibility in ordering,” Sarma confirms, “and instead of a monthly subscription, you can order at your own convenience,” suiting those who might not want to commit to a monthly payment. Sarma believes it’s “very important to support these producers, who are usually artisanal, producing in a small volume,” adding, “COVID-19 has further prompted people to change their mind-set and support local producers who go the extra mile using sustainable viticultural techniques.”
Crosbie acknowledges that “wine can be an incredibly intense physical experience, but that’s only one of the reasons we drink it — hearing stories about the winemakers, their methods, and the land the vines are grown on completely enriches our drinking experience.” Littlewine offers four different subscription packages, but Crosbie recommends its “Roots” subscription, which for £50 a month includes two bottles of natural wine, delivered in carbon-neutral packaging (with free shipping). “Founded by writer Christina Rasmussen and [wine importer] Daniela Pillhofer, the Littlewine subscription takes you behind-the-scenes with exclusively filmed content, interviews, and learning resources,” Crosbie says. “You can even join video calls with the winemakers themselves.”
The Roots package, as with all its subscriptions, comes with an invitation to a monthly online event with a winemaker and a “backstage pass” to an online platform with much more natural-wine-focused content. Crosbie also loves how dedicated this small team is to both content and product quality: “They truly care about each and every wine they sell, and it shows.”
Best fine-wine subscription
“If you’re looking for a wine subscription that’s informed by the best in the business,” Crosbie suggests The Sourcing Table, which has a “focus on modern, fine wine brought to drinkers in an accessible way.” The cases — either six or 12 bottles, two of each wine — are specially selected and sent every three months, with a sitewide 10 percent discount available as soon as you sign up. “The founding partners have decades of experience between them. Say the names Jamie Goode, Paz Levinson, Rajat Parr, or Ben Henshaw in a room of wine lovers, and some ears are sure to prick up,” Crosbie says. The founders curate each quarterly edition themselves for this exclusive wine club, with a mixture of grape varieties making up each box. Crosbie adds: “They only have a few spots left for their wine club, so make sure you don’t miss out on this one.”
Best wine subscription with a free trial period
Another subscription service which leans into the interactive element of wine drinking is The Online Wine Tasting Club — which Sumi Sarma says “should be the future of wine tasting.” Starting at £22.50 a month, The Online Wine Tasting Club offers two different packages, both of which come in the form of “mini 35ml tasting kits,” arriving in low-carbon packaging that conveniently fits through a letterbox. As Sarma tells the Strategist UK, “The benefits are manifold — drink less, save unnecessary expenditure, taste and learn more while also saving the planet.” The best part, she adds, is that “you can attend live tasting sessions online or you can watch the recording at your own leisure.” Each hourlong interactive tasting session focuses on a different wine region globally, with upcoming regions including Chile and Eastern Europe. “The company has recently won the Drinks Retailing Award in 2021 for this unique theme,” Sarma says, adding that “[founders] Alex and Jamie are very friendly and keep things super simple and super fun.” She recommends doing a trial taster session, commitment-free, to get a feel of the company.
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