Subscription-based monthly wine clubs, which debuted in the 1970s, created a mail-order wine model that persists still today. But the crowd-sourced feedback systems of today’s wine drinkers are causing a significant shift in wine markets. Today’s wine connoisseurs follow a different kind of expert, and buy based on a modern set of criteria. Below is an excerpt, with a link to the complete article.
Two major technological innovations hit American consumers in 1972. Pocket calculators debuted (average price: $100 and up), decades before smartphones would render them useless. Subscription-based monthly wine clubs also launched, providing generations of fallback gifts for that weird uncle nobody really knows, and the wellspring of California Cab your dad sips while watching reruns of M*A*S*H (which also happened to premier on television in 1972).
Now that mail-order model is in the midst of a 21st-century reinvention. Over the past three years, a wave of sommelier-curated wine clubs has emerged. Viticole Wine, SommSelect, and Weekly Tasting all feature personal selections from Master Sommeliers — to overwhelming success. SommSelect has over 2,000 regular members, and Viticole’s popularity necessitates a wait list.
While some claim that top sommeliers are upending the traditional wine club, these sommelier-curated wine clubs are actually exactly in line with the model created 45 years ago. Today’s wine drinkers may have different drinking sensibilities than their M*A*S*H*-loving forebears, but their wine-buying habits aren’t all that different. They simply favor a different kind of expert.