Mark Aselstine
February 13, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

Thank You James Laube

Since we opened our virtual doors in January of 2010, we’ve seen quite a few changes in the wine club space. The biggest one though has been the rise of the major media backed wine clubs.

It seems like every newspaper in America is starting its own wine club these days in order to try and bring in some extra revenue.

I should start by saying there are a few wine clubs that I have lot of respect for. We’ve run into them buying from some of the same wineries that we’ve spoken with, or we simply know based on conversations which have been relayed to us that they generally care about their customers in the same way that we care about ours. While I still think we consistently source the best wine of any wine club out there (we’re the only ones comfortable showing every wine we ship, every month, directly on our website), I can comfortably say there are a small handful of other clubs doing a good job for consumers as well.

The major media backed clubs fall into that category.

It’s unfortunate, but these major media backed wine clubs have been set up to simply take advantage of the marketing acumen, ad space and subscriber lists which come with being a newspaper or magazine with decades in publication.

The average consumer thinks that the wine writers at these outlets have some role in selecting the wines which are shipped. They don’t. These clubs are run by a 3rd party company, the media companies are hands off other than marketing.

I’ve been amazed that no one in the industry has said anything, until now.

In a recent Wine Spectator issue James Laube mentioned newspaper wine clubs and strongly suggested that you don’t buy wine from them, ever. Evidently he has seen the same type of shipments that we’ve seen, cheap wine or worse yet, private label wine which literally can’t be sold for full retail anywhere. It isn’t a good deal at 50% off, if the retail price is grossly over inflated.

If you don’t know what a private label is, a quick idea is a wine from a winery which only exists on a piece of paper. You can’t visit. You generally don’t get any AVA designation outside of the most generic such as “California”. Frankly speaking, consumers spend money on wine because they like a good story and they like to know who made their wine and why it was made the way it was. At least our customers do. As a consumer I do. Private labels largely increase profits by undermining the exact reasons why consumers like wine.

As both a small business owner in the wine space and also as a consumer, thank you James Laube.


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