In Australia, we are very lucky to have no restrictions on wine being delivered to the front door. Or, if you have an understanding boss, to your office if it is not convenient for home delivery. In the United States, it is all up to the state that you live in and in countries where apartment living is more the norm than a house, it may not be convenient at all to receive wine deliveries. Either way, home delivery is a convenience that we in Australia can take advantage of. And by the looks of the wine box deliveries at my local post office, many of us do!
I am not talking about the corporate wine clubs
here such as Cellarmasters, Wine Selectors or The Wine Society. There seem to be an abundance of these and they can represent excellent value and some excitement when you are just getting to know about wines or are happy to take on their selections.
I am talking about the winery cellar door clubs and mailing lists where you buy your wine direct from the winery. I am talking about establishing a more personal relationship with the wineries that YOU choose. To me, a much more fun and worth while alternative.
Most wineries have either a mailing list that you can join to receive information about the winery’s latest releases, often with special discounts, special parcels of wines, members tasting areas at cellar door, invitations to winery events, the ability to adopt your own vine in their vineyard, and other special offers. Other wineries will have a Cellar Door club where you sign up for receiving a sample pack of wine regularly, once or twice a year or maybe more often. Sometimes, there will be wineries where you can only buy their wine by being on their mailing list unless you find the few wine stores in Australia that they sell a few cases to.
To the wineries that offer these benefits, this means that they sell their wine at a higher margin by cutting out the middle men. It also gives them the opportunity to open a direct dialogue with their customers, reward their loyal customers and trial new wines.
Choosing the winery list/club to be on is all too often decided on the spot in the winery cellar door after tasting a few of their wines and the cellar door staff make the opportunity sound all too inviting. Or maybe after looking up your favourite wine, you have discovered that they offer very smart deals if you sign up on-line. Either way, you might find that you have accumulated a few already. Whether there are worth it or not, that is purely up to whether you are enjoying the wines and the rewards that you receive.
If you have not yet become a member of your favourite winery’s club, why not see what is on offer and join in. Often they will be obligation free and it may lead to many exciting possibilities and friendships.
Here are some of my favourites and as a disclaimer, I am or have been a member of most of these clubs in the past. I usually have several on the go at once so that I can get a 6 pack or a dozen as I need them to supplement my other wine purchases. They tend to be my ‘go-to’ wines. However, there are so many exciting wineries and clubs out there that I welcome your comments with more suggestions.
Tamburlaine – located in the Hunter Valley, this is a winery that sells the majority of its wine via cellar door and to its members. They are organic and offer a wide range of wines. Members can book in for private tastings in a special tasting area. Members beget members …. You get the idea.
If you have no room in your cellar, Tamburlaine offer an economical cellaring option where you pay off your wines over 5 years and then they will deliver them to you. If you love their Reserve wines, this is a very good deal. With such a focus on cellar door and their membership, there are plenty of other benefits on offer as well.
As a long term member over a decade, to me Tamburlaine have got the cellar door club model right for this size winery – it is vibrant, there is a wine for everyone in their portfolio and their model strikes just the right level of involvement for all.
Tahbilk – at least a couple of times a year, or so it seems, I receive a fat envelope from Tahbilk jam packed with news and latest releases. As a Wine Club Member, you get obligation free access to irresistible prices for some of the best wines in their class in Australia, particularly the Marsanne and Shiraz based wines. And I mean, irresistible prices!! And it is usual to find some excellent museum releases on offer too.
They also have a ‘Plus’ programme where you get four wine deliveries per year to get even greater discounts. The range is wide and the museum wines that are offered by Tahbilk are exceptional.
Petersons– Another Hunter Valley based winery that has an incredible membership base and have the customer service to keep it. The family has found the winning formula of good wines, a cellar door that shuns the modern steamlined look and reflects the welcoming nature of the family of staff that greet visitors like old friends. There is also a tasting room in Mudgee and in Armidale.
In many cases, those visitors are old ‘friends’ of the winery who come regularly with new friends and so the cycle continues. The wines are usually consistently good all round and the winemaking team continues to make the styles of wines that their members love and buy and at prices that members appreciate.
Wild Duck Creek Estate – Anyone who knows ‘Duck’, knows that he lives up to the name and is a little bit wild at heart. Working with his son, Liam, on the winemaking side there is always something new to discover about the range these days. Duck has maintained a firm grip on the philosophy that wines should be made to drink and enjoy.
It is still predominantly a wine label for lovers of bold Heathcote reds with the top wines loving some time in the cellar. Some reds are unashamedly bold and you need to keep this in mind when looking through the list. However, just to name a couple – I do have a soft spot though for the Sparkling red which I tasted last year, and I bought as much as I could this year, and the fine Alan’s Cabernet. The Yellow Hammer Hill and Ducks and Drakes are delightfully versatile and delicious fun.
WDCE has a standing order or allocation list and although being on the standing order list does not guarantee that you will get all the wines that you want, you will get your share of what is available. If you are along the East Coast, you might also just find that your yearly allocation will be personally delivered and you really cannot ask more than that from a small family winery.
Picardy– Hailing from Pemberton, this is a not oft seen label on the east coast. However, if you are a Pinot Noir or Chardonnay fan then this is the list for you. A small family winery that produces wine of impeccable quality. They do not have a cellar door club as such but they publish a newsletter twice a year and it is worth receiving those to remind you to get your order in for these hard to find wines.
Piggs Peake – This is a winery that you will very rarely see in a retail store and almost as rarely see on a wine list. While I am not a cellar door club member, I do always make time to see what is new at Piggs Peake each time I am in the Hunter. Winemaker, Steve Langham, is one of those winemakers that embraces boldness and his wines reflect this. However, there is such a wide range of wines on offer that I am sure that you will find a couple of favourites amongst the quirky range. It is a winery that has a very loyal clientele of wine lovers who know that their tastes are catered for.
There are good prices for their ‘Lucky Swines’ members as well as lively exclusive events and whenever possible, barrel tastings at the winery. Lucky Swines membership requires a purchase of two cases each year. My advice is to visit the winery, find your favourites and join the club. There is always something special open at Piggs Peake for Lucky Swines.
Frankland Estate – Being a Western Australian winery from the Frankland River region can mean that you don’t get the foot fall that the winery that the more Eastern wineries do. Elegance is the key to this winery. They have some of Australia’s best wines including their terroir driven rieslings at all price tiers and their Bordeaux-like reds. This is another winery that invites drinkers to join their list to receive their newsletter which contains news and offers.
Tyrrell’s – For lovers of Vat 1 and other Tyrrell’s greats, this is a great way to purchase it. Although, I am not a member of this particular club, I do like what they offer. In particular, Vat 1, which is a wine that is released with some age on it is offered to their Club members in the vintage it is made, at a lower price than the cellared release as you might expect. You can then choose to cellar it yourself or to drink it on the spot.
They also have an interesting ‘Futures’ option that is worth exploring for yourself. Here you can make payment on certain wines with a 50% deposit. This wine is then cellared for four years and you can then pay the remainder or cancel the order and get your money back (with some interest).
There are so many deserving wineries that should be on this list, however, it all comes down to you and your favourites. These are just some of mine that offer exceptional wines or exceptional relationships with their members, and often both.
P.S Some wineries have waiting lists or iconic ‘hard to find’ wines/mailing lists –
Grosset – sign up online to go on Mr Grosset’s waiting list
Wendouree – call winery to discuss getting on their wine list 08) 8842 2896
Rockford –if you are a fan of the Rockford shiraz wines (including the fizz) then you should get onto their list to get news of their next releases before they sell out.