Wine clubs offer convenience, value but may not be for everyone

Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:00am EDT
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wine clubs that advertise in the Sunday Times of London, The New York Times and other publications offer convenience and choice for consumers, especially those who are pressed for time or who live far from big cities.

But experts said the clubs may not be the right fit for savvy buyers who can shop for wines at stores with large selections and knowledgeable staff.

For newspapers and magazines, the clubs make "good sense," according to Mike Federle, chief operating officer of Forbes magazine, which started a wine club this summer.

"It's basically a subscription, which is a business model we know very well," he said in an interview.

But the publications don't select the wines or deal with shipping, taxes and licenses. They have contracts with companies that provide those services and others, to differentiate themselves and the publications' customers.

"We source wine from around the world and around the country. We take orders from customers and deliver wine to their doors and will curate wine selections," said Kristen Decker of Global Wine Co., which works with The New York Times, Food and Wine magazine, and other publications.

Thomas Woolrych, U.S. wine director for Direct Wines Inc., which competes with Global Wine Co., said despite the benefits, the clubs may not be the best choice for people knowledgeable about wine.

The clubs are "not really for people who are wine savvy or have so many wine shops and choices as someone on the (U.S.) East Coast," he said. "But it can be intimidating for someone, anywhere, to walk into shops that are walls of wines. And then there is the convenience factor."   Continued...