We Saved Money and Made Friends With a Neighborhood Wine Club

A cheap way to drink nice wine? This guy is all in.

Browsing the wine selection at most any store can be daunting. There are hundreds of options lined up with clever names and alluring labels which make for an altogether tempting and confusing experience.

There are dozens of varieties to choose from, all at wildly different prices. Is that $23 bottle of pinot noir really better than the $13 one? Would I even like shiraz? Is a 2013 vintage better than a 2017? Would I know the difference between a glass from a $45 bottle of red from a wine cellar and one filled from the box in the pantry?

Enter the wine club.

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Every month, someone in my neighborhood hosts our wine club. About 30 to 40 people show up on a Saturday evening with a bottle of wine each and a small appetizer per couple. Within an hour, no fewer than six varieties are opened up, and a buffet of wine and food is spread out before us. Ours is more of a social club than one where we discuss the finer points of wine to improve our palate, but it does make for an easy way to sample styles and vintners.

Early into last month’s gathering, there were bottles of chardonnay, moscato, petite sirah, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. I even sampled a rosé later on. I like to pour an ounce or two of each bottle that interests me, rather than a full glass. It takes two or three tastes to decide how I feel about a wine anyway, and by that time my glass is ready for a refill. I’ve found several wines I enjoy that I would not have picked up myself.

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My wife and I save money compared to going to a restaurant and ordering wine, as the markup there is significant. We also don’t buy a bottle from the store for just ourselves only to find out we don’t like it and have wasted our money. With the club, I feel confident buying different wines because everyone else will help me sample them. What’s better, with the wine club we get to meet great people who quickly become friends, which is not a bad way to spend a Saturday, in my opinion.

My Tips for Hosting Your Own Wine Club:

  • Have a carafe of water for your guests. It not only helps keep people hydrated but lets them cleanse their palates between drinks.
  • Put the wine and food in different areas, if possible. Crowds will gather around both.
  • A private Facebook page is a great way to share event information and screen attendees. You want a neighborly gathering, not a nightclub. The admin should send a list of expectations to all new members.
  • Line up hosts several months to a year in advance, and post a calendar for the group. Try to keep the day consistent (like the second Saturday of every month).
  • The group can pitch in for a bunch of shared, inexpensive wine glasses. Dollar stores have a decent selection. The group’s leader can lend the glasses to that month’s host.

So, next time you’re standing in the store aisle, considering a new wine but unsure of what to purchase, or maybe out at a restaurant hemming and hawing over the price of a fancy bottle, consider committing to a wine club instead. You might just find that you save a few bucks and make a few friends in the process.

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