Where do wine club wines come from?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I periodically receive wine club offers. When I search for the offered wines online, I sometimes don’t find websites for the wineries. Who makes the wines for these clubs, and how can I learn more about their quality?

—David, Coventry, Conn.

Dear David,

There are lots of wine clubs offering a wide variety of wines, and that’s great. And you’re right that some of them offer wines that we may have never heard of.

Many of these seemingly obscure brands are private labels created specifically for the wine club. Either a winery (or a bulk wine négociant) made a wine or a blend and a label that you can only find and buy from that wine club. It’s not unusual. Many large wine retailers have private labels you can only find on their shelves, just as a grocery store might sell its own brand of cereal or peanut butter.

Private wine labels serve a couple of purposes. They create an “exclusive” product and, probably more important, they are impossible to comparison shop in terms of price. For small wineries that have trouble getting picked up by a distributor or that are unable to compete in the crowded retail market, it might be a boon for them to partner with a wine club that can help them sell their inventory. And while there’s plenty of good bulk wine for sale out there, there’s some not-great wine out there as well. It can be hard to uncover the provenance of a private label wine, depending on how much information the label provides about who made it and where the grapes were grown. Without knowing vineyard sources, winemaking techniques, a track record of ratings, etc., it’s pretty hard to know anything about the quality of the wine.

If you find a wine club that meets your taste and budget, that’s great, and the growth of wine clubs over the past decade or so has seen some really great ones pop up. But you’ve keyed into one of the reasons I prefer to recommend wine clubs offered directly from the wineries—they have more transparency and reliability, and you can reorder more wines, collect multiple vintages, or get other membership perks.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

How can I make sure my wine is at the right serving temperature?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers a few simple methods for accurate temperature …

Feb 22, 2021

Can a wine stored in ideal conditions outlast its recommended drink window?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains recommended drinking windows for aging wine.

Feb 15, 2021

Are new oak barrels toasted and filled with wine before they’re sold?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why barrels are toasted, and how a wine barrel's …

Feb 8, 2021

How do you open a bottle of wine that has a wax capsule?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how to deal with wax-topped wine bottles, …

Feb 1, 2021

What’s the difference between Brix, Baumé, Oechsle and residual sugar?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why measuring sugar content in grapes is so …

Jan 18, 2021

Will my wines get too cold in the garage?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny covers the pitfalls of storing wine in the garage, …

Jan 11, 2021