Social-distancing guidelines, mercifully, have not entirely stomped out happy hours, which are continuing apace (if not happening more) virtually and in person. Whether you’re toasting alone or with others, drinking of course requires something to drink — and even though wine and liquor stores are considered essential businesses in many places, you might be reluctant to keep leaving your house to restock (especially as temperatures drop). One way wine drinkers can ensure they always have something to sip is by enrolling in a wine subscription that regularly delivers new bottles to their door. But with so many wine subscriptions out there, it can be hard to know where to begin and how to avoid those bogus ones that sommelier Ian Bishop, the portfolio manager at Flavors of Italy, says are “full of mass-produced or private label wine that is, frankly, inferior in quality.”
To find wine subscriptions that are worth your money, we asked Bishop and six other experts — including sommeliers and culinary editors — about the ones they trust. Below, their 16 favorites, which include a wine subscription for just about every wine drinker, from the natural-wine apologist to the sparkling-wine enthusiast to the nerd who geeks out over the slight variations in every bottle. A note that while these subscriptions all ship nationwide, laws surrounding wine shipping vary state by state, so availability will be subject to your location.
Best overall wine subscription
“If you’re looking for an easy entry into the wine-subscription world, or want to cultivate some basic wine knowledge, this service ticks all boxes,” says Luke Sullivan, the head sommelier at Soho–based Gran Tivoli. SommSelect is curated by master sommelier Ian Cauble, whom you may recognize from Netflix’s documentary Somm. Each delivery (subscriptions start at $99 a month for four bottles) is themed, he explains, which means one might have wines that highlight a specific growing region, while another might include wines that explore a grape variety. Bishop also likes SommSelect, telling us that it consistently delivers (praise, he adds, that comes from someone who has had the luxury — and curse — of tasting an “obscene amount of wine”).
Best (less-expensive) wine subscription
Winc was founded in 2012 to make wine more accessible and easier to enjoy, according to Susan Kostrzewa, the editor-in-chief of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Via its monthly wine club, which starts at $39 a month for three bottles, Winc offers hundreds of unique wines that “range from classic blends to obscure, single-vineyard fringe projects,” she adds. When you join, you take a short quiz that asks questions like how you take your coffee and whether you prefer salty, citrusy, or earthy flavors, so your monthly subscription can be personalized to your palette. Every month, you can rate the wines you receive, so your subscription can be tailored to your tastes over time. And once you’re a member, you can add individual bottles from Winc’s virtual cellar (many of which are under $20) to your order, in addition to the three in your monthly box.
Best wine subscription if you like variety
If you consume a healthy amount of wine every month and want to support a New York City–based shop, Astor Wines and Spirits’s “Top 12” monthly subscription is a really good option, says Karen Lin, the executive general manager and sommelier at Tsukimi in the East Village. For $150 a month, they’ll send monthly shipments containing 12 bottles of their newest discoveries, which works out to a little more than $12 bucks a bottle — less than you’d pay for the same bottles in any store.
Best natural-wine subscription
“Low-intervention, natural, low or no sulfites — whatever your vernacular, Primal Wine curates an excellent selection of wines you most likely aren’t familiar with,” promises Bishop. Its club’s offerings include monthly shipments of 3, 6, or 12 bottles — of white, red, or mixed — starting at $85 per month. Right now, Primal Wine is also offering new subscribers a free bottle for their first month, plus free shipping.
Best less-expensive natural-wine subscription
“Natural wine may be on restaurant menus all over New York, but it can be hard to find a subscription service sans sulfur due to the usually small production of these wines,” explains Sullivan. He suggests this monthly wine subscription from the small, boutique wine store Vanderbilt Wine Merchants in Prospect Heights, which specializes in natural wine. For $75, you get four bottles per month, so it’s “a great value,” he says, adding “there are no hidden subscription traps — you can cancel or take a hiatus anytime.”
Best European–focused wine subscription
According to Kostrzewa, Le Cru is designed to introduce people to European producers that otherwise don’t have the means or volume to export to the U.S. Their curated cases start at $155 for a six-bottle shipment, and can be ordered as frequently or infrequently as you like (technically, you have to buy every one — you can’t sign up for continuous billing/delivery — so it’s not a true subscription in that sense). Still, the service is “a great introduction to regions” like Catalonia or Piedmont, Kostrzewa explains. And if you receive a bottle you really like, she adds that Le Cru will help you learn even more about the maker via videos on its website “that really bring the producers to life, taking you inside workspaces, and showing you where the magic happens.”
Best Spain–focused wine subscription
If Spanish wine is your thing, Bishop suggests a subscription from importer José Pastor, who focuses on growers from Spain. Wine subscriptions from importers are a less traditional route, but he says they can be “great if you are fairly familiar with an importer and trust their palate.” Pastor, an importer Bishop trusts, offers 6- or 12-bottle subscriptions, for $199 and $399 per shipment; they ship three times a year, in January, May, and October. The service also previews each included wine with a detailed information sheet in each shipment.
Best Pacific Northwest–focused wine subscription
Kostrzewa says those who prefer wine made in Washington, Oregon, and California’s Sonoma Valley, should check out the subscription from WOW Sonoma, which offers monthly shipments of three bottles from those areas for $92 a month. In addition to being made in the U.S., all the wines in WOW Sonoma’s subscription come from women-owned wineries, and you can choose between a recurring subscription or a one-time order.
Best wine subscription if you also like cider
There “are great selections to be had” through Viticole’s wine club, according to Bishop, who notes those selections aren’t relegated to just wine. While shipments mostly contain red and white wine, they can also come with a few ciders, he says. There are two tiers to membership: Viticole’s standard wine club costs $99 per month and ships out two 12-bottle cases a year, one in the spring and one in the fall. For $198 per month, its Wine Club 2.0 ships four 12-bottle cases a year, two in the spring and two in the fall. If you’ve done the math and think around $50 a bottle is pricey, know that part of what you’re paying for is exclusivity. Viticole’s founder, master sommelier Brian McClintic, works very closely with organic producers from around the world to create custom bottles only available to club members, according to Bishop, so you can be sure you’re getting something special.
Best wine subscription if you also like jam
Sommelier and writer Belinda Chang told us about the subscription club at Matthiasson, which she describes as a small, woman-owned, family-run winery known for pioneering sustainability and natural wine before those things became trendy. The wine club offers shipments of 6 or 12 “delicious, tough-to-get wines” twice a year, in October and April, starting at $315 a shipment. And for an extra $48, you can get some of the vineyard’s homemade jam — which Chang calls the best she’s ever tasted — as part of your subscription (the jam delivery occurs once a year, in early December, according to the company, which doesn’t say how many jars it sends).
Best wine subscription for wine nerds
For $75 a month, Brooklyn–based shop Leon & Son Wine & Spirits’s Leon Circle subscription will get you three bottles of “restaurant-quality” wines, according to Kirk Sutherland, the wine director at Robertas and Blanca. He adds that founder Chris Leon’s mission is not only to expose customers to new wines, but also educate them, which is why the subscription includes easy-to-understand note cards that tell you more about what you’re drinking and how to order and buy wines like it.
Best (slightly) less-expensive wine subscription for wine nerds
The Grand Tour, a monthly subscription from master sommelier Dustin Wilson’s Verve Wine, features four bottles from a particular region or category, “along with tasting notes and other materials to help you learn about each wine,” says Lin. (It costs more upfront, but the cost-per-bottle for this is $24, while the cost-per-bottle for the Leon Circle subscription is $25.) Typically you’ll get two white wines and two red wines, but shipments can occasionally include a rosé or sparkling option. And once you’re a member, you’re eligible for a 10-percent discount on other bottles from Verve Wine, whether you buy them in-store at their New York City or San Francisco locations, or online.
Best sparkling-wine subscription
For sparkling-wine aficionados, Chang — who has “a serious sparkling wine and Champagne habit” — suggests Sonoma–based Iron Horse Vineyards’s subscription service. While “they make a full range of still wines that are wonderful,” she is obsessed with the sparkling wine-only options it offers via its various subscriptions. Those options include the Winemakers’ Choice Club, which will send you two bottles of sparkling wine every month for $110; the 2 Bottle Club, which will send you two bottles of sparkling wine every other month for about $120 a shipment; and Chang’s favorite, the Corral Club, which costs the most at around $210 per shipment, but sends five shipments containing four to five bottles a year, plus an