Sign me up!
Park your fear of commitment. Joining a Hunter Valley Wine Club is more attractive than ever for both you and your local wine community.
I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member” is one version of Groucho Marx’s famously sassy quote. Fortunately, no Hunter winery’s club membership involves written applications, character references or committee bribes. All you need is a love of good wine and good value, a desire to connect with like-minded souls and the wish to be treated a little bit better than everyone else.
According to the 2019 Cellar Door and Direct-to-Consumer Report published by Wine Australia late last year, direct-to consumer (DTC) wine sales are on the march, growing 17% in value since 2018 to $1 billion, despite the recent stagnation of alcohol sales across the country. This is good news for wine producers, who are taking control of their own destinies by developing direct relationships with the people who drink their wine. They are increasingly cutting out the middleman, taking a better cut of profits after decades of brutal margin squeeze. While DTC sales account for roughly 13 per cent of an average winery’s income, for smaller producers (like most in the Hunter) more than 50% of their revenue now comes from cellar door and related activities, with a big chunk of this furnished by wine club and database sales.
My own view of wine clubs was perhaps tainted by memories of my father’s Rothbury Estate Society members. As one of the very first direct sales models in Australian wine, this program was a huge success in the 1970s and the benchmark for many early Hunter offerings. But the trail of aging surgeons and accountants from the upper North Shore, arriving in their Volvos to stock their dinner party cellars left an impression of a conservative elite. But times have moved on. You’re as likely to find a Newcastle tradie or an inner-city barista alongside you at the tasting counter.
“By delivering my unique range of alternate wines alongside the traditional Hunter varieties, I have created a wine portfolio to satisfy every taste.”
Peter Drayton, Winemaker
Modern consumers, from all sorts of backgrounds, are looking for deeper relationships with their wine brands. They are craving authenticity and heart. They care about provenance: where the grapes are grown, where the wine is made, and how. They want to know more about the winemaker. And most winemakers want to be known. In addition to being farmers and scientists, they are generous hosts and want to share their obsession, not just pack up boxes for anonymous buyers.
So now is the time to sign up to one or more membership offers. Your repeat purchases will help our producers rebuild after drought, fire and coronavirus lock-down. Your future visits to their wineries for both casual and member events will support their cellar doors and venues, their restaurants and cafés, their guesthouses and galleries. The slam of a car door is music to the ears of every cellar door operator. Fist pumps all round if visitors leave with a box under their arms. Star jumps if an email address is obtained.
“My aim is always to make wines with outstanding regional and vintage characteristics that reflect their place of origin and the vintage.”
David Hook, Owner/Winemaker
But what’s in it for us punters? At first glance it is easiest to refuse the offer. The main excuses are the keen discounts to be found at the local pile-it-high store, the lack of instant gratification, the fear of commitment to multiple cases from any one producer. But there are so many advantages. Price and convenience prevail here too. All clubs offer serious discounts to members, some even as high as 30%. The set club offers are always great value, and discounts are available on all additional purchases made online or at the cellar door. A big bonus is free delivery, offered by the majority of clubs. And what can be bad about wine just turning up on your doorstep without having to think about it? These days the volume commitment is totally approachable, usually a mere two cases a year, often spread over two – four deliveries.
”Our Wine Club vision is simple: present members with a memorable quality experience focussed on integrity, outstanding service and fun, prestige events!”
Bryan Currie, GM and Senior Winemaker
When you think that an average Australian drinks more than three dozen bottles of wine per year, you have lots to play with, especially if you are at the upper end of the wine consumption spectrum. These days the choice is better than ever. With most clubs you choose from their set cases of white, red or mixed, or you put together your own selection. Some even allow you to set your own delivery schedule. The word support is getting a tad tiresome. But what the heck, now is the time to get joining! Do it online, or by phone, and pop up to the Valley to see your new winery pals as soon as you can. Start building the friendship, take advantage of all the perks, and it will be Groucho’s cigars all round!
Peter Drayton, Hungerford Hill and Ivanhoe Wines all offer an impressive 30% discount to members.
David Hook and Gartelmann let you start with just one dozen per year.
Margan Family Wines include Reserve Club loyalty points on every purchase.
Oakvale Wines and the De Iuliis’ Dewine Club allow amazing flexibility in selection and timing.
Tyrrells’ Private Bin Club ensures your order of limited release wines is held for you on allocation.
The Scarborough Wine Club Family packages up each family members’ favourites.
Brokenwood’s Corporate Club includes in-office team building tastings.
Pepper Tree Q4 Platinum Club opens the door to a raft of super premium perks in return for an eight dozen annual commitment.