Heard on the vine: can you discover something new with a wine subscription? | Wine
Ddid you purchase a subscription during containment? Me too: a fortnightly flower delivery that brightened up those endless dreary weeks. And we are not alone. Subscription business, which is expected to be worth Â£ 1.8bn by 2025, according to a recent Royal Mail report, is booming, with 35-44 year olds now signing up to an average of 4.6 programs regular subscriptions.
Wine subscriptions such as Wine Without Fuss from the Wine Society and Tanners’ Wine in Time Club have been around for some time, of course; it’s just that they’ve recently become less practical and more discovery-oriented.
Majestic was the last to arrive on board. Its new Wine Club doesn’t quite keep what it says on the tin – wines like Beaujolais and CÃ´tes du RhÃ´ne hardly count as the “hidden gems of France” which they are touted as – but the initiative is supported by a beautiful booklet with QR codes, videos and even recipes for culinary pairings (the crab and cheddar pie suggested to accompany the picpoul of the day’s selection, for example, looks delicious). While some wines are better than others, the quarterly subscription of Â£ 99 is not too expensive and would make a good wedding gift for young family members or for friends who are new to wine.
More appealing – to me, at least – are the schemes that allow you to dig deeper into a country or style of wine that interests you. Natural wine retailer Oranj, for example, includes a poster and recommended soundtrack to listen to as you sample its selection, while Spanish food and wine specialist Ultracomida has just launched a wine club for those who want to want to immerse themselves in Spanish wine. In addition to the rioja below, I love the tangy and invigorating character of the 13% Aretxaga Bizkaiko Txakolina 2020, which is also available in bottle for Â£ 13.95 on the main website.
Even more innovative is a food and wine subscription from Ramekins & Wine that sends out a well-curated selection of six small dishes accompanied by assorted wines. At Â£ 60 a person it’s not cheap, but if you wanted to just treat it like a tasting exercise, you could easily split it between two. And some pairings are inspired: The Roast Chicken Curry with Celeriac Cream and Apricot, a refined and tangy version of the crowning chicken, was brilliant with a Care for Wild Bushvine Chenin Blanc 2018 (which you can buy at slurp.co .uk for Â£ 14.95). These days it’s not just about tasting, it’s about infotainment.
Five wines to buy on subscription
The White House Picpoul 2020 Part of a Â£ 99 case in Majestic’s latest Wine Club delivery, 13%. An attractive and crunchy white from the south of France. (If you like the style, but prefer to buy a smaller quantity, Majestic’s Picpoul Villemarin is also good value at Â£ 8.99 on the mix-six offer.)
Sierra de ToloÃ±o Rioja Tempranillo 2018 Â£ 13.95 Ultracomida (or wine club), 13%. A juicy and easy to drink young rioja. Unamended and unfiltered. Ideal for tapas.
Croatica GraÅ¡evina Kvalitetno Vino 2020 Â£ 9.85 Tanners (or Wine in Time Club), 12%. Fruity, fragrant, aromatic, like a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. Would work well with Thai cuisine and other Southeast Asian dishes.
Ardoise Lebreton Domaine des Rochelles 2020 Â£ 9.25 individually from the Wine Society (or Wine Without Fuss ‘lighter wines’ subscription program), 12.5%. Deliciously juicy Loire Cabernet Franc made for cold cuts.
Ridolfi Rosso di Montalcino 2018 Independent wine Â£ 20.20, or as part of the Â£ 149.50 monthly wine club, 14%. Elegant and supple Italian red that will go perfectly with a stew or grilled meat.