We blame it on the jelly. The year following the gifting of the most maligned food-of-the-month club, jars of blueberry, grape, hot pepper, and apricot pile up in the cabinet, unappealing and useless for all but as a spread on your morning toast (supposedly for those rare days you skip the oatmeal or omelet – besides, who can eat that much jam in a month?). It doesn't have to be that way. From rare craft beers to out-of-this-world salumi, food subscriptions can introduce delectables that you won't find in even your most discerning grocery store. As cousin Eddie said of Clark's Jelly of the Month gift in 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation,' "It's the gift that keeps on giving the whole year." Here's to making that statement actually true.
Club W Wine Club
Let us be clear: Club W is not intended for fine wine connoisseurs. The net it casts is likely too wide for specialists, the choices are a bit too offbeat, the price point too low, and the approach lacks formality. But to fill your coffers with reliable, drinkable, interesting bottles for under $15 a pop, all shipped to your doorstep, there's no better deal.
Beyond the idea of an endlessly refreshing wine cellar, the best part of Club W is its pricing: All the bottles are $13, shipping included. Bargain hunters will undoubtedly do their homework (wine-searcher.com has a convenient app for this, and will pretty easily find bottles that are cheaper here than in most stores). And while not all of them are below the wine store price point, they're low enough that the shipping almost always pays for itself.
What really makes Club W stand out from other monthly clubs, though, is its use of a tech to customize and refine your experience. The site works, in theory, a lot like Netflix. You fill out a short survey, which asks questions about your tolerance for salt, coffee, and mushroom, among other more straightforward wine questions. It then starts pointing you toward the month's dozen or so selections. You choose a minimum of three of these wines a month, and after you've received and sampled them, you rate the wine on a 1 to 5 star system to give better data on future recommendations. We found the algorithm complex and smart enough to be put on autopilot after giving feedback for a few months. To add to your basic three $13 bottles, there are also the curator's wines – hand-selected $19 bottles suitable for dinner parties, as opposed to a table wine for evenings at home.
Another modern-day, techie twist is that every Club W bottle comes with a QR code, a scannable signature that redirects you to a Club W-produced video of one of its sommeliers taking you through a tasting of that particular wine. The 60-second videos are informative and sometimes witty shorts that end in a tasting note telling you what to look for without weighing lofty, snobby terminology. If nothing else, it's a fun party trick, and an added bonus to all-around solid wine club. [$13 per bottle plus shipping; clubw.com]