I’m amazed how many people sign up to wine clubs – not because I can’t see the advantages, but because they rarely represent good value for money, which right now is more important than ever. It’s fair to say that the two big players, Naked Wines and Laithwaites, have improved over the past couple of years, though I still have reservations about their marketing.
Naked, for instance, lures you in with a half-price offer and the promise that, if you become an “Angel”, for which you pay £25 a month to offset against your purchases, you can save up to 33% on wines. The problem is that the original price generally looks toppy, despite the fact that Naked claims it benchmarks it against the “market price” of similar wines (though at retailers such as Laithwaites, Majestic and Virgin, which are also expensive at full price). The offer to which I was directed when I signed up to test it out isn’t as good as it looks, especially seeing as Naked claims to cut out the middle man entirely. So, while £6.99 is not an unreasonable amount to pay for the Arabella Cabernet Sauvignon that’s part of the current introductory deal, it’s stretching credulity to say it’s worth £10.99, and most supermarkets could easily match the £10.99 so-called “insider price” for Naked’s Marcelo Bocardo Reserve Malbec, let alone the “full” £14.99.
All that said, Naked does have some good wines in its range, including the two in today’s pick, which, combined with the feelgood factor of supporting small winemakers, may well tempt you to sign up. Maybe Angels don’t mind about money, because the average spend on a bottle at Naked is apparently £10.26.
Laithwaites, meanwhile, operates more like Majestic, offering regular discounts if you buy a mixed case (generally 12 bottles, as opposed to Majestic’s six) and additional money off if you take out a regular subscription. The company’s wines have certainly become more interesting recently – the Dornfelder in my pick this week being a case in point. There’s also an exciting South African syrah made by Mosi Wines’ Joseph Dhafana, a Zimbabwean winemaker, that you can preorder, but the downside is that doing so will tie you into a company whose prices are generally on the high side.
The problem is, as Naked and Laithwaites well understand, that if you take out a subscription, you’ll be less inclined to shop elsewhere, which is likely to lead to you missing out on better offers and increase your overall spend on wine. But if you don’t want to have to think too much about what you’re buying, wine clubs could be the answer.
Six wine club wines worth buying
Saccheto Col de L’Utia Frizzante Veneto £11.99 (or £7.99 to Naked Wine Angels), Naked Wines, 11%. Attractively creamy, gently sparkling, prosecco-like fizz, but a bit drier than prosecco.
Rosso Piceno Tenute Pieralisi 2018, £8.95, The Wine Society, 13%. A classic example of the type of wine The Wine Society does so well. A wine you won’t find on most supermarket shelves let alone at under £10, simple un-mucked-about and hugely drinkable. Perfect for homemade pizza.
Virgile Joly Rosé 2021 £12.99 (or £7.99 to Angels), Naked Wine, 12.5%. Pretty, pale, fresh Languedoc rosé made in the Provençal style. Good value at £7.99, less so at £12.99.
Dawn Felder Dornfelder 2021 £11.99 (or £10.49 by the mixed 12-bottle case), Laithwaites, 12%. A fun introduction to an obscure Germanic grape variety. Fresh, juicy, natural-ish red. Would be great with a barbie.
Vinos Ambiz Airene – part of the current selection from Oranj, at £120 for five different bottles including a poster, 11%. Oranj offers a regular selection of natural wines curated by guest sommeliers and restaurateurs, this month Ferhat Dirik of Mangal 2. A beguilingly fruity, cloudy orange wine from Spain that tastes deliciously of fresh apricots, apples and mango. Drink with grilled lamb or aubergines and loads of different salads.
Redbrook Estate Bacchus 2021 £18.99 (or £14.99 by the mixed 12-bottle case) Laithwaites, 11%. Bright, citrussy English white in a striking bottle made from recycled paper. Spot on for sauvignon blanc lovers.
July 15, 2022 at 06:36PM Fiona Beckett