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How to set-up and run a wine club in your neighbourhood

One of the halfwine.com people has been ‘running’ neighbourhood wine clubs for almost 20 years.  His Wine Club Guidelines below explain what they do. The Wine Club Notes are details of recent tastings from his current club (see the items on the menu under the halfwine club heading).

Wine Club Guidelines

  • The objective of our club is to taste wines that one would not ordinarily buy for oneself (generally more expensive but sometimes more exotic).
  • The first rule of the club is that there are no rules – just do what you want to do
  • The club is funded from subscriptions; each time you attend you contribute to the kitty.  The kitty funds the purchase of wine for the tasting.
  • Our current subscription is £15 per person (in round terms what members spend, on average, for a bottle plus 50%).
  • Clubs should not have more members than one can reasonably cope with; we have found that 12 to 15 is a maximum.
  • Our club meets on the third Sunday of every month at noon for about 2 hours.  The hosting of the club is done in turn at one of the members' home.  At the start of each year we agree a roster for the year.
  • The host selects the wine and provides (at their expense) a starting drink (usually champagne) and snacks.  Remember everyone has a turn to host, so this cost evens itself out.
  • Decide on a theme that interests you.  Our tasting packs are one source of ideas.  Our Wine Club Notes and Wine Resources pages have others.  The best themes are comparisons.  There are four major dimensions that you should use, that is, varying one whilst keeping the others constant; cultivar (or blend), vintage, region, price (as a proxy for quality).  For example, a popular but difficult to arrange theme is called a vertical; same wine from the same producer but different vintages.  When looking to assess value for money a good theme is same cultivar, same vintage, same region but different prices. Another interesting theme is wines from around the world; same cultivar, similar vintage, similar price but different regions, for example sauvignon blanc from the Loire in France, South Africa and New Zealand
  • Provide some snacks (bread, cheese, pates and cold meats do well) to have after the initial tasting so that you can see how the wine goes with different foods
  • Allow a half-bottle per person (with a some allowance for over and under imbibers) .  Our club with 12 to 15 members has 6 bottles per tasting (even if only half the complement are there); most times 3 white and 3 red .  On occasion someone has done 6 of the same.  The 6 champagne tasting went down well (and wiped out the surplus in the kitty); ok, it was 3 white and 3 rose.
  • Have a separate glass for each wine so that you can see how it changes over time. Wine tasting glasses in packs of 6 are readily available.
  • Get an on-line guide on how to actually taste wine if that interests you – refer to our Wine Resources page
  • We don’t give points to wines and don’t vote on the best wine – too technical for our club.  The order in which the bottles are finished is really definitive about which is the most popular!
  • At the end of the tasting the host e-mails notes about the wines (including prices and where purchased) and a reconciliation of the kitty; balance received from the previous host, plus subscriptions received, less amount spent, giving the balance to be handed to the next host.
  • Finally don’t be overwhelmed if a whole bunch of members leave the club at the same time – some people just can’t move beyond cheap and nasty wine and some people find out that they just aren’t into wine that much.