Did you take out a subscription during lockdown? Me, too: a fortnightly delivery of flowers that brightened those dismal weeks no end. And we are not alone. The subscription business, which is predicted to be worth £1.8bn by 2025, according to a recent Royal Mail report, is booming, with 35- to 44-year-olds now signing up to an average of 4.6 regular subscription schemes.
Wine subscriptions such as The Wine Society’s Wine Without Fuss and Tanners’ Wine in Time Club have been going for a while, of course; it’s just that they’ve recently become less about convenience and more about discovery.
Majestic is the latest to come on board. Its new Wine Club doesn’t deliver quite what it says on the tin – wines such as beaujolais and côtes du rhône hardly count as the “hidden gems of France” they’re billed as – but the initiative is supported by a handsome-looking booklet with QR codes, videos and even food-matching recipes (the crab and cheddar tart suggested to accompany the picpoul in today’s pick, for example, sounds delicious). While some of the wines are better than others, the £99 quarterly subscription isn’t overly expensive, and it would make a good wedding gift for younger members of the family or for friends who are getting into wine.
More appealing – to me, at least – are schemes that enable you to dig deeper into a country or style of wine in which you’re interested. Natural wine retailer Oranj, for example, includes a poster and recommended soundtrack to listen to while you’re tasting its selection, while Spanish food and wine specialist Ultracomida has just started a wine club for those who want to immerse themselves in Spanish wine. As well as the rioja below, I love the invigoratingly tart character of the 13% Aretxaga Bizkaiko Txakolina 2020, which is also available by the bottle for £13.95 from the main website.
More innovative still is a food and wine subscription from Ramekins & Wine that sends out a well-curated selection of six small dishes paired with matching wines. At £60 a head, it’s not cheap, but if you just wanted to treat it as a tasting exercise, you could easily share it between two. And some of the pairings are inspired: the curried roast chicken with celeriac crema and apricot, a fancy, hot version of coronation chicken, was brilliant with a Care for Wild Bushvine Chenin Blanc 2018 (which you can buy from slurp.co.uk for £14.95). These days, it’s not just about tasting, but infotainment.
Five wines to buy on subscription
La Maison Blanche Picpoul 2020 Part of a £99 case in Majestic’s most recent Wine Club delivery, 13%. An appealingly crisp, southern French white. (If you like the style, but prefer to buy a smaller quantity, Majestic’s Villemarin picpoul is also good value at £8.99 on the mix-six deal.)
Croatica Graševina Kvalitetno Vino 2020 £9.85 Tanners (or from the Wine in Time Club), 12%. Fruity, fragrant, aromatic, like a cross between sauvignon blanc and riesling. Would be good with Thai and other south-east Asian food.
L’Ardoise Lebreton Domaine des Rochelles 2020 £9.25 individually from the Wine Society (or from the from the “lighter wines” subscription scheme Wine Without Fuss), 12.5%. Scrumptiously juicy Loire cabernet franc that’s made for charcuterie.