Matthew Jukes: King of Clubs

The art of running a successful wine club and the ones to join.

www.matthewjukes.com • vineyard.ed@kelsey.co.uk

There is a huge amount of skill involved in running a successful club.  It’s a balancing act involving trying to attract the ‘right’ members, giving them top quality service and then doing all you can to make them return and spend more money with you.  Members benefits are the main reason why people want to join clubs, but sometimes it is just as simple as being a part of an exclusive group which makes you feel privileged in some way.

Winery clubs are hybrids of the private members club model and in this respect, they have a well-trodden framework.  They are also an extension of the less time-consuming and much cheaper version, the mailing list.  Making the leap from using a mailing list effectively to running a wine club should not be undertaken lightly.

I know a good number of wineries in Australia whose mailing lists are so strong that their domestic sales and export strategies are secondary to their ‘club’ activities when it comes to selling wine. 

This means that they sell a huge percentage of their production, at the maximum margin possible, to a group of people who would feel aggrieved if they missed out on being offered these wines.  This is a tremendously powerful tool when it comes to making a success of your business.  Many of these operations have restaurants too, so in addition to strong cellar door and online member sales, they can augment their profits by selling even more bottles which are consumed on site.

The UK wine club scene is very much in its infancy, but I have found three extremely worthy candidates whose offers make perfect sense and whose interactive opportunities are all designed to create yet more brand stickiness with its members. 

Each of the wines featured opposite can be bought by both club members and non-members, but if you are a member, you are guaranteed to be first in line.  If you are not a member you may have to fight to find stock, particularly of the limited release wines.  Some wines are sold only to members, which is reason enough to sign up and the main commitment one has to swallow, is often as simple as promising to buy a case or two of wine each year.  If you are confident that you will drink this amount of bottles, then you absolutely must become a member of every winery who operates a club because the prices are all, inevitably, discounted.

In addition, I rather like the other benefits which can make members into lifelong ambassadors.  These people are a winery’s greatest clients because they purchase regularly and they spread the word actively and enthusiastically, too.  This is why the best clubs hold exclusive tastings, tours, harvest parties, access to back vintages and other great add-ons, too. 

It therefore follows that all wineries should operate a club membership if at all possible and that it should be one which rewards members greatly for their patronage.  Just think of what you do best and share.  You might be amazed by how many of your customers would like to learn more about your business and become closer and more connected to your brand. 

In short, your members will be the lifeblood of your business and they will be very grateful for the chance to be a much-loved part of your gang.

2019 Black Book Winery, Controversy Pinot Meunier, Coombe Bottom Vineyard,  Sussex
£18.00
www.blackbookwinery.com 

There are only 80 cases of this extraordinary wine available to buy. ‘The Black Book’ members will get first dibs.  

If there was ever a reason to join a wine club, then this is it.  I bumped into winemaker Sergio Verrillo on 22 June and he handed me a cleanskin bottle of this beauty to taste.  I know the date, because I Instagrammed a photo of Sergio’s handwriting, scrawled on the green glass – it read 2019 PM Controversy.  

Black Book members get to hear about events, new and limited releases, tours and tastings first.  Members are invited to taste out of barrel at the winery too, to have the chance to learn from the master – this is invaluable because I have had the pleasure of doing just this with Sergio and he is a veritable font of knowledge.  

You can sign up for £125 and receive six carefully selected bottles or £250 and trade up to 12.  If you are going to drink a case or two of Sergio’s wines in any twelve months, then this is the way to go!  

Check out the website for more details and also be sure to order this insanely delicious non-rosé rosé, too.  This electrifying, still Pinot Meunier has left a hint of its red skins behind in this wine and it is a stunner.  With ginger, white pepper and radish earthiness underpinning a rhubarb stalk fruitiness this is one of the most life-giving and inquisitive English wines I have ever tasted.

2019 Winbirri Vineyard, Bacchus, Norfolk  
£16.00
www.winbirri.com

There is one reason above all to join Lee Dyer’s ‘The W Club’, and that is that you will stand a very good chance of getting hold of his terrific Bacchus! 

Ever since the 2015 vintage of this wine won the Decanter World Wine Awards Best Single-Varietal White Wine in the World title, there is a veritable stampede every time this wine is released.  Membership of The W Club costs £250 per year and you get a mixed case of 12 bottles, five places on a Winbirri tour and tasting day, an opportunity to take part in the harvest and also to see how the wines are made.  

There is a 5% discount on further purchases of wines and, crucially, early access to the pre-release of the latest vintage of their Bacchus.  So, you will be delighted to hear that the 2019 is a cracker with smooth, unhurried, languid elderflower and lemongrass notes with a lip-smacking surge of electricity on the finish.  Not only that, 2019 Winbirri, Pinot Noir Rosé (£16.00) is a rather tangy, strawberry and mint-tinged concoction which makes the hairs on my neck stand up!  I suggest you sign up without delay. 

2015 Ridgeview, Blanc de Blancs, Single Vineyard
approx. £60.00
www.ridgeview.co.uk
www.butlers-winecellar.co.uk
www.vinvm.co.uk
www.theenglishwinecollection.co.uk 

One of the most impressive wine clubs in our land is Ridgeview’s ‘Ourview’.    

You simply commit to a six-bottle case of Ridgeview delivered twice a year and then you qualify for a 20% discount on the range of wines, your own cellar space, a tour and tasting voucher for two, access to limited edition Ridgeview archive wines, advance tasting of new release wines and invitations to exclusive, members-only events. 

 If you are already a member of Ourview, you will have had a chance to taste this new release and know that it is total class in a glass.  

The English signature of bracing acidity under a slender, chic, Chardonnay chassis marks it as a genuine, couture creation.  Coming from the original 1995 plantings, this is a statuesque wine and one which will reward patient cellaring.  While you are ordering your cases, do not overlook NV Fitzrovia Rosé (approx. £35.00, Ridgeview, Butlers, www.waitrosecellar.com), which looks every bit a classic with its piercing redcurrant fruit and palate-primping freshness.

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