Why so few wine clubs in South Africa?

We recently launched the Vrede en Lust Wine Club. Private cellar wine clubs are well understood and popular in markets like the USA and Australia, where they account for a large percentage of sales for small to medium sized wineries.

In the Cape, there are still surprisingly few real private cellar wine clubs in operation. Large, well-run wine clubs like the Wine of the Month Club and the Diners Club Wine Society are well established. There are a number smaller wine clubs around that specialize in putting together mixed cases from a range of wineries.

A Google search of South African website for ‘wine clubs’ highlight the current situation and I found that Warwick’s wine club is probably the best example I found locally. Not surprising, seeing that Mike Ratcliff also studied Wine Business at the University of Adelaide where the concept is very well understood!

The key objectives for a private cellar wine club are:

  • Developing deeper, long term relationships with your regular customers.
  • Crafting the program to cater for the wide range of tastes and preferences for different wine styles.
  • Ensure that your wine club members get to try your new releases soon after launch, so that they can try them out and decide if they want to order more.
  • Reserve and allocate limited release wines for your most loyal customers – the wine club members.
  • Get the wines to your club members with the least amount of hassle and cost for the members.
  • Build a regular, predictable stream of business – a type of annuity model.
  • Reward your club members with a decent discount for the commitment to a regular stream of purchases.
  • Reward your club members with other exclusive benefits for their support and in order to further develop the relationship.

We tried to get the Vrede en Lust Wine Club going sooner, but for various reasons it never got done properly. The systems and processes are now in place and we will do our first shipment later in May.

I am very happy that we now have the right team in place with a strong focus on execution. We will now work hard to grow the wine club membership and it is one of our highest priorities.

For now, our wine club is limited to South African members, but the next steps will be to see how we can practically extend the membership to European customers and hopefully later our American visitors. Just a pity that international logistics and taxes regimes make it so difficult and expensive!