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Just like having cabinets full of groceries, those who like to keep a well-stocked wine rack on hand have many options to choose from when it comes to online wine stores or wine subscription programs. You can buy anything from single glasses of legendary wines to a case full of staples delivered regularly. For wine lovers and emerging enthusiasts alike, it can be difficult to sift through all the options to determine what’s convenient, what’s really good, and what suits the particular niche taste or drinking style you subscribe to.
CNET’s Best Wine Club and Subscriptions is a good place to start looking for ideas for different formats, but we found one more to add, especially for those who are more concerned about what’s in their glass. Although winemaking has a centuries-old history, wine labels have not evolved much to provide detailed information about what’s inside the bottles. (Note: It’s never just about the grapes.) Waves is a new wine club offering exclusively organic and natural wines for experienced wine consumers who want to feel good while highlighting multiple grapes, regions and styles.
I’m a certified sommelier myself and I wanted to try it Waves to get a feel for what they offer and how it works. Here’s everything you need to know about The Waves before corking at this sophisticated wine club.
A snapshot of The Waves Wine Club
- Work: Online natural wine subscription service with 3 tiers available
- Products: Over 300 natural wines
- Regional availability: Continental US excluding some states that restrict home wine delivery (Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Mississippi, South Dakota, Utah and Rhode Island)
- Cost: $70-$400 per month and approximately $33 per bottle, depending on subscription level and number of bottles. Shipping is free for the top two tiers and $10 for the bottom tier.
What are Waves?
The Waves is a new natural wine subscription program led by a team of James Beard Award-winning sommeliers and wine directors. The program was co-founded by Gaurav Tiwari, a technology and innovation expert with a decade of experience at Amazon, along with Andy Comer, founder and chief wine officer of Seattle’s Toma, who were passionate not only about wine, but also about transparency in providing wine consumers with relevant product information. They were joined by fellow James Beard Award winners Rajat Parr and Billy Smith, both from legendary New York restaurants, to create a wide selection of interesting and enjoyable wines in a variety of styles that “meet The Waves’ standards for sustainable and ethical production.”
How it’s working?
The Waves offers three subscription tiers for a selection of natural wines delivered to your door every month. For a fixed monthly price, a “Mover” subscription includes two bottles per month, a “Shaker” subscription includes six bottles per month, and a “Wavemaker” subscription includes 12 bottles per month. Subscribers can either allow the system to select deliveries based on specific preferences or select their own bottles during a 10-day purchasing window at the beginning of the month. In addition to the subscription service, you can purchase wine packages based on themes such as The Perfect Dinner Party, The Wild Bunch and Orange Wine 101. Subscribers also have access to the Rare Bottle Room, where you can choose between legendary producers and regions, or hard-to-find wines whose prices for a single bottle start at $45.
Natural, defined wine
Even as a wine professional, I get a little nervous when the term “natural wine” comes up. “Natural wine” is not regulated terminology in the U.S., so the term can have different meanings among both producers and consumers, further confusing the category. Some people associate “natural wine” with cloudy wines, the taste of which is more reminiscent of kombucha or sour beer than wine. I’ve had one too many (I mean, I’ve had one) and that’s why I freely admit that I usually approach “natural” wines with a healthy skepticism, because these types of wines are exactly what I’m into NO I’m looking for. However, the owner of a natural winery recently outlined an important issue for me: certain rules of natural winemaking do not necessarily result in great wine. Funky winemaking produces funky wines, and most wines produced from a “natural” point of view produce wines with a classic taste.
What I particularly liked about The Waves is that they are clear about how they define “naturalness” of the wines available in their catalog. The principles are quite simple: organically grown grapes, without synthetic additives and a commitment to winemaking with a low level of intervention. For the uninitiated, “low intervention” principles often refer to things like allowing ambient yeasts to ferment rather than intentionally inoculating and refraining from weeding wild cover crops among the vines to improve soil health.
It’s also worth noting that their language here is “organic crops” and not “certified organic products.” This is an important distinction because many small producers do not have the resources to pursue certification but use unique farming methods that promote regenerative agriculture. The experts at The Waves have done this homework for you, so you can feel good about the wines they send you.
How wines are organized
You don’t have to log in every month and choose a wine: you can simply feed the system information about your wine preferences according to basic indicators such as color, style or degree of adventurousness, and let the AI-powered software make the selection for you. It’s a real subscription that gives you monthly wine deliveries if you do nothing.
If you want to choose your own wines, another highlight of The Waves model is the way it is labeled and categorized to make wine selection simple and, what’s more, fun. The wines are divided into evocative and helpful descriptors, and many are cross-listed under numerous labels. These include headings like “Lean, Refreshing Bubbles,” Earthy, Balanced Reds,” and “Crowd-Pleasing Whites.” Notice the lack of pretentious sommelier talk or even very specific wine terminology. Even if you haven’t studied wine, you can easily get an idea of what each category is going for, even if the specific grapes are unfamiliar, and make your selection accordingly. However, if you want to choose your own wines, remember that you have a 10-day window each month to make your selection. Otherwise, you get what you get.
Waves’ curated selection will break you out of the four-bottle rotation
As someone who constantly scans online wine stores, I really appreciate the selection at The Waves and think exposure to lesser-known regions and varietals is really important for consumers. There are thousands of wine grapes around the world, but we tend to drink the same four or eight over and over again. Waves makes discovering new wines incredibly easy, and their categorization system makes finding something you like a breeze. Clicking on an individual bottle will also reveal additional context about the wine, including its producer, region and/or appellation, ABV, vintage, adventurousness level and serving temperature. (FYI, not all white wine should be served cold.) Plus, it will introduce you to other wines with a similar wavelength. (As a writer, I also appreciate their clever but never clumsy wordplay.)
Waves Wine Club Cost and Pricing
Waves’ “Mover” tier costs $70 per month plus $10 shipping for two bottles. The “Shaker” tier costs $200 per month for six bottles and shipping is free. The “Wavemaker” tier includes 12 bottles per month for $400 with free shipping. The math is obvious, but I’ll do it anyway: On the lower tier, you pay more per bottle: $40 apiece compared to about $33 apiece for either of the higher tiers. The first month includes 20% off any tier and is non-binding. You can cancel after just one month. (More obvious math: If you opt for the top tier for just one month to restock, you’ll only pay about $26 a bottle. That’s a good deal, even if you don’t stay long.) Because a subscription is a fixed price, regardless of wine type , some months are more value-oriented than others.
Who are Waves intended for?
The Waves is perfect for people who really care about drinking natural wines, even if they don’t have a deep understanding of what that means. It’s also a great service for wine drinkers with an exploratory mindset who want to explore new things in a low-risk environment, i.e. in their own home. No browsing expensive wine lists or saying polysyllabic grape names in public.
Who is The Waves not good for?
The Waves’ wines are of extremely high quality and the cost is included in the subscription price, but they are not cheap wines by the standards of most Americans. If you’re looking for a bigger deal, you’ll have to look elsewhere. For $80, you can buy more than four to eight bottles of wine instead of the two The Waves offers at a conventional retail store, but then you’re on your own in terms of searching for potential synthetic additives that may be in those bottles. Chances are, if you strum without caring about synthetic additives and prefer to drink more wine for less money, The Waves may not be for you.
The final verdict on The Waves wine club
I really appreciate The Waves’ transparency when it comes to how they define the wines they offer. I also really liked their selection, which leans more towards the adventurous than the well-known, but still offers plenty of approachable, classic wines. The low cost of maintaining this service makes it easy to just sit back and let them deliver your wines to you every month. Overall, I think this is a carefully crafted wine subscription program that can appeal to a wide range of wine lovers. I’ll drink to that.
If you are new to The Waves and want to test the watersuse code WAVE20 for a $20 double barrel discount and 20% off your first order.