BUYING WINE ON THE
web might not seem like the greatest of ideas. After all, your local wine merchant might also be able to give you creative wine suggestions for that curry chicken dinner you're cooking up this evening. Online merchants probably won't.
But people who regularly pick up wine at the local Costco or supermarket are often perfectly willing to go with old standbys or else wing it as long as the price is right.
If that describes you, then you might be pleasantly surprised by the online wine-buying experience. Here, you can read wine reviews and> get wines at discounts of 30% or more (often with free shipping, to boot). Here's how.
Browsing the Virtual Aisles
Before you peruse a site's wine selection, check out its shipping restrictions. Wine-shipping regulations are complex; you need to consider where the wine is being shipped from, as well as its destination. Costco.com, for example, ships wine to only six states, while Wine.com ships to 25. You might check out The Wine Web, which sells wines directly from the vineyards, and lets you narrow your search to wines that can be shipped to your state.
Consider buying a case.Depending on the vendor, you can easily get 10% to 20% off your order by buying wine in half cases (six bottles) or full cases (12 bottles). Buying a case doesn't mean you have to buy a dozen of the same vintage many companies let you mix and match.
Don't forget web coupons.You can find e-coupons for just about anything online, and wine is no exception. Before you start browsing, check web sites like e-Deal Finder, WOW Coupons or dealcatcher. (See chart below for select promotions.)
Deal and Promotions
|My Wines Direct||Free shipping on all orders.||Specializes in wines from small, limited-production wineries from around the world. All bottles retail for between $8 and $25.|
|Overstock.com||$15 off your order of $150 or more. Offer good through Sept. 30.
Every order ships for a flat rate of $2.95, no matter the weight or number of items.
|Unlike the rest of the mega-retailer's wares, the wines aren't vineyard "overstock" they're regular bottles that are sold through Overstock's affiliated vendors. There isn't much of a selection, but the choices are consistently 20% to 30% off.|
|Wine.com||Sign up for the site's e-newsletter and get 10% off your first order.
Get 10% off when you buy 12 or more bottles of select wines.
If you join one of the site's wine clubs ($19.99 to $49.99, depending on the club), you'll get additional discounts of 15% off reorders of club selections, 25% off mixed cases and 10% off all other purchases on the site.
|If you don't know much about wine, check out the site's huge variety of recommendation lists. The wine outlet highlights discount wines, and there are also lists based on employee recommendations, and top-rated and top-selling wines.|
|Wine Miles||10% off cases.
Join the free Wine Miles club to earn points for wine you buy whether at vineyards, restaurants or stores. Register your wine purchases to earn points. You'll also receive special offers from member vineyards.
|For the true oenophile: You can earn reward points for all your purchases, buy discounted wine and even make a "Wish List" of wines you want to try.|
Not All Cheap Wines Are Special
Some online wines are cheap because they aren't very good.
To separate the good from the bad, be sure to read the reviews. There aren't any tastings in cyberspace, so before you compare prices, find out what others think of the wine. Check out Wine Spectator and Wine Anthology for expert reviews. Want to know what the average drinker thinks? Look for the wine on The Wine Ratings Database for consumer recommendations. If you're looking for wines that were meant to be inexpensive, scour wine web sites for lists like Wine.com's "90+ point wines under $20," or The Wine Buyer's "Under $9.99."
Then, make sure you're getting the best price by typing the name and vintage of your chosen wine into a price searcher like Froogle or Shopping.com. To compare the price with what you'd pay in stores, check out Wine-Searcher.com. The site lets you search for wines by name and vintage.
We searched for 2002 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which was sold at the winery for $23, but currently retails elsewhere for about $25 to $30. Using Wine-Searcher.com, we found it in retail stores for as much as $31.99 (at The Wine Specialist in D.C.), and as little as $16.99 (Gary's Wine & Marketplace in New Jersey).
Price on the 2002 Robert Mondavi
|Joe Canal's (via WineAccess.com)||$16.39 (You'll save 29%.)|
|The Wine Buyer||$16.98 (You'll save 26%.)|
|The Wine Chateau (via WineCommune.com)||$20.00 (You'll save 13%.)|
|Total Wine & More (via WineAccess.com)||$16.37 (You'll save 29%.)|
|Wine Club Central (by Napa Cabs)||$17.95 (You'll save 22%.)|
|Wine Library||$16.99 (You'll save 26%.)|