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How to buy wine online - your thoughts sought


#1

Decanter magazine are writing a small piece on how to buy wine online and have asked us to comment. I’m only going to keep this thread open for a day, but thought I’d seek the Community’s hive mind and garner your thoughts - after all, I rarely buy wine online, I just pop to the showroom! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

• Do you have any particular pieces of advice for buying wines online?
• What are the common mistakes to avoid?
• Are there any times it’s best to go in-store?

Thanks.


#2

For me it’s all about being able to research, research, research when buying online. You rarely have the chance to do that in a shop and rely much more on existing knowledge or advice of staff

When buying online (prob 85% of my purchases) I rely on a trusted list of producers, a few vintage charts and notes and online reviews

Of course the holy grail is to be able to do all that research then collect in person and save on postage :slight_smile:


#3

I would definitely agree with @NickP that the ability to do research is key…but would also include price as a key element to be able to check and compare, and to always consider shipping charges (an area where TWS excels as I’ll always build up an order to meet their low free shipping threshold)

Whilst I do like to browse the shelves of a wine shop, the only times I tend to actually make a purchase are when I need something quickly, or if I need a gift and don’t have anything suitable at home (I am lucky to work a few doors down from BBR so have a few options on my doorstep)


#4

My only advice would be make sure you buy from TWS…:wine_glass::wine_glass::wine_glass::wine_glass:


#5

I’d agree with Nick P’s comment. The biggest advantage with online ordering is being able to do the research. I occasionally see what look like great deals in supermarkets - Brunello or Barolo for £20 etc - but I always want to check on the producer before making the purchase.

I always look at cellartracker.com for reviews, but also google to see what other reviews I can find. If I can find reviews on the wine but for other vintages, I’ll often check Jancis’ vintage guides to give me an idea of how this might compare.

There are two big advantages to going instore. Firstly, you might find interesting wines available to taste - I can’t see technology advancing quickly enough to enable us to do that online for a while yet. Also, you do sometimes find ridiculous bin end bargains that aren’t listed online for some retailers. My favourite example was picking up multiple bottles of 2007 Chateau Le Boscq in my local Co-op for £7 each. This wasn’t a deal I could have got online.


#6

I agree on research, and would always research wines on line before buying in shop. (So any physical shop which doesn’t have an online list has to offer extensive tasting.)
I have had almost uniform bad experiences of ordering on line, from both good merchants (L&W) and bad: wrong bottles, wrong time…, so I avoid it, and would not have joined TWS if I didn’t live within reasonable distance of Stevenage. I have tried it once for delivery, and aside from the fact that it substituted a courier for the promised own van, it worked. (Exception: Wines of Uruguay which is fast, accurate, and low cost delivery; highly recommended, if you have had a chance to taste their wines.)
I now tend to want to have tasted anything I order, so my strategy with TWS is accumulate a list from tastings, previous years, etc., then order and collect, and use the opportunity to investigate whatever is in the enomatics to start the list for next time.


#7

For me there are a number of factors:

  1. As everyone else has said - research immediately to hand covering: vintage quality, location, producer notes, drinking window, tasting notes etc… A good wine merchant should be able to provide me all of these things but might lose patience with me after I’ve been browsing for an hour and asked for details on the 40th bottle! Which brings me to:

  2. No pressure. I can browse at my leisure and comfort with no one looking over my shoulder trying to be helpful. Okay I can’t actually pickup and hold the bottle which, although always a pleasure, is not essential to my selection. See thread on labels selling the wine!

  3. Location. I live in the Highlands and the nearest wine shop to me is 25 miles away. This applies to an awful lot of my shopping not just wine.

Main downside is that it can, I think, be much easier to get carried away and buy too much than when actually picking up the bottles in the shop!


#8

Online gives you a much wider choice of wines and prices, and it does not necessarily mean buying from one of the usual-suspect large online retailers. Quite often I finish up buying from smaller companies who specialise in a particular country/region, or even small merchants with a high street presence (just not MY high street). Sometimes the smaller guys are even a bit cheaper. And if you want personal advice, many can be contacted by phone.

My experience online is very different from @SPmember - I very rarely have bad experiences. In fact I have probably had worse experiences with physical wine shops - wine not in stock, ordered wine not materialising, being bullshitted, persistent upselling, being offered wine from the window display, staff who are obviously drunk. Not all are like that of course, and that list of examples has been accumulated over many years. But I am talking about “better” wine merchants not local offies, and it’s another reason I shop online.


#9

With wine, as with all online purchases, I only buy through trusted sites - predominantly those like TWS, BBR - I occasionally use the high street supermarkets sites (Waitrose and Tesco) there are a few independents I like to use…but in the flesh…sometimes buying is partially about the experience…not the pretty picture and gushing words online

Hope that helps ?


#10

My wine buying habits have changed since the web

I used to buy “bottles” (usually 1, possibly up to 3) by going into a shop when I know I needed wine for an occasion.

There are physical sellers who used to only sell by the case who changed my habits on occasion because I was forced to … so I bought wine to keep for a future drinking occasion. I still needed to go there to “browse” and fill the case based on chats, labels, and offers.

Then the internet came along and I started to realise that it was good to have a variety of wine to drink at home so it was better to buy “in advance” so I started looking out for recommendations.

The biggest problem was that I might come across a wine that sounded great, but was available in only a few places. As I did not wish to pay a fortune on a per-bottle basis I would have had to buy in bulk, but that didn’t fit my budget. I don’t want to buy lots of bottles I’ve not tried before, and anyway I drink different wines, not lots of the same.

I therefore was really only interested in the best suggestions that were available from the kind of places where I could buy more than one wine at a time to fill the case to make the purchase worthwhile.

So the web is my tool for gathering suggestions, coordinating multiple purchases into one, and saving on delivery.

Now that I have the community as well as the website, I have multiplied the benefits of “suggestion gathering” to add to the “saving on delivery” and “coordinating delivery from one supplier” available from TWS.

Not sure if this helps, but … that’s me


#11

I use my phone an awful lot in store for research - using either websites or apps to get info to verify my “hunch” on a great value for money (note I didn’t say cheap!) bottle…or 6…even 12 :slight_smile:


#12

Thanks, all - excellent comments, and more than enough for me to be going back with. I’ll close the thread soon, but if anyone wants to add any more pearls, please do :slight_smile:


#13

This is probably the biggest reason for me preferring to buy wine on-line. I am rubbish at chit-chat, especially if I’m trying to concentrate or ponder or make decisions. I love the fact that I can decide what wines I want, in my own time without feeling pressurised (however gently) to buy this or that.
Even the shops I do physically go to (Majestic, and local wine shops such as Quaff and Symposium) - I usually only do so once I discovered something I like on their website. A bit ‘safe’, but works for me.


#14

I quite like self checking my buying decisions against crowd sourced knowledge via https://www.vivino.com/wine-news/vivino-ratings-explained

  • its lacking bias. The ratings have no incentives behind them. sponsorship etc.
  • diversification effect of crowd sourced information (no single author / single tasting driving the rating)

Also their phone app including wine bottle label scanner to quickly look up ratings is a life saver (but that doesn’t apply to online)


#15

For me the biggest factor in buying online is trust.

I have to trust that the wine stocked has been selected by people that know their job, the marketing blurb is honest and the retailer isn’t just trying to flog any old stuff at whatever price they can get away with.

That’s the reason why TWS is one of the two places I buy my wine from.


#16

I love the fact that you can buy individual bottles to try from TWS, many other online retails only do 6 or 12 boxes which are only of interest if I know the wine well and/or have enough to afford the outlay. I sometimes go back for a larger quantity after a try out. I rarely use other online retailers and generally just scour local wine merchants and supermarkets for bin ends and bargains.


#17

I agree with the sentiments above.

Trust in the provider is a major factor I want to be able to buy with the confidence that someone is not trying to ‘sell’ me a wine just because they have a target to meet.

Plus reasonable delivery prices. TWS free if over £75 is fantastic.


#18

I do buy online when it’s the only way to get a wanted wine

Problems:
1 - Description. Supermarkets don’t give a vintage
2) - Minimum order - usually at least 6
3) - Cost of delivery
4) - Knowing when it will be delivered so one’s in to accept it. Supermarkets are good in offering 1 hour slots, but in past I’ve had to drive many miles to a delivery company’s depot to collect an order.

I’d rather see the wine on the shelf, read the front and back label and take the wine home myself


#19

I purchase probably 95% of my wine online. The upside is as @NickP says, you can put your research into practice by gaining as much knowledge on vintages, producers and styles and ordering what appeals to YOU and not what a shop currently has on their shelves. By doing this you are hugely widening your options . You are also discovering new and upcoming regions you will NEVER see on a supermarket shelf and gaining knowledge all the time simply by purchasing online.

The only downside is shipping, NOT I will stress TWS but I currently have a half smashed case stuck in Belgium from another merchant which I’m trying to sort out. That’s the downside of ordering from abroad but with UK merchants it is MUCH easier. I would also like to add that with TWS promise it is hassle free when wine needs to be returned. Have you ever tried returning a “corked” wine to a supermarket ???:rofl::rofl:


#20

Similar thoughts from me: building and maintaining trust are key. And, even if they always involve having to take an initial risk, this can be mitigated by thorough research on the things that are important to you.

For me that’s often: who will be delivering it (certain carriers ring automatic alarm bells), and whether the vintage I’ve ordered is the one that will actually be despatched.

I take a punt on a few different new online providers every year depending on what I’m looking for. Four so far this year, and only one of them will never get repeat business.

All that said, in today’s fickle climate of instant gratification afforded by the internet, where it can take years to build and maintain brand equity and customer loyalty, it can also be irrevocably destroyed in an instant if consumers encounter poor customer service or user experience. Silly little things like sending a 30 day invoice for cellaring / storage one day, and having credit-control chase it the following day get right up my nose…

I shall of course always continue to order a good proportion of my wine from TWS, as it’s generally a cut above the rest on almost every basis!

Happy Tuesday :slight_smile: