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Friday, October 26, 2012

How To Buy Wine Online - It's Not As Hard As You Think!

For many of us online shopping has become a big part of our lives. And while buying from Amazon has become the norm, you may still be hesitant about shifting your wine buying online – after all, this is precious cargo we’re talking about here! But buying wine online doesn’t have to be intimidating. It can, however, take some work and has some caveats. Here are some tips and tricks that should help you begin the process painlessly.

How To Buy Wine Online - It's Not As Hard As You Think!
Buying wine the easy way!

Step 1 : Make sure you’re in a state where you can receive wine shipments through the mail!
For most states this is an all or nothing proposition, but there are a few states that will allow intrastate shipments but not shipments from other states, or even where the rules are different by region within a state. The Wine Institute has lots of helpful information here.

Step 2: Make sure someone will be home to sign for your shipment!
This is required by law in most states. Receiving these shipments at work can be a problem for many of us and in most areas UPS/FedEx will not deliver alcohol to a neighbor’s house – the shipment has to be physically signed by someone at the recipient address. (We’ll discuss one possible solution to this later.)

Assuming you’ve cleared Step 1 and 2 you most likely fall into one of two groups:
  • You’re willing to try lots of different types of wine and are just trying to find the best deals.
  • You know the wine you want and just want to find the best price.
Let's discuss the best strategies for each group.

Looking For a Deal
In this case, you’re not so much concerned with the varietal or the vintage, you’re just trying to score some great wine at a great price. If this is you then you’ll definitely want to check out the “flash” wine sites like WineShopper as well as wine clubs like Club W, Plonk Wine Club or NakedWines.com. (P.S. New sign-ups get discounts through these affiliate links!) It may take a bit of waiting to find the right deal, but these sites typically buy large amounts of a given wine at special pricing passing on at least a portion of that discount to you.

One note of caution: shipping cost can be killer. To the extent you can, take advantage of large quantity buys to lower the shipping cost per bottle – or better yet buy during promotional free shipping periods some sites offer. And be sure to watch The Reverse Wine Snob for exclusive free shipping deals from our sponsors, including one of our favorite online retailers Marketview Liquor!

You Know What You Want
In this case, you can get a lot more specific with your search. Wine-Searcher.com is a great resource for finding the lowest price sellers (and local retailers). All of our reviews here on the site include a link to the Wine-Searcher results page to make this super easy. In addition, we also now include a link to our favorite online retailer, Marketview Liquor, for wines that they sell online as their prices tend to be consistently at or near the lowest around.

Beyond this, probably the best advice I can give to the “Know What You Want” group is simply to go direct to the winery when you can. While the opportunities to do this are limited, many wineries have member clubs that gain you special privileges. For example, wineries like Andrew Murray Vineyard or Bonny Doon Vineyard offer clubs that give deep discounts on wine as well as other perks like free shipping on some orders.

Perhaps the best part about going direct; however, is that you know you are supporting a winery you love. The wineries themselves make more money on these orders, so you’re helping to ensure they prosper and make more of their delicious vino!

A couple final considerations:
  • Temperature — Heat is wine’s worst enemy so you’ll want to avoid having wine shipped when the temps are over 80 degrees. And remember, it’s not just your temperature that’s important but also the areas where your wine will travel.

    One helpful hint is that if you have the tracking info Fedex and UPS will both hold packages for you at their (air conditioned) locations so you can avoid wine sitting on hot delivery trucks all day. Fedex will also hold your package for pickup at any Print and Ship offices (Kinko’s) at no charge. UPS has a nice new MyChoice service that will alert you a couple days before packages arrive (even if you didn't know they were coming) and allow you to reschedule delivery or hold for pick-up before the first attempt. Having the wine held for pickup is also great if you’re at work all day and not home to sign for it. [UPDATE: Fedex now offers the same service that alerts you to when packages are coming and let's you have it held for pick-up before a delivery is ever attemtped.]
  • Buy from a reputable source – The last thing you want to worry about is paying for damaged shipments. Check out consumer reviews before you buy to make sure your chosen retailer is legit. Saving a couple dollars isn’t worth it if the store doesn’t stand behind their product.

Happy shopping!

You may also want to read my article on "Where To Find The Wine I Recommend In 5 Easy Steps Or Less".

Note: This is a revised and updated version of a guest post that originally appeared at the Crushpad blog, which is no longer in existence and the reason it has been re-published here!

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