In that time, we’ve learned a thing or two about the benefits — and pitfalls — of shopping for wine online.
On the plus side, there has never been a better time to be a wine buyer! The resources available to wine consumers today, from extensive tasting notes by the pros and pro-amateurs alike, to wine search and price comparison engines and deals sites, are leaps and bounds better than what was available just a few years ago. And that’s not to mention the dramatically increased access to stellar wines from all corners of the world.
But, it’s not all rosy, or rosé, if you will… (Sorry, I’m a sucker for wordplay).
The laws governing direct-to-consumer shipments vary from state to state, and they’re different for wineries vs. retailers. All of this, for obvious reasons, can be terribly frustrating for wine buyers.
While it would great for everyone if whining in a blog post was all it took to change the wine shipping laws in this country, then you have my word — I’d carry that baton.
Unfortunately, that’s a much bigger conversation than I had in mind for today’s post.
Today, I thought I’d focus on some practical solutions to an issue that affects all wine buyers: shipping costs.
Next to shipping laws, shipping costs are probably the #1 thing that makes buying wine online prohibitive for many buyers. (And, for retailers, a hurdle to greater sales to other parts of the country).
Again, though, there are a number of resources at your disposal and tactics you can use to get around or at least lessen the impact of shipping costs on your online wine purchases.
1) Search & Compare Prices
Wine search engines like winefetch.com or wine-searcher.com can help you identify significant price breaks and/or compare prices from retailers across the country. Shop in-state or in nearby states and you can typically lessen shipping costs.
2) Sign Up For Local Deals
Wine closeout or deals sites (new ones seem to pop up every day) offer great prices, though you obviously don’t have a say in what products are offered. If you don’t care for that day’s offer, or are looking for a particular wine, you’re out of luck and they just wasted your time filling up your inbox.
A lot of people find them beneficial, though, and they can be a great way to try new wines without paying full retail. Your mileage may vary.
You might be better off signing up for your local wine store’s email newsletter or following them on Facebook or Twitter. Many stores provide special offers to their fans or followers (Retailers: If you don’t, you should) and are often just as competitive as the deals-only sites with the occasional doorbuster. Plus, no shipping costs.
3) Buy In Bulk
If you’re looking for a more expensive bottle, and find it somewhere at a significant discount, great — jump on it. Do a quick search on one of those wine search engines above to make sure it’s actually a good price, and you’re not just being marketed to, i.e. “25% Off!” on a bottle whose price has already been marked up higher than most competitors. If you can’t get the bottle where you live and the discount negates any shipping costs, you win.
On the other end of the spectrum, an old industry tip: If there’s a certain bottle you love that’s under $20, BUY A CASE! Or at least a 6-pack. Many wine shops offer free shipping over a certain dollar amount and/or discounts when you buy a case (Retailers: Again, if you don’t, you should).
Example: You find a $17 bottle on sale for $13. Ordering a single bottle, with shipping costs anywhere from $10-15 — not that exciting, despite being “20%” or “25% Off!”
But, order a case of that same bottle, and save $4/bottle, or $48 a case, and now a $25 or $30 shipping cost doesn’t seem so bad.
So, in short:
- search and compare prices before you buy
- shop locally when possible
- buy in bulk when appropriate