Wine Merchant Directory Blog


How to Buy Wine Online

The usual advice you get from wine experts on how to buy wine often includes tips like: 

  • Find a local shop with knowledgeable staff and follow their suggestions.

  • Try a bunch of different things and stick with what you like.

  • Look at the back label and trust your favorite importers.

That’s all pretty good advice! If you happen to live near a good wine merchant, by all means please go, get to know them and follow those tips.

Maybe you’re always so busy that you just don’t have time to walk over to a local shop. There is also the challenge of bringing the heavy bottles back home. Maybe you’re worried about the prices or selection at your neighborhood shop. So, you shop local when you just need to grab something quick for tonight’s dinner, but you like to go to an online store with a larger selection for your more significant purchases. 

Whatever the reason, if you’re reading this then you probably will buy wine from time to time online. So here are five tips on how to shop for wine online.

Browse their “Shelves”

The browsing and filtering capabilities on ecommerce sites seem as though they were practically invented for online wine shopping. Take full advantage - perhaps you’re after a Sauvignon Blanc for under £25, virtually any decent online wine retailer will let you enter your required parameters into their search functions. If you choose to shop with a retailer with a large enough selection, you should easily find what you are looking for. 

Let the Shop Share Information with You

This is the single best thing about shopping online instead of in-store. A good online wine store will have tons of information for you to browse and absorb. There’s no rush to get out the door or through the line at home, so take your time to explore the site! Learn about a wine before you purchase it, then you can reinforce that knowledge with your palate once the wine comes in! 

Walking around a physical wine store can be pleasant and it’s nice to talk to people, but you’ll never get the sheer amount of information you can online.

Expect Bumps Along the Way

No matter how essential, shopping for wine online will never be quite as easy as shopping for, say, bread or toilet roll. 

Unless you are buying factory-made wine, then you are shopping for a limited-production agricultural product that changes every single year. You could be eagerly awaiting your delivery, but the shipment could arrive with incorrect bottles. 

So, what’s going on? It’s not a simple answer, frankly. It could be many things, but most often it boils down to allocations, human error, or a conflict between the online and brick and mortar inventories.

Say a merchant is allocated 24 bottles of a wine and that will be it for the vintage. So many things can go wrong: 

  1. Maybe the two bottles are being purchased in-store moments before you purchase them online. 

  2. Perhaps those two bottles have already walked out the door, accidentally sold as some other wine. 

  3. And maybe there are obvious problems like theft and breakage, or human error entering data into the system.

Form a Relationship

The first three tips were very specific to online shopping. This one is not, but it’s very important. Many people think that it does not apply to online shopping, so it’s definitely worth another shout. Establish a relationship!

Sign up for their newsletter and read the emails they send that seem interesting to you. Then, make them your friends! 

This relationship is important because many wine merchants continue to withhold some of their most interesting wine offerings from their website. If they receive a highly sought-after wine they are far more likely to email an offer to a customer with whom they have a relationship than they are to simply list the wine online. 

But more importantly, online shopping does not mean that you have to forego the advice of a wine merchant! As you respond to offers or email about customer service issues, you are likely to establish an email relationship with someone. Hopefully you will figure out what they like and dislike as they discover the same about you. 

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