Where are the best places to buy wine? Where do you get the best deal? Should you go direct to the winery online or visit your local wine shop or specialty grocery? Where do big box retailers and membership clubs fit into the mix? I went shopping at a variety of stores, both online and brick and mortar to find the answers.
I did have some pre-conceived ideas. My hypothesis was that buying online direct from the winery would provide the best prices and the best selection, but shipping would be a hassle and add considerable cost and delay. Local wine shops and specialty grocery stores would be the most expensive, offer a reasonable selection and provide the most personal service. Big box stores and wholesale clubs would offer great prices on a limited selection and absolutely no service at all.
I was surprised by the results. The chart below shows the bottle price for identical wine purchased from a variety of outlets. These are nice everyday wines and not high-end wines you might splurge on for a special celebration.
Prices shown do not include sales tax or shipping. My hypothesis was completely wrong. The biggest spread came from wineries that sold direct online and also through distribution. Buying direct from those wineries online was always the most expensive way to buy their wine. (Of course, it should be noted that it’s not always easy to find a specific coveted bottle unless you’re buying directly from the winery.) Overall the spread ranged from a high of 68% more, to a low of 9% more, with an average of 32% more across the board. Once you add in shipping, the spread grows even more. Amazon, which is known for its aggressive pricing was right in the middle of the pack. They do have a 1 cent shipping promotion, but it is limited to very few wines. In fairness to wineries, members of their Wine Clubs do receive discounts on pricing of 10% to 15% or more, depending upon order size and sometimes special shipping deals too.
As you would expect, service was best at my local wine shop, specialty wine store and upscale grocery. Advise ranging from “if you like this, then you should try this”; to “this winery is relatively unknown, but makes some great wines, at a range of price points”. Overall pricing is a little bit more expensive, but not too much.
My local big box grocery and general merchandise store has just re-done their wine department and added a wine cheese cooler, a limited selection of $35 to $100 per bottle higher end wines and point of purchase displays featuring simple red and white wine guides. Sam’s Club has done something similar for years, with large displays highlighting the taste profiles of various varietals and suggesting appropriate food pairings.
While nothing beats a trip to the winery to buy wine, brick and mortar wins the battle for best place to buy everyday wine. The costs to comply with state and local laws, additional shipping regulations, as well as creating and maintaining a commerce ready web site is a major cost for many small to medium size wineries.
Where have you found the best wine buys? Are you a member of a winery wine club? Are the deals worth the cost? Share your insights and experiences with others here at winecraze.com by commenting below.