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How to buy wine online – ask Decanter

Online purchasing makes things very convenient – especially for large quantities of wine – but you also don’t want to make an expensive mistake. With the outbreak of COVID-19 steering us even more towards buying more online, the experts share the do's and don't's....

How to buy wine online – ask Decanter

  • Do your research on the wines
  • Check the delivery conditions and options
  • Make sure you’ve researched the company, and the competition
  • If you like a particular merchant or wine, then sign up to email alerts to receive early news of special offers
  • Your local wine shop may have recently started delivery – check the website or social media

Ewan Murray, from The Wine Society, which was named Decanter Online Retailer of the year 2018 and 2019, asked the merchant’s members to explain some of the reasons for buying wine online.

‘The benefit of buying online is that you can research the wines at your leisure – producers, vintages, tasting notes, online reviews from press, or other wine drinkers,’ said Murray, reporting back on the responses he received.

‘In store you’re relying on your existing knowledge or advice of staff which varies enormously, depending on the store.’

Peter Richards MW, chairman of the Decanter Retailer Awards, said, ‘In the Decanter Retailer Awards, we look for retailers who engage people in a way that can only be done online.’

That said, striking up a relationship with your local wine shop owner can be a great way of exploring new wine styles if you happen to live near one. The COVID-19 outbreak has lead many local wine bars, shops and restaurants to offer delivery, so check if your favourite is and show your support.


Richards added, ‘A lot of what we look for when we’re judging the online category at the Decanter Retailer Awards is based around service.

‘Delivery is obviously hugely important when it comes to online. How flexible will the retailer be, how expensive, are their delivery drivers courteous and not prone to breakages?’

If you live outside of a city, online wine ordering can be a big help; although look out for extra delivery costs in some rural areas.

‘Online wine buying is a no-brainer for those who live in a remote location,’ said Murray.

‘And you’ll likely find more variety online than you will ever find in a single ‘bricks and mortar’ store, particularly if the online merchant specialises in a given region.’

Instant or same-day delivery, via companies such as Deliveroo and Uber, is also growing as a sector, albeit largely within major cities such as London and New York at present.

See also: How to buy wine – do’s and don’ts of the wine shop

What to watch out for

‘Make sure you don’t go all guns blazing on one online company until you’ve checked them out thoroughly and compared them with the competition,’ Murray.

Richards added, ‘Be wary of signing up to ‘deals’ or commitments that will tie you in. You should retain control at all times – never be made to feel you are committed beyond a level you’re comfortable with.’

A note about en primeur

If you’re buying en primeur online then it’s arguably even more important that you research the credentials of the company that you’re buying from.

Decanter contributor Jim Budd, who has written widely on the risks of wine fraud, said in a previous article back in 2010, ‘My advice is to buy en primeur only from well-established companies with a track record.’

Taste is the best way to judge

‘Ultimately, of course, the best way to judge an online retailer is in the quality of the wine,’ said Richards.

‘When you sit down and pour a glass, is it delicious? If so, you’re probably on the right track.’

First published in October 2018.

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