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Merchants get creative as they continue to sell wine during COVID-19 uncertainty

British and American wine merchants are turning to delivery as Coronavirus fears force customers to stay at home...

Wine merchants, retailers and producers on both sides of the Atlantic are pivoting their business models to offer delivery to customers during lockdowns and restrictions on movement brought upon by the global Corona virus pandemic.

While many have always offered a delivery service and are simply upping their game by offering free delivery to local customers or slashing delivery fees, some are getting on the delivery bandwagon for the first time and others are coming up with creative ways of servicing their customers during these unique times.

Most independent merchants in the UK are offering free local and national delivery (often with a 6 bottle or £50 minimum order – do check with your local indie) with an increasing number curating special mixed cases to deliver or have ready for collection.

Martinez Wine in Yorkshire, for example, is offering a six bottle ‘Corona case’ with free local delivery for £75, which includes wines from the Loire, Franschhoek, California and Rioja. Wine Therapy in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, meanwhile, has teamed up with other nearby independent businesses – including a butcher and baker – to deliver a food and wine parcel to self-isolating locals.

If you can get out of the house but don’t fancy getting out of the car and live in Norfolk, Flint Vineyard near Bungay is offering a drive through wine service.

‘If you’d be up for driving past the tasting room window to stock up on wine and possibly a ’15 Mile goodie bag’ of local cheese, charcuterie and artisan bread, then let us know! Could be your Friday night in sorted and you wouldn’t need to leave your car,’ says Flint’s Hannah Witchell.

Another English producer helping customers out during this tricky time is Ridgeview in Sussex which has postponed all its on-site tours and tastings but has made its full range of wines available to order online with complimentary next-day delivery, no matter the size or order. ‘We are all in this together and feel confident that our customers may need a little sparkle in the lives from time-to-time to see them through,’ they say.

Historic wine merchants Corney & Barrow is busy planning an array of upcoming offers ‘whether for the cellar or to keep you stocked through the coming months’, so keep an eye on their website and social media for this. ‘It may be increasingly difficult to ‘eat out’ but we are very happy to help with your ‘drinking in’,’ says Managing Director Adam Brett-Smith

Majestic has confirmed that despite ‘almost unprecedented demand’ its local store delivery is continuing to run as usual – free if 6 or more bottles are ordered – although its superstore in Calais has closed its doors for the foreseeable future.

Great Western Wine have dropped their free delivery threshold down from £100 to £50 and are promising ‘strong offers’.

APRIL UPDATE: In addition to the above, the following UK merchants and independents are also offering delivery, special deals and more during these unprecedented times:

Taurus Wines: The home counties independent offers a free local delivery service on orders over £100 or of 12 bottles or more with orders often delivered the same day. ‘Our own drivers have been given additional hygiene-on-delivery training, however if you have concerns about viral transmission or minimising contact with others, we can arrange ‘contactless’ local deliveries on an order-by-order basis,’ it says.

Wanderlust Wine: Wanderlust is offering a contactless doorstep drop service. ‘We are now as standard offering a ‘doorstep drop’ service,’ says the organic and biodynamic specialist. ‘Drivers have been instructed to operate on a minimal contact basis to minimise any risk that is present.’ You can save 5% on your order by using the code ‘STOCKUP’.

Berry Bros. & Rudd: ‘As social distancing prevents us from offering our customers direct interaction with our producers and suppliers and following the lock-down of No.3 St James’s Street at the end of last week, we are challenged to be increasingly innovative and creative in finding ways to stay connected,’ says the famous wine merchant. In order to stay in touch with customers BBR has launched a series of producer videos which will air via Instagram. Keep an eye on @berrybrosrudd for more details.

Newcomer: ‘We will be offering a takeaway and delivery service on all of our wines, beers and ciders at the shop on Dalston Lane,’ says London’s Newcomer wines. ‘All our wines are available for delivery within 5 miles of our shop and all orders will be shipped via couriers during opening hours.’ A no-contact delivery option is available on request.

Lea & Sandeman: The famous merchant is very much open for business and delivering nationwide. Its team has put together a mixed case of delicious ‘wine-rack essentials’ to keep you going. ‘In these unsettling times we at L&S have been taking great comfort in our old favourites, those brilliant wines that we find ourselves going back to again and again. These really are some of our most popular wines, with great drinkability and full of joy – guaranteed to raise your spirits as we all lie low.’

Armit Wines: Armit has launched an ‘At-Home Masterclass’ which offers an educational way to enjoy wines from its portfolio during lockdown. ‘With wine schools, tastings and events all closed, Armit Wines is offering customers the chance to explore different grape varieties from around the world with its At-Home Masterclass,’ it says. The masterclass features six wines and showcases two single grape varieties (Chenin Blanc and Grenache) over three locations across the world in varying climates with different pairs of hands tending to the vines.

Berkmann Wine Cellars: A new initiative from Berkmann sees the importer offering a direct to customer service. The new initiative is called ‘Help 4 Hospitality’ and Berkmann will donate a 12.5% share of every sale to the hospitality industry during the pandemic, with The Drinks Trust and Hospitality Action charities benefitting. ‘The campaign gives consumers access to the exclusive Berkmann portfolio so consumers can enjoy restaurant quality wine in the comfort of their home,’ says Berkmann. It is the first time in the company’s 56-year history it has opened up its wine cellar to consumers.

67 Pall Mall: The London-based private members club for the wine trade is opening its digital doors to non-members to offer online wine tasting masterclasses, tastings and discussions. Three times a week it will host virtual sessions hosted by industry experts and the club’s top sommeliers. Jane Anson and Jasper Morris MW host upcoming sessions.

See also: Ask Decanter: How to buy wine online – do’s and don’t’s

USA merchants

In America demand for wine is just as high, and a number of wine bars which have been forced to close their doors are switching their business models.

New York City’s La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels is offering its complete wine list for takeaway or delivery at 25% the list price with the bar’s staff taking care of deliveries across the Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens areas. It is planning on setting up  a ‘wine bootcamp’ video series on YouTube which will offer virtual wine tastings.

On the west coast in San Francisco The Morris restaurant is offering customers a ‘curbside pickup’ service for any wine on its long list and have set-up an email sommelier consultation service.

In Dallas Biagio Wine & Spirits is seeing an increase in its delivery orders (7-mile radius, minimum purchase $20). General manager Dan Fredman told the Dallas News: ‘Delivery orders are increasing both in overall numbers of orders as well as the amount of spirits/wine people are buying in each order.’

Another Dallas retailer – 38 & Vine in Fort Worth’s Foundry District – is offering doorstep deliveries of wine for those keen to ‘stay at home and beat the crowds’.

No-one on either side of the pond is yet to offer wine deliveries by drone (it’s only a matter of time with outfits like Amazon Air constantly developing technology in this field) but a UK-based craft beer merchant is pushing its door-to-door kegged beer and cocktails growler service. Weekly refills will be available from its mobile bar in Bucks and Herts areas with London deliveries planned soon.

What is your local independent merchant offering? Share with us on Twitter @Decanter

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