Readers often ask where I get my wines, particularly after posting tasting notes on some great values from around the world. Start with the big box stores (e.g., Costco) and local wine merchants. For expanding my horizons and to enjoy sorting through a plethora of daily offers in search of unheralded discoveries, I subscribe to newsletters and feeds from major online and direct-to-consumer (DTC) merchants.
The latter are sometimes called Flash Sale sites. They issue hot offers more than one time a day. They promote a good wine at a discount price, sometimes driven by a winery or a distributor seeking to unload inventory when new wines are getting ready to enter the sales pipeline. The offers are compelling (and sometimes grossly over-written with too many superlatives about “this latest palate-busting blockbuster). For validity, the pitches include great tasting notes, ratings by critics, showing how much the wine has been discounted versus the winery and other web sources, free shipping (based on the size of the order) and urgent call to buy before the limited supply is gone.
On a typical day, I’ll see 15 to 20 offers, some customized based on my purchasing habits and clever marketing algorithms. If you are so inclined to pursue these sources, the challenge is to be disciplined and think about needs (personal, family, friends, gifts, parties, gifts) and estimated consumption over time, say six months, and wines to save for years.
From Daily to Celebration Wines
One approach is to think about categories, such as: daily wines, weekend wines, celebration wines, and collectibles, including interest wines at lower prices to taste over time and see how they evolve (Mendoza Malbecs, Sonoma Chardonnay, mid-priced California Cabernet or Haut-Medoc from Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Cotes du Rhone, Brunellos, Riojas and more).
The sites make it so easy to buy that your FedEx and UPS drivers will think you are running an illegal wine bar in your home or office. The trash people could wonder if you have parties every week. Finally, consider storage. How many bottles can you store, and where?
Register with a couple to get a feel for their offers and perhaps find something that strikes your fancy. I probably buy two times a month or more from these flash sale merchants. For personal use, a wine club I belong to and gifts. If you find something you like, some of the sites have relationships with distributors and wineries so you can see the same wine from a different vintage on the blocks the next year (I have a vertical of a Napa Valley red, Encantado).
- Garagiste. Based in Seattle. Great array of imports and finds from the U.S. and abroad. I’ve purchased bargain reds from them, up to Premier Cru Burgundy and high-end Rhones and Montepulcianos. Daily emails. Extensive, compelling and sometimes hyperbolic descriptions of most of their finds. Fun reading. Easy to click through and buy. Go fast!
- Wines Till Sold Out. Several daily emails on bargains from throughout the world. They get wine from distributors and wineries trying to clear inventory with new wines getting ready to sell. So, discounts can be 25 to over 50 percent. They have free shipping when you buy four or six bottles, depending upon the offer and total cost. I’ve recently purchased Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and some Italian reds from WTSO. Delivery comes via UPS ground in a week.
Higher-Priced Wines, Imports
- Wine Access offers more high-end wines, or interesting finds such as smaller lots from major producers and small lots, from vineyards next to name brands and cult wines. Enjoyed excellent discoveries from Napa, Germany, Chablis, Bordeaux second labels and Bourgogne bargains.
- Invino has a good range of imports. Not to be confused with Vivino, which has a robust mobile phone app for ordering wines. I subscribe to their California email alerts, for one.
Here are my favorites for the higher-priced spreads, as they say in the grocery trade:
Finally, for validation before you hit the buy button, check Wine Searcher, where you can search for wines and best prices, from merchants everywhere. I use this site to check prices and to find a resource for anything from a new release to a rarity from afar, such as for a gift.