Attention online shoppers: While the Supreme Court ruling on interstate wine sales (Granholm v. Heald, May 2005), didn’t exactly open the floodgates, more people can now purchase wine online. The best wine-buying sites offer reviews, are easy to navigate, have good search engines, and offer prompt shipping. Here are some of CHOW’s favorites.
Note: If you are looking for bargains or a specific wine, be sure to check out price-comparison sites like Wine-Searcher.com and WineZap. Avoid the “wine clubs” offered by retailers and mail-order vendors. These are often just used to dump marked-up, undesirable wines.
Finally, a word about shipping. The Supreme Court ruling deemed it illegal for states to prohibit consumers from having wine shipped to them across state lines while still allowing in-state shipment. However, this is not as simple and straightforward as it sounds. Not only do laws and regulations on interstate wine shipment vary from state to state, but they can also be quite confusing. Here is a simple guide to reference before ordering wine from an online site. For more details about the variances from state to state, check out the Wine Institute, a thorough and informative reference.
PJ Wine—Known for screaming deals on premium and hard-to-find bottles, this site lists the best wines to buy under $10, $20, and $30. It also has an exceptional clearance section.
Geerlings & Wade—This site deals directly with hundreds of wineries, so its prices are sometimes 30 to 50 percent below those of other retailers. It also suggests food pairings for the wines it sells.
WineBid.com—Some older vintages and rare bottlings are most readily available at auction, and online auction sites charge lower commissions than their traditional counterparts. WineBid.com is the best of the bunch, with some unbelievable deals on older wines and a good selection of fine, rare wines. The staff appraises each bottle that’s up for auction, and includes ratings and comments from respected critics.
K&L Wine Merchants—This Northern California–based retailer has a notable list of international wines, but its domestic selection has few rivals. Known for small production and rare California bottlings, K&L has reasonable prices too. It’s a great site if you need buying suggestions; the site offers a list of the most popular wines and a monthly “Top 10 Wine List” chosen by its knowledgeable staff.
FinestWine.com—As its name implies, this site targets the serious connoisseur, specializing in both fine and rare wines (with many offerings from the 19th century). The advanced-search feature allows you to shop by producer, region, country, bottle size, varietal, price, and/or vintage.
Sherry-Lehmann—East Coast shoppers have been enjoying the wide range of wines available at Sherry-Lehmann’s Manhattan store since 1935. Now buyers nationwide can get their hands on the store’s more than 7,000 different wines from 20 countries. With wines ranging from $6 to $3,000, shoppers will be able to find obvious and not-so-obvious wine picks.
Wine.com—The site has 10 warehouses across the country, allowing for shipment to 26 states. Specializing in wines with vintages younger than 1995, this site is one of the better places to find both well-known and popular labels at affordable prices.