Buying Wine Online
Our Secret shopper takes a look at the major online wine stores, searching out the sites that are easy to use, offer good wine information, and offer good value for money on your wine. Scroll to the bottom of the page for details of the wines that were randomly chosen.
Tesco Wine Store
At first glance this site seems pretty darned good - there are plenty of ways browse through the wines; by country of origin, grape variety, wine type (i.e. red, white, sparkling, fortified, etc…), special offers, and case types. Unfortunately this good impression didn't last - when I started looking at the mixed case for the first comparison I was absolutely astounded to be unable to find out which wines made up the case!! The web page includes everything else you need; log in/registration request, 'Clubcard points' details, a comment from Tesco's wine expert, 'people who bought this also bought', suggestions for other items that may interest you, all really sensible, helpful stuff which makes the absence of the very simple and essential detail about what is actually in the case that I am thinking about buying even more absurd! Come on, get it together! This may just be an unfortunate one off as other cases have not had the same problem but even so… Also had a bit of a problem with the special offer dates - it seems you can only find out when the offer ends on cases other than the one you are looking at. With cases of one particular wine you can get a lot of information including; producer, winemaker, special diet, stopper type, alcohol content, storage instructions, history, winemaking details and regional info - good stuff for the wine buff (or bluff!). Some press cuttings available for selected wines. Overall this is a decent site - I particularly like the option to search by price per bottle, a good feature that makes it easy to compare the prices with what you are used to spending when you walk into an off-license or supermarket - but a couple of glitches are really irritating: I want to know when this special offer ends, I want to know exactly what wines are in this mixed case. I couldn't find anything about how quickly Tesco dispatch orders - you can book a time slot for delivery 7 days a week, that much I could find out, but now when they dispatch. Let's face it, we all know what Tesco are like and what to expect from them - they have a good and pretty extensive selection of bog standard wines but you will need a more specialized store for anything really special.
Waitrose Online Wine
Although this website is better looking than Tesco it doesn't seem quite as functional - the varieties of browse options on Tesco are not available on Waitrose's site. That said, the option to 'mix you own case' seems like a real bonus! And the search facility makes it easy to find a specific wine if you know what you're looking for. Amazingly Waitrose do not do a pre-mixed half case of Spanish red wine - this is especially amazing as they do offer cases of French, Cotes du Rhone, Bordeaux, Loire, Burgundy, Italian, and Chilean! The 'mix your own' case is only available in multiples of 12 so I couldn't even mix a half case for the purpose of comparison… Quite frankly I couldn't work out why so many of the wines I looked at were only available in full cases - especially after the Chateauneuf du Pape was available in a half case, until then I had thought maybe they only did full cases. There are lots of nice features - ask our experts, submit a review, grape varieties, wine know how, food matching and masters of wine - all of which will help you look like the expert or choose the right wine for your purpose. Oh, and when you do start browsing, all the other browse options that made Tesco look so much better than Waitrose suddenly become available, so you can look through wines by country of origin, region, grape variety etc… Delivery will only be made Monday to Friday during office hours (NOT very helpful) and dispatch is usually made within 5 working days. This is a decent site with some useful features but a better range of half cases wouldn't be amiss.
Oddbins Wine Merchant
Oddbins claim to be 'different' so we really should expect the website to be a little quirky - and indeed it is; the design is a little bit Ralph Steadman (the cartoonist) but it never interferes with the practical usability. It is also immediately apparent that this is exclusively a wine shop rather than a supermarket - the range they offer is superb and I had real trouble trying to choose from an excellent selection of mixed cases. In the end I picked a case that included old and new world wines to make it closer to the cases from Tesco and Waitrose so don't be put off by the price because there really are so many great choices of mixed cases that you will be able to find one for your tastes no matter what your budget. Oddbins also offer the extraordinarily brilliant (and simple) feature of a click through for each of the wines in the case so you can look at them all one by one in greater detail - it just makes so much sense it almost defies belief that the others don't offer the same feature. You can also refine your search by clicking 'more' or 'less' to find something closer to your budget. Unfortunately the excellent range of mixed cases is limited to full cases and there was no premixed half case of Spanish red wine available. That said they do have an extensive selection of excellent Spanish reds from budget Garnachas to premium Riojas and more. For the white, I picked Oxford Landing as a good comparison wine because although it is not as much of a household name as Jacobs Creek or Gallo it is pretty widely available so I was a little surprised that Oddbins don't stock it. And how the hell could any wine merchant possibly run out of stock of Veuve Clicquot? It really irks me that there are these little annoyances on this site because I really want to like it! I like the design, some of the features are brilliant but it just isn't quite the site it should be. With a few exceptions dispatch is usually within 4 working days with deliveries only Monday to Friday.
A very ordinary looking site, it's quite functional and simple but who cares as long as it works? The selection of mixed cases is big enough - not as extensive as Oddbins but enough. Again they just don't seem to do half cases though. Plus, it is important to note that the minimum purchase is a dozen bottles. Majestic also do a reasonable selection of Spanish reds despite not doing mixed half cases but there are some really notable omissions - no Faustino?! Seems unusual, to me, for a 'wine warehouse' to leave out such a big name Rioja and they also only stock one Chateauneuf du Pape! The 'Full Product Details' are anything but full! A sentence or two of tasting notes and the alcohol by volume - by far the least detailed of notes of all the stores I have visited so far - and to make things worse the features are sparse too, with none of the options of articles or expert opinion of the wine that the others have offered. In fact, about the only feature is a 'Style and Food Search' which allows you to search for a wine to suit the style of wine you want (for example 'chunky reds' or 'aromatic whites') or the food you want it to match. Ok, this IS a good feature but it's just not enough compared to the plethora of features that Oddbins, Waitrose and even Tesco offer. Free delivery is great, with delivery times guaranteed within 7 days but can be as quick as 24 hours. Overall I'd say this site is adequate.
Wine Cellar claim to be 'THE place to buy wine online' but my first impression is that design has superceded function - the home page looks good enough but it really isn't easy enough to navigate; the drop down menus for wine by colour, country then region (one after the other) don't allow you to just glance at the options, you have to click through to a new page just to use the search facility and a huge 'text2win' ad has pushed the case offers to the very bottom of the page. The search facility is pretty handy though allowing you to search by keyword (i.e. the name of the wine or winemaker or whatever…), by wine type, grape type, price, red wine taste scale (a-e from light to full-bodied) and white wine taste scale (1-9 dry to sweet). Each bottle you look at offers 'more details' but there don't seem to be a lot more details available on this web site - in fact when I looked at the details for the Chateauneuf du Pape there were NO extra details offered (indeed I had to check the bottle label to find out the vintage!), all it was was the same details blown up to a larger picture and bigger font size! You are not fooling anyone with that! When even the supermarkets offer so many interesting and useful details about the wines they sell a specialist wine shop like this really ought to do better. They do offer gift wrapping though, which I think is quite a nice idea. They also have a drop down menu for 'gifts' - chocolates on one page or gift boxes, baskets or hampers with options for 'up to £20', £21-30, £31-40 or £40+ and Premium on the ready made selection and also the option to 'create your own'. Unfortunately this feature is nothing like as appealing as it seems - they are in fact just presentation boxes for the wines. Delivery takes up to 7 days which seems quite a long time considering this is the most expensive delivery charge of all the sites so far. A thoroughly disappointing site.
A pleasant home page for a company that claim to be 'your personal wine merchant' - and the aesthetics of the site seem suited to that claim. I don't know exactly why but this site reminds me of an old fashioned family grocer and I half expect the site to say good morning to me and use my Christian name and expound the virtues of the seasonal offerings. There is an e-letter you can subscribe to and three online shops; 'classic collection', 'vegetarian selection', and 'gift selection'. Clicking through to the classic selection, there is a pretty standard menu by country but also including the 'bargain bin' and a basic search facility. There are no mixed cases in the classic selection and the gift selection is more gift boxed wine or hampers. Seems like a pretty fundamental element to be missing - what kind of wine merchant doesn't supply mixed cases? In fact their stock seems decidedly limited - a bit like the family grocer you will definitely need to pick and choose what you want to buy from here and keep to the supermarkets for everything else! Delivery takes 7 days with a huge £14.50 default charge for failed deliveries.
This is a pretty basic looking website but it does seem to do everything we want - I have gotten so immensely frustrated at typing 'not available' in the comparisons above that to find a website that actually does supply mixed cases of Spanish wine (for example) seems almost a blessing to me! On the other hand there is a distinct lack of features. Everywine seem to be affiliated with a number of other wine websites - I was redirected to 'Booths' for the cases. My search for Chateauneuf du Pape returned a wopping 132 results! Unfortunately this is because the search is not entirely precise and if you are looking for something specific you will definitely need to refine your search. Also I found a fair bit of repetition of the same wine but with different prices so I would guess this is to do with source? Maybe the price varies depending on who is supplying Everywine. This site is the only site other than Tesco to be able to supply every comparison wine above and even then that is only by supplying a full case where only half is required. This is a basic website that offers nothing by way of articles, details about the wines, tasting notes or food/wine matching but it does seem to be one of the most reliable and extensive sources of wine on the web - or certainly of the sites I have looked at. Registration required. Delivery within 10 working days but 'often much faster'.
I have to say this has been one of the most frustrating website comparison articles I have written to date. Why, oh why, do so few sites offer half cases? Surely there must be demand for them? The variations in price are unpredictable with no one site standing out as the cheapest on like for like comparisons - when comparing the mixed cases or Chateauneuf du Pape do remember that quality will vary. The price on delivery also varies a lot with an astonishingly high £7.95 being hit by Everywine, with delivery taking up to ten working days, seems a lot to me. Tesco, Waitrose and Oddbins definitely stood out as the easiest to use, best looking and containing the best and most useful features but I personally didn't find any of the sites entirely to my satisfaction. What's more it also seems the specialist wine merchants are most lacking. It is also notable that it has taken a long time to put together the comparison prices above; all sites seemed to take a while to load up data, probably on account of the pictures of labels accompanying each bottle in the search, and the searches very regularly needed refining to find exactly what I was looking for. As always if you want the best product at the best price you will have to look around - even if that does mean using some very basic sites.
Online Wine Store
|Price||Wine Notes||Wine Delivery Charge|
|Tesco||£75||Seasonal Taster Case. , 75 'Clubcard points'. No description of what is in the case!!||£5.00|
|Waitrose||£63||July Selection; case contains 3 each of Mont Gras Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah Reserva 2002, Cotes du Rhone 2004 Chapoutier, Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Vins de Pays de l'Yonne, Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Marlborough||£3.95|
|Oddbins||£100||Case of the Month (July) contains; 2 X Château Cauzin, 2 X Campo Viejo Reserva, 2 X Riesling, Hugel, 2 X Scotchmans Hill Chardonnay, 2 X Snake Creek Limestone Coast Shiraz, 2 X Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc.||Included|
|Majestic Wine||£63||Midsummer Case, contains; 2 x Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2005, Marlborough, 2 x Chablis 2004, Vocoret, 2 x Argento Pinot Grigio 2005, Mendoza, 2 x Côtes du Rhône 2003, E Guigal, 2 x Rioja Crianza 2002, Marques de la Concordia, 2 x Casillero del Diablo Merlot 2005, Rapel Valley.||Free|
|Wine Cellar||£40||Special offer, price usually £49.88. Case contains 2x Stowells Tempranillo, 2x Dammen Merlot, 2x Chiarli Sangiovese Rubicone, 2x Rivercrest Californian White, 2x Stowells Chenin Blanc, 2x Chiarli Trebbiano Rubic.||£5.99|
No mixed cases available.
Booths Everyday Drinking Selection. Case contains; 2 x Yvon Mau Bergerac Sec NV, 2 x Marquis de Lassime Gascogne, white, 2005, 2 x Les Deux Colombard Chardonnay, 2005, 2 x Yvon Mau Bergerac Rouge NV, 2 x Louis Chatel Vin de Pays d'Oc NV, 2 x Casa Morena Valdepenas NV
Half case (6 bottles) of Spanish Red Wine
Online Wine Store
|Price||Wine Notes||Wine Delivery Charge|
|Tesco||£20||This case contains: 2 x Berberana Carta de Oro Reserva 2001, 2 x Masia L'Hereu Penedes Reserva Privada 2000 and 2 x Berberana Dragon Tempranillo 2003. Usual price £40, 20 Clubcard points. Special offer probably ends 23rd July 2006…||£5.00|
|Waitrose||NA||French, Cotes du Rhone, even Chilean cases available but no Spanish! Can mix your own case but only in multiples of 12.|
|Oddbins||NA||No premixed cases available.|
|Majestic Wine||NA||No premixed cases available.|
|Wine Cellar||NA||No premixed cases available.|
No premixed cases available.
Full case only. Case contains; 2 x Palacio de Bornos Rueda, 2005, 1 x Estrella Moscatel de Valencia, 2001, 1 x Bodegas Piqueras Castillo de Almansa Blanco, 2004, 1 x Ochoa Tempranillo Garnacha 2004, 2 x Vina Sardasol Navarra Merlot, 2003/4, 1 x Almansa Reserva Bodegas Piqueras 2000/1, 1 x Vina Alarba Tinto Calatayud, 2002/3, 1 x Donis Garnacha/Syrah Capcanes DO Montsant, 2003/4, 1 x La Poema Vinas Viejas Calatayud, 2004, 1 x Marques de Riscal Sauvignon Blanc, 2005.
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