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TWS LogoWhether it’s food or clothes, household items or toiletries, shopping online is the new normal. In recent years, the online wine market has exploded, and buying wine online has never been quicker or easier. The convenience of this can’t be overstated. Not only do you not have to leave the house to buy wine, but you can do bulk orders without worrying about carrying it home.

However, while the wealth of options at our fingertips is a good thing, it can make choosing which bottles to buy difficult. Wine is also a pretty personal product, and if you’re not familiar with the process of buying online, things can seem a little daunting. But luckily, once you’re armed with a bit of knowledge, it can all become much easier.

To shine a light on the world of online wine buying, we’ve partnered with The Wine Society, the world’s oldest member-owned community of wine lovers. Since 1874, The Wine Society has been educating and inspiring hundreds of thousands of wine enthusiasts around the world, and with their expertise behind you, buying wine online should be an easy and satisfying experience.

With that said, here are the most important tips for buying wine online.

1. Find a good online retailer

Find a good online retailer

The first step is figuring out where you want to buy your wine from. If you do an online food shop, the obvious step is to buy your wine from that same supermarket, but it’s also worth looking into online retailers that are specifically for wine.

Aside from convenience, one of the biggest benefits of buying wine online is the variety it offers you. The virtual shelves of online wine retailers groan with the weight of tens of thousands of different bottles and brands. While having so much choice can initially seem overwhelming, decent online retailers should make it easy for you to search for the exact type of wine you’re looking for. 

It goes without saying that it’s best to buy your wine from a trusted provider. The right retailer has excellent reviews and recommendations as well as a slick, easy-to-use interface, which should make you feel confident about buying online. The last thing you want to worry about is poor quality products, unprofessional service, or even issues with online security!

Aside from being one of the UK’s leading wine merchants, The Wine Society has a TrustPilot rating of 4.8 and is known for its unrivalled customer service. While you have to be a member to purchase wines (more on that later!), customer satisfaction is guaranteed, and wine that isn’t to your liking is replaced or refunded, meaning you can explore and taste new wines in confidence.

To become a member for life, it’s also as simple as paying a one-off fee of £40, which means no ongoing subscription payments. You’ll also get £20 off your first order and free delivery.

2. Know what you want

Know what you want

Because online wine retailers offer so many choices, it’s worth having an idea of the types of wine you’re after – otherwise you can easily spend hours browsing different bottles! It can help to narrow it down to the basics: are you looking for red, white, rosé, or sparkling – or perhaps a few bottles of each?

If you’re not sure what you want, a good online retailer should make figuring it out that bit easier. For example, on The Wine Society’s website, you can search by best-selling wines, wines by country, award-winning wines, vegan wines, new wines, half bottles of wines, organic wines, and, of course, red, white, rosé, sparkling, fortified, and sweet wines. 

If you know what you’re looking for, you should be able to use a wine website to search for the perfect bottle. Using the Wine Society’s filter function, you can choose from many niche categories including region, grape, oak influence, alcohol level, fullness/sweetness, star rating, vintage, producer, closure type, stock status, bottle size, and even complementing foods.

This makes it easy for wine connoisseurs and novices to find the right wine. If you’re hosting a dinner party, for example, and want to find an Italian wine that’s rated five stars, in stock, and goes with margarita pizza, you’ll be directed to the Chianti Classico, Fontodi 2020!

3. Factor in price

Factor in price

Unless you’re lucky enough not to worry about price tags, your purchasing decisions are probably influenced by cost. Another perk of buying wine online is that many retailers offer discounts for larger orders – and, if they don’t typically offer free delivery, waive delivery fees if orders are over a certain amount. This means buying in bulk is usually a cost-effective way to buy wine online.

You can also keep an eye on specific deals that are going on, and tailor your wine choices to take advantage of the latest bargains. Some online wine retailers offer loyalty programs that can save you a significant amount of money, depending on how much wine you’re prepared to buy.

However, you should also be wary of sites that do one-day flash sales or ‘limited-time offers’, as, often, these aren’t genuine, and prices habitually yo-yo throughout the year. Because The Wine Society is owned by its members, the organisation reinvests profits into better prices – which are more reasonable throughout the year, regardless of any sales.

While it costs £40 to become a lifetime member of The Wine Society, this includes free delivery, £20 off your first order, and full access to a vast range of top-quality, fairly-priced wine. If you’re partial to a sale, you’ll be glad to know that although The Wine Society doesn’t do fake discounts, they do offer discounts and special offers, from seasonal clearances to case savings.

4. Read about food pairings

Another big advantage of buying wine online is that you can access lots more information about each bottle. Decent websites usually feature plenty of details about each wine, from its tasting notes to its perfect food pairing. So, if you’re buying wine for a dinner party you’re hosting, or trying to select a certain bottle for a specific meal, you can make informed choices.   

On The Wine Society’s website, not only can you filter wines by which foods they go with, but every bottle of wine has a ‘food matches’ section, where complementing foods are listed. Plus, if you’re interested in learning more about pairings, you can check out the food and wine section of the website, where all kinds of recipes and features will leave your mouth watering.

5. Check returns and refunds

Check returns and refunds

Wine isn’t the easiest product to ship around, and while reputable retailers use protective packaging and competent couriers, things can still go wrong. Before you buy any wine, you should take a moment to check out the returns and refunds policy. Then, should there be any problems, either with delivery or the product, you’ll know what to do.

Sometimes, there can be issues with the wine itself, and while this often isn’t the fault of the courier or the retailer, nobody should have to pay for wine that isn’t fit for drinking – so again, it’s important to check the terms and conditions so you can buy in confidence. 

We’ve already mentioned that customer satisfaction is guaranteed at The Wine Society, but this doesn’t just apply to bottles that are damaged, not delivered properly, or corked or oxidised. If the wine you’ve purchased simply isn’t to your taste, you’ll receive a full refund or voucher, and unwanted, unopened bottles are collected free of charge, and the amount credited to your account.

6. Join a wine society

Join a wine society

Finally, if you’re passionate about wine – or just want to start delving deeper into the world of wine – the greatest tip for buying online is probably to join a wine society. Wine clubs and societies all operate a little differently, so it’s important to do your research and understand the benefits of different memberships.

For example, paying a one-off £40 fee to join The Wine Society doesn’t just give you lifetime access to affordable, delicious wines, it also encourages you to try new wines, helps you save money, allows you to attend events and tastings, and offers guaranteed satisfaction. You’ll be able to expand your knowledge while meeting new people and trying wines you’d never have otherwise heard of.

Final thoughts…

Next time you’re in the market for some wine, you might want to pause before you head to the supermarket, or even your nearest wine shop. Buying online isn’t just convenient, it has lots of other benefits too – and offers you a dizzying amount of variety.

Whether you’re looking to buy wine for a special dinner or to give as a gift, you have a much better chance of finding the perfect bottle online. Plus, because it’s delivered straight to your door, you don’t have to worry about lugging bottles and heavy cases home.

While the amount of choice on wine websites can be overwhelming, reputable retailers should provide enough information that you can make clear, informed decisions – safe in the knowledge that if the wine isn’t to your fancy, you’ll get a full refund.  

Do you buy your wine online? Are you a member of a wine society or club – or are you interested in becoming one? We’d love to hear about your wine experiences in the comments below.