What You Should Know Before Ordering Wine Online

Lead Times Are Extremely Long Right Now

Earlier this month Forbes reported on the impact the pandemic has had on wine sales. (Tip of the hat to Jeff over at The Wine Curmudgeon for that link.) Suffice it to say that online sales are up. Way, way up.  No surprise there, but there are some interesting signals in the data that hint at shifts in consumer purchasing behavior that may well outlast social distancing.  Regardless, if you, like me, are tempted to move some of your wine buying to online sources, but you're low on wine now, go down to your local shop and get what you need.  But if you're looking to provision your back stock, compounded delays should be factored into your decision before you pull the trigger on an online order. 

Just six weeks ago, you could order a case of wine online on a Monday and it would arrive on your doorstep Wednesday.  That speed is, at least for the time being, a thing of a bygone era.  Retailers with established online operations have seen sales skyrocket at a time when they've trimmed staff to minimize the risk of infection.  The result is long delays in order picking/shipping - but that's just the beginning. Once your order eventually does ship, carriers are prioritizing critical shipments, tacking on additional days to delivery non-critical boxes of wine.  And when your package finally arrives on your doorstep, it really does need a couple of weeks to settle down from shipping shock.

All of this adds up to very long lead times from when you order the wine to when you can drink it.  For example, Marketview Liquor, one of my go-to online spots was telling customers to expect a 10 day order-ship delay (before they began denying all out of state orders!)  I ordered 3 cases from them over a two week period.  Thanks to a rerouting/de-prioritization of my shipment, it took more than a week for those to arrive.  To quantify this, let's say I placed my order on April 1. 

Order Placed 4/1--->Order Ships 4/10--->Order Arrives 4/18--->Two Week Bottle Shock Period--->Drinking Window Opens May 2

That's a staggering 31 days from order to drink.  So, if you're low on wine now, shop local.

Timeliness is not the only reason to patronize your local independent, either.  If you've been saving yourself a stop and getting your wine at the grocery store, you are not alone.  Grocery store wine sales are up more than 30%, which means that large producers (who are able to get placement at large grocers) and the distributors which represent them are enjoying sales increases.  But this comes at the expense of non-grocery retailers, producers, and the distributors which represent them - adding insult to the trade war tariffs that were already debilitating imports.  Though the big guys will fare just fine, there will be many casualties in the wine industry, most of them small-medium sized.  So, if you value variety and selection, giving your business to your wine shop won't just sidestep the long lead time, but help them (and their unique upstream suppliers) survive this. Better yet, call them ahead of time to have them assemble your order for you to pick up curbside.

Stay safe, stay sane.