5 Places For Heavily Discounted Wine Deals
Let's get right to it. Following are my 5 current favorite sources for deals in order of preference.
#1 Your Local Independent Retailer
Online isn't the only place where it's at for scoring deals. Smaller distributors are part of the same supply chain that is experiencing so much pressure right now, and they (primarily) do business with smaller, independent retailers. Your retailer will (hopefully) also be able filter the signal from the noise, and offer only better quality closeouts.
Pros: Whatever you buy you can drink immediately, they ought to have a constantly changing mix of products, you can buy trial bottles without committing to a case order, and your local retailer is a part of your community.
Cons: They are limited to whatever your local distribution market has to offer, which, depending on the market, can be a bummer. Pricing may also be regulated by your state's laws or local market conditions.
Bottom line: Check back frequently with your favorite shop(s) and/or inquire as to whether they've got an email list to let customers know when these deals come into their store. If they don't, suggest that it could be a way for them to grow sales without depending on foot traffic.
#2 De Négoce
I've bought more wine from this outfit than all others combined in the past year. What's more is that most of it is domestic cabernet, which I'm not a huge fan of. Does that make me a sucker or does it make Cameron Hughes a terrific marketer? Both, most likely. Read here for more background on his new venture and smart business model.
Pros: Insane deals; just insane, ranging from half price to 90% off. The low prices decrease (but don't eliminate) risk of buying something unknown.
Cons: No store - just email offers, must order a case of each wine at a time, many are sold out within an hour of the offer, wait time for arrival can be months, lackadaisical customer service, wait time to enter the drinking window can be months more, and most of the wines offered are big brawlers with heavy concentration on cabs and pinots.
Bottom line: One way to mitigate the risk of buying a case of wine you end up not liking is to form your own little group purchasing organization. Get one or two friends to agree to split whatever you order. My experience so far is that the quality of wines from this outfit range from more than serviceable to extremely good.
Wines 'Til Sold Out has been around for a long time, making it one of the longest surviving flash sites. Each day a rotating selection of wines are offered (by my observations between 1 and 3) for sale.
Pros: Free shipping on 4 or more bottles, fast order fulfillment, good mix of domestic and international offerings, and they also have a limited selection of wines available for perusal and offer - which is great if you want more of something you tried and liked.
Cons: You've got to filter through a lot of the offers to identify the good ones.
Bottom line: If you know what you're shopping for and how to bypass the laggards, there are some great finds, especially in Rhone reds.
#4 Last Bottle
These guys have also been around for a long time, offering a handful of wines (one at a time) each week, but they've slipped in my rankings this year.
Pros: Free shipping on 6 or more bottles. Decent mix of domestic and international offerings, but with a bias towards California. Good satisfaction policy. A few times a year they have a marathon of constantly rotating offers (several per hour) and also mystery case offers, which can be fun.
Cons: The discounts on the wines being offered here isn't what it used to be, so the hit rate is a lot lower these days. Like WTSO, you've got to filter through a lot of the offers to identify the good ones. They are based on the west coast, so fulfillment can take a while to the midwest/east coast. A lot of the wines offered seem to be higher in alcohol. No store.
Bottom line: You need to know what you're shopping for - AND what it should be priced at - to get to the great finds.
#5 Wine Access
New-ish to my radar, these guys have a bit of a different business model, seemingly dabbling in a little liquidation (like Last Bottle), some negocianting (like de Negoce), subscriptions (like a wine club), and some online retailing.
Pros: Free shipping on 6 or more bottles, or $120 or more. $50 off any order of $150 or more (can be combined with free shipping.) Very nice mix of domestic and international offerings. Excellent customer service.
Cons: There aren't a whole lot of screaming deals here, fulfillment can be variable, and pricing on some bottles are actually above what I've seen in the local market.
You'll be happier if you think of these guys as an online retailer, with a some unique (particularly their private label) offerings. By the time you account for the discounts that may apply, pricing can be quite competitive.