Uncorked: Wines by the web
Alasdair Nicol pulls out his credit card and extols the virtues of buying booze online
It’s no secret – companies such as Groupon and BeeCrazy have swelled interest in internet shopping – and, with almost everyone (and anyone) owning a smartphone, shopping on the web has never been easier. This online phenomenon has trickled into the alcohol market and I’ve noticed an increasing number of wine retail outlets opting for a url address over a physical shop location. By skirting the notorious rents in Hong Kong, these sites are able to offer premium bottles at brilliant prices and, in doing so, have opened up the wine world to a much wider audience. One good example is Yes My Wine, which launched at the end of last year. Although the site is in Chinese and is predominantly targeted at Mainland consumers, there is an English version in the works and purchases can easily be made from Hong Kong. On one day in December not too long after it’s official launch, sales topped 100,000 bottles – an amazing feat by any means.
The recently-established Spike’s Cellar is another success story in the making. The site offers a different bottle of wine twice a week at hugely discounted rates and runs on a Groupon-like, limited quantity and time system. This formula seems to be working and the site’s first offering of Château Palmer sold out within an hour of it being posted up on the site. Aside from the Palmer, Spike’s selection ranges from high scoring bottles to limited production cult wines – and even just-below-$100 tipples that can be enjoyed at home in front of the TV with a takeout pizza. One of the site’s founders, David Lee, tells me that office deliveries are particularly popular – especially because Spike’s Cellars can get purchases to their consumers within one working day.
Another oenophilic site worth checking out is The Wine Deal, which offers a range of three or four wines (usually both new and old world wines are featured concurrently) at any one time, again at discounted prices with an expiry date for the offer. Added perks are the monthly cinema showing packages for $100 that include wine, snacks and a movie. Their second deal showing of Real Steel was a smash success and sold out completely.
The downside of buying online is that it can get confusing for those who are just starting out, especially if a site offers hundreds of different wines. In order to address this problem, retailers like Spike’s Cellar and The Wine Deal keep it clean and simple, offering just a few bottles on rotation. And with no minimum charge, these businesses are opening new doors to wine tasting – so get online now, if you’ve got the bottle.