In vino veritas: The best online wine shops
With Christmas (and another potential lockdown) just around the corner, where can insurance execs source some good cheer to enjoy at home?
The United Kingdom may be known for its cosy pubs and delicious ales, but above all it is a nation of wine drinkers. According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, the UK ranked sixth on the list of wine-consuming countries in 2019, placing it above the likes of Spain and Argentina.
It is little surprise, then, that we have no shortage of wine merchants, both in bricks and mortar form and online.
While there is nothing quite like strolling up and down the aisles of a well-stocked wine shop, in today’s world of social distancing and imbibing at home, many of us would prefer to order online instead.
If that’s your preference, then you’re in luck – there is plenty of choice. We’ve compiled a list of the best bets for online wine shopping, covering the most modest budgets all the way up to those willing to pay nearly £6,000 for a bottle of Petrus 1982 without leaving the comfort of their home.
1. The big player - The Wine Society
The thing about The Wine Society is that it is set up as a non-profit co-operative, and this means it focuses on offering the best possible prices over the pursuit of profits.
It’s for this reason that its cheapest wines start at less than £6 per bottle, but it also offers some of the finest wines in the world. It costs £40 for a lifetime share of the society and they give you £20 towards your first order when you join.
Members can choose their own selections, or sign up for the Wine Without Fuss option to receive a mixed case every two months. The Society also offers a Vintage Cellar Plan and allows members to store their wines in their warehouse.
2. The supermarket - Waitrose Cellar
Supermarkets all sell wine, and in many ways they are all a bit samey. Sure, there are occasional deals like Sainsbury’s 25% off a mixed six, but there are few frills beyond that.
Of all the supermarket wine departments, Waitrose tends to stand above the rest, lauded for being adventurous in its offerings and more creative in its service.
While Tesco closed its Wine by the Case service, Waitrose Cellar is still going strong with substantial discounts and a range of mixed cases to suit different tastes.
3. The plucky upstart - Honest Grapes
Find wine a bit confusing? Don’t know where to start? Honest Grapes offers a service that makes the buying process a little bit easier and they offer perks that others don’t.
You can choose to shop for individual bottles if you prefer, but Honest Grapes is known for its subscription service that starts at £50 per month, offering 10% cashback, access to events, exclusive offers and free advice from sommeliers.
4. The old name with a new face - Mr Wheeler
Seasoned wine drinkers may recall the Wheeler name – from Lay & Wheeler fame. While Lay & Wheeler is now in different hands, one of the families has continued in the business with Mr Wheeler, which they pitch as offering a carefully chosen selection of wines to suit all budgets.
As with many retailers, Mr Wheeler offers online and in-store shopping, as well as fine wine plans starting at £50 per month.
It also has a wide range of mixed cases that ease the decision-making process and come with producer-supported discounts.
5. The traditional merchant - Berry Bros & Rudd
There is no shortage of merchants that fit this bill. Tanner’s of Shrewsbury, Corney & Barrow and Averys of Bristol will all serve you well.
Berry Bros is arguably the most well-known of the bunch and its selection is superb. If you’re seeking one of the most prized bottles of Burgundy or Bordeaux from the best vintages, this is the shop for you.
While Berry Bros no longer offers its wine club, it has one of the best cellar plans around, which starts at £100 per month.
6. The one for unlimited budgets – Hedonism
The name says it all. It’s the fine wine mecca in London’s Mayfair district, boasting vintages of some of the rarest and most expensive wines in the world.
Fancy a bottle of Jura Vin Jaune dating to 1774, simply because you want to taste a pre-French Revolution wine? It’s yours for £72,553.
While this shop caters for many a high roller, it has plenty of budget options as well. Prices start at £8.80 per bottle. Delivery is free for orders of six bottles or more, or more than £200 in value.