We frequently see daily deal sites that offer credits to online wine stores (like a $70 credit to Wine.com for $30, for example), and it's hard not to think they're an indisputable deal. But are the wines on these sites good deals to begin with, even when you factor in shipping costs? What about when your credit runs out? We talked to an expert and searched the dealnews archives to offer readers some tips for shopping for wine online.
Wine Sites Offer Better Deals for Specific Purchases
According to Jerry Ellig, a former deputy director of the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission, ordering wine online can be cost effective depending on what you're shopping for. To prove how shipping restrictions in several states were harming consumers, he conducted a study to see what they would pay in-store vs. online.
Taking into account the added costs for shipping, Ellig and his colleagues discovered that, as a general rule of thumb, a bottle valued over $20 was more consistently available at a better price online than in stores. "What we found was that if you're trying to buy cheaper wines, you're better off going to a store," Ellig explains, since the comparatively smaller discount cannot justify the cost of shipping. "But if what you're buying is something over $20, then you can begin saving substantially."
Since conducting this study, Ellig says he has noticed wine stores have begun to adjust prices so they can better compete with online merchants. But still, the lesson remains the same: Higher-quality wine is more likely to be a deal online than the less valuable options.
Use a Credit or Search for a Free Shipping Discount for Deals on Cheap Bottles
Sure, aiming for a more valuable wine can assure that you'll get a decent deal online. But what about us penny pinchers that want the cheap, $10 bottles shipped to our door?
This is when the aforementioned credits come in. Sites like BuyWithMe, Eversave, Living Social, and Groupon periodically offer dollar-off credits (which take up to 70% off) for Wine Insiders, Wine.com, Barclay's Wine, and ONEHOPE Wine. Although you will likely need to use the entire credit in one order, they help to negate the impact of shipping so that the per-bottle price is more likely to come in under the in-store total. Current offers include a $75 Credit to Barclay's Wine or a $75 Credit to Wine Insiders for $25 each. (You can check out additional wine deals on our site, too.)
Whether you're looking for cheap or higher quality bottles, free shipping always sweetens the deal — but it's particularly useful if you're scouting out inexpensive options. According to Ellig's study, shipping costs are what weigh down the deal value of the cheaper bottles; remove that burden, and you can expect your purchase of these under-$20 bottles to provide a better bargain. For example, Wine.com frequently offers 1-cent shipping for minimum-purchase orders; currently, it offers this reduced rate for shipments of 12 bottles or more via coupon code "1PENNYCASE".
The Bottom Line: Strategize Your Wine Purchases
Shopping for wine online can provide great deals if you proceed wisely. Without a credit or shipping discount, it's better to stick to better-quality bottles that are valued over $20. But with one of the aforementioned discounts, you can confidently dig into a site's reserve of cheap wines and still expect a great deal.