The Virtues of Virtual Tasting
I’ve always considered myself a little bit of a shopaholic. Whether it’s hunting for a bargain or just enjoying wandering around a store – it’s all good. And with Black Friday coming up, I’ve got shopping on the brain. But I have to admit that for some things, shopping on-line is entirely different from the “in-person” experience and it can take some getting used to.
Take shoes for example. You’d think that the selection, pricing and availability on the internet would be a shopper’s dream come true. But the fact of the matter is that not being able to see the shoe in person or try it on makes it hard to find the right fit. All of which, naturally, got me thinking about buying wine online. If you can’t “try it on,” how do you know what fits your palate?
So to help you navigate your way around the world wine web, here are a few tips to help make sure that your wine purchase makes both you - and your palate - happy.
1)Look for a story.
While the general trend online is towards fewer and fewer words, when it comes to wine this can be a problem. In general, I look for more, rather than less, information. If I am buying a wine I have never heard of, I want to know as much as possible about the producer and where the wine is from.
2)Understand internet “winespeak.”
While I want to be able to read a lot of information about a wine, recognize that every website will have its own slant and there can be some differences in the wine language used. In general though, there are a few important points to look for. If you are trying to buy wines for drinking down the road, make sure the site tells you about the aging potential of the wine. While there can be a long and creative list of aromas and flavors, the key is to find a mention of the wine’s structure and style. A good site will tell you if the wine is sweet or dry and also provide you with information about the wine’s profile (Is it full-bodied or light? Tannic? High in acidity? Moderate in alcohol?). These descriptors are actually more important in the long run than whether it smells like peaches or white flowers.
3)Go for the unusual.
While it is possible to find good buys on big brands online, what excites me most about the world wine web is the fact that it gives small producers a chance get connected with wine lovers all around the globe. So take the opportunity to explore wines and regions that you might not see in your local wine shop. Use the internet to really expand your wine knowledge.
4)Prices can be great, but keep an eye on shipping.
This is a key point. You’ve found a great price for a wine, but before you order it – have you checked to see what shipping will cost you? Shipping a heavy box of wine from one state to another or even within a state can be very costly. Make sure that you order from a site that offers reasonable options and keep an eye out for deals on shipping. And most importantly – look for a store that doesn’t ship wine during hot weather, which can ruin your precious cargo.
5)Buy more than one bottle at a time.
While it might seem easy to just buy what you need, realize that it might make more sense to buy a case of wine rather than a few bottles at a time. This will cut down on your shipping cost per bottle and save you some money in the long run. Add in the fact that online retailers are especially focused on deals in the lead up to the holidays and you have a great chance to really save some money. And of course, the next time you need a bottle of wine for dinner or as a quick hostess present, you’ll already have it on hand.
6)Make sure the company is legit.
Any time I am buying something online from a new site, I double check to make sure it is what it says it is. Do a quick search to make sure that the company has a good reputation. And if you end up being happy with your experience, make sure that you tell your friends. A recommendation from a friend can be worth way more than a positive online review.
Even though we can’t taste wine virtually (yet – who knows what the future holds), it can still be a great place for developing your palate. While you can’t taste a wine like you might be able to in a store, online shopping does give us the chance to leisurely peruse the options available on our own schedule. Which is something that most brick and mortar stores can’t offer. So grab your mouse and let the wine searching begin!