Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Evolving Thinking: Where to Buy Wine

A few months ago we weighed the pro's and con's of buying wine online versus your local retailer.  The basic conclusion of that debate was that if you're not already buying at least some of your wine online, you should start.

Well, it's been a time of discovery.  Of Learning.  Of evolving thinking.

So, here's the update.  As much as I love the experience of cherry picking the shelves at a well-stocked retailer - and the awesome peeps who stack them - the scales are tipping more heavily in favor of the UPS guy.  Here's why...

We covered all these factors in the original article, so to keep it brief we'll just update the change in thinking for each:
  • Price. This was already favoring online, but with wineries feeling the brunt of new economic realities, direct sales are offering unprecedented deals and regulated retailers can barely compete.
  • Access to Product. The internets are still the internets, FedEx and UPS still rock, so the world is your oyster. Enjoy.
  • Quality/Freshness.  This, too, was already favoring online/direct buying, but we've had a bit of an epiphany.  THIS IS THE BIGGEST SWING.  In the last few months we've re-evaluated a handful of wines that we had either already bought retail in the Midwest/east coast or which we had at the winery.  The difference is stark.
  • Timeliness.  When you absolutely, positively, gotta have a bottle of wine today, retail wins and always will.
  • Guidance.  Sadly, for every underpaid vinogenius pointing you towards hidden gems, there are ten indifferent douchebags grunting their way through a shift at your local retailers.  With the proliferation of high quality, trustworthyand free online sources, why gamble?
  • Social Responsibility.  Already tilting heavily toward direct buying, we've recently seen the efforts of wineries doing amazing things for their employees, communities, and industry.  Even in hard times.  Humbling and inspiring.  Buying direct also puts more food on the tables of the people making the wine.
  • Environmental Responsibility.  This one went to retailers last go around, but in the last few months we've learned about the sustainability and efficiency efforts that a shitload of wineries have been pursuing for years.  Amazing.
For all those reasons, the pendulum is swinging towards buying direct.  If true competitive pricing could happen at the direct channel and if our state legislators could get their heads out of their asses, it'd be a landslide.

Now, can we have the best of both worlds?  Maybe.  If there were retailers close enough to wineries to now have to worry about freshness concerns AND who aren't hamstrung by the same pricing constraints that wineries are....do you know of any???  Feel free to comment here.

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