Click, clink, cheers
No parking problems or hefty boxes to carry . . . buying wine online is all too easy. Here are some escellent Irish websites and specialist online retailers, writes JOHN WILSON
I am always amazed that more people don’t buy their wine online. It seems a no-brainer in many ways. Some of us are still wedded to dropping in to our local wine retailer, and enjoy the personal advice and friendly chat. I can also see how “feeling” the goods, and browsing, is all part of the shopping experience. I am in favour of supporting local enterprise, but wine is heavy and bulky, and it can be difficult to get parking close to many high-street wine shops and off-licences. In addition, many people live long distances from a decent wine shop.
Buying online cuts out all of the lifting and travel, and allows you to conduct your own research and price comparison online, including other countries. Ordering from overseas companies can be difficult unless they have an arrangement with customs for duty, and you will still have to pay those exorbitant Irish wine duties. However, buying from an Irish supplier is very easy. It doesn’t have to be an online specialist either; most retailers now have a website and will deliver wine to your door within two days anywhere in the country. Online companies also offer a very handy way to send a gift around this time of year, although a minimum order size often applies.
Most of us have access to inexpensive everyday wines locally. For me, the best online websites give a direct line to the specialists which offer wines unavailable elsewhere. Take German wine, for instance. Over the past few years, it has become easier to find a small range in the more specialist wine shops and off-licences. However, none can offer such a comprehensive selection as Karwig Wines in Carrigaline, Co Cork ( karwigwines.ie) and The Wicklow Wine Company in Wicklow ( wicklowwineco.ie). Both of these operations are run by people with a passion for German wine, and both have a small retail outlet. This year, a third company, Cabot Co ( cabotandco.com) has added a fine selection of German wines to its eclectic list that also includes many gems from Slovenia and Burgundy, as well as some great fine wines. Burgundy Direct ( burgundydirect.ie) has a super selection of wines from the finest estates.
But possibly the most useful addresses of all are the good quality general online sites, which offer a broad range of well-chosen wines that you are unlikely to be able to find locally. Here is a personal selection of websites worth checking out. Once I started thinking about where I would buy online, I quickly ran up a dozen names. The Corkscrew ( thecorkscrew.ie) recently won an award for its website. Wines Direct in Mullingar ( winesdirect.ie) has a great range of well-chosen wines. The Wine Store ( thewinestore.ie) is strong on France and Spain. James Nicholson ( jnwine.com) offers a great range of wines for delivery north and south of the border. Other sites worth looking at include Wineonline ( wineonline.ie), Mitchell Son ( mitchellandson.com), Wines on the Green ( winesonthegreen.com), Red Nose ( rednosewine.com), Curious Wines ( curiouswines.ie), and Fromvineyardsdirect ( fromvineyardsdirect.ie).
These companies are run by people with a genuine interest in offering great wines. They will not always be the cheapest option, but you should notice an improvement in quality. Some are mail-order only; others are located in less-populated areas, or the opposite – car-free zones in busy cities. But all should offer an alternative way of buying wine this Christmas.
However, the small independent does not have an exclusivity on online ordering. O’Briens (which is staging its Fine Wine Sale from November 29th to December 3rd, with 18 fine wines on offer at discounts of up to 40 per cent), Superquinn, Tesco, and some SuperValu all offer a service too. I have heard complaints that you cannot always get access to their special offers, but this depends on availability in the local store. Be sure to check delivery policy as charges vary, and can be quite expensive for a small order.