Where do you start? You can choose a website you recognise such as Majestic Wine, a traditional club like The Wine Society, a specialist such as Nick Dobson Wines, Austrian Wines Direct or Valvona & Crolla – or you can just pick a website at random that appeals.
There are a prodigious number of fancy sites out there designed to lure you in with wine clubs and discount offers, but it is hard to know which are reliable.
My advice is to look for one with a solid background in wine trading (read the ‘about us’ page) and one that offers something a bit different that you cannot buy in your local store. I am always surprised to discover websites which appear from nowhere with seemingly no credentials, no mention of who runs the operation and with big brand wines you can buy cheaper in supermarkets.
One company I discovered which aims to be a little different is www.thedailydrinker.co.uk. I have to confess I don’t like the name much, but it has a neat site which suits beginners and experimenters alike. Its aim is to offer “wines for the inquisitive” – encouraging wine drinkers to experiment with mainly mono-varietals (ie those made from a single grape).
“It amazes me how many people are content to drink the same old sauvignon blanc night after night, rather than risk experimenting with something new,” says owner Caspar Bowes. “We offer single varietals as it is easier for people to assimilate and learn,” he adds.
Bowes has been trading in wine since 1998, with clients in the Middle and Far East.
His wife Victoria used to work for an East Anglian wine merchant – and is now a Power Plate enthusiast. Aside from selling wine, they like to tell us a little about their active lifestyle – they spend a great deal of time playing tennis and fishing for salmon. So, unlike some online merchants who appear to have popped up out of nowhere, the Bowes do have a wine background.
The Daily Drinker is actually just like a traditional wine merchant, but without a shop. You can only buy its wines online – with a 10 per cent discount offered if you join the wine club, which mails out two bottles per month to its members. You can choose between monthly (£260 – two bottles a month), bi-monthly (£140 – two bottles every two months) or quarterly (£95 – two bottles every three months) membership, or sign up for a trial pack (£26). You can choose between white or red or both. It does sound pricey, but it includes wines delivered to your door in mainland UK, along with tasting notes.
My experience of the service was reasonably good, apart from a small hitch of being sent the wrong wine – which ended up as a bonus as I had three wines to review for you.
What I liked about this site was its unusual range on offer – a few are exclusive. So if you fancy trying something new like monemvasia, moschofilero or mencia, Bowes promises to keep the novelty going. “With 10,000 grapes in the world we could supply our members for 79 years without repeats,” he says.
Rose’s Rare Grapes from around the World Masterclass is on 26 June, £35, Edinburgh, www.rose murraybrown.com