The online wine market has plenty to offer for aspiring oenophiles who can't attend big auction sales. It's a great way to strike a good deal, but scams are not unheard of. Here are five tips from French sommeliers to shop for wine on the web.
1. Look out for high-end wines
Online wine shopping is a great way to nab high-end bottles at a competitive price, although this tip does not apply to all the French vineyards. Beaujolais, for instance, is not a wine destined for wine speculation, according to Fabrice Sommier, President of the sommeliers of the Lyonnais-Rhône-Alpes region.
2. Get in touch with the manager of the online wine shop to check the availability of specific bottles
"It's important to take numerous precautions before ordering a bottle, because scams abound online, even on the biggest sites. The most important step is to call the site's manager to question him about his stocks. You have to find out if the wine you're about to buy is indeed available. Don't hesitate to ask for photographs of the bottle if it's a very expensive one," explains Nicolas Tacquard, instructor at the Ecole des Vins de Bourgogne.
3. Go straight to the producers' websites when you can
Sommeliers and wine experts alike have remarked upon the professionalism generally seen in online shops managed by the producers themselves.
4. When buying from another person (P2P), take all possible precautions
Sommelier Géraldine Clément insists on checking all the conditions for P2P wine sales and particularly how the seller stocks the bottles. If the temperature doesn't suit the wine, the buyer is in for a disappointment when he uncorks the bottle.
5. Get all the info at your disposal online before sealing a deal
Experts insist on the fact that you can't buy wine online on impulse. Caution is de rigueur when buying regardless of the vineyard that produced the wine. Internet forums and other buyers' advice should be the first elements taken into account before confirming an order, recommends Géraldine Clément. Getting all the available info about a wine before buying it is also a good idea: you can find out about its history, tips on how to stock it, and recommended food pairings, for instance.