In the face of falling champagne sales, the online wine merchant From Vineyards Direct displayed a mischievously British sense of humour, delivering a sample with a copy of Charles Dickens' Hard Times. Still, according to something called the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, £24m worth of alcohol is forecast to be bought online in the UK during the first week of December.
Our Decanter magazine retailer awards panel was impressed this year by the way the wine trade has turned internet wine shopping into a painless series of clicks. The new thinking has allowed the likes of Waitrose to extend the virtual aisle to great wines like Spain's fabulously zesty 2007 Fefiñanes Albariño, Rias Baixas, £14.99, or the sancerre-beating 2007 Domaine Henry Pellé, Les Blanchais, Menetou-Salon, Morogues, £15.99, waitrosewine.com. Or M&S's star buys – like the Cape's restrained, Pouilly-Fumé-like 2007 Sterhuis Sauvignon Blanc, £9.99/£53.95 per case of six, or the spicy, intense 2006 Brokenwood Verona Hunter Valley Shiraz, £17.99/£97.15, per case of six, marksandspencer.com/wine.
If you're after selections from specific countries, there's a dedicated online specialist for the Cape at sawinesonline, for Chile and Argentina with southamericanwinesonline and, also for Chile, The Real Wine Company's chileanwineclub.co.uk. Nzhouseofwine.co.uk caters for Kiwi sauvignon blanc and pinot noir nuts, adding exciting new syrahs like the 2005 Hawkes Bay Bridge Pa Louis Syrah, around £20. Ozwines.co.uk covers such Aussie delights as the black cherry and pepper 2006 Côte-Rôtie-esque 2006 Shaw and Smith Adelaide Hills Shiraz, and Australia's best riesling, the taut, mineral 2008 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling, both £18.99/£227.88.
Other online wine merchants to explore include tanners-wines.co.uk (try the great value, cherry-fruity 2006 Salice Salentino, Feudi di San Marzano, £6.30), vineyards direct.com (their Serge Mathieu Champagne Tradition, at £18.95, is a pinot noir-based Aube classic) and the clever, stylish site sixwineseight.com, with well-chosen wines like Argentina's aromatic 2007 Colomé Torrontés, £9, and The Main Divide's seductive 2006 Marlborough Pinot Noir, £16.
The granddaddy of internet wine sales, Berry Bros, claims the emergence of the internet has encouraged a return to its traditional, pocket-sized list, complete with a charming reproduction of a 1909 list showing a case of 1905 Château Latour at 50 shillings! The classics are still there in stylish, dry whites like the 2006 André Dezat Sancerre, £12.50, bbr.com, but the wine world has also grown to accommodate great value, southern French reds such as the peppery-spicy 2005 Domaine Belot Merlot, £6.95, and Spanish greats like Pago de los Capellanes' mulberry rich 2003 El Nogal, Ribera del Duero, £44.95. Independent of its big league sister website, laithwaites.com, whose 2007 Viña Falernia Alta Tierra Sauvignon Blanc, Elqui Valley, £7.83, is a moreish, gooseberry-scented Chilean sauvignon blanc, averys.com too has a list worth exploring for fine wines like Marlborough's superb 2007 Saint Clair Pioneer Block 4 Sawcut Pinot Noir, £13.99, vanilla-spiced, cherry- and mulberry-fruity Kiwi pinot. I could go on, and come the growth of internet wine in 2009, doubtless I will.Reuse content