Online wine buying: Time for a burst of mellow fruitfulness

What could be nicer, now that autumn's here, than having a case of fine wines delivered to your door for your delectation? Anthony Rose recommends a dozen labels from three companies that offer a good online shopping and delivery service
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

With any spare cash that doesn't slip through my fingers, I prefer to buy wine by the case than by the single bottle. It gets the shock of the purchase over and done with, allowing me to browse through my new micro-cellar at leisure without the nagging reminder of the cost every time I pull a cork. Inertia plays its part, too: delivery takes the lugging out of glugging, and makes it so much more convenient.

With any spare cash that doesn't slip through my fingers, I prefer to buy wine by the case than by the single bottle. It gets the shock of the purchase over and done with, allowing me to browse through my new micro-cellar at leisure without the nagging reminder of the cost every time I pull a cork. Inertia plays its part, too: delivery takes the lugging out of glugging, and makes it so much more convenient.

If it's a must-have wine, I prefer an unmixed case. Otherwise, I want to be able to return to a wine that I like, so a minimum of two bottles of each is preferable. But for this autumn's selection of bottles that suit the season, I've chosen a dozen, from three companies that represent a cross section of online wine-buying.

The growth of home-shopping on the internet looks like greatly expanding our opportunities for buying wine by the case. The more efficient mail- order wine companies have already capitalised on the potential of the internet by turning their come-hither wine lists into on-screen shop windows. Suitably mouth-watering descriptions of the wines are backed up by an efficient delivery service. Berry Bros & Rudd, with its fusty façade in St James's, is probably the last wine merchant you'd expect to find at the cutting edge of home-shopping. Yet two weeks ago, it picked up this year's Wine Website of the Year award. Despite appearances, BB&R, which has decided to display bottles on its shelves at No 3 St James's for the first time in three centuries, runs a highly efficient, 2500-strong wine mail-order service from modern premises at Basingstoke (0207 396 9666; www.bbr.com). It lists a plethora of interesting New World estates with useful case discounts, a promise of delivery between three and five days, free for orders over £120 (£9 otherwise).

Wine clubs, too, are expanding home-shopping options. The biggest of them, Direct Wines, was started by Tony Laithwaite, who set out by delivering French wines from the back of a van in 1969. Since then, he's turned Direct Wines ( www.laithwaites.co.uk; 0870 4448383) into a thriving £150m-plus business encompassing Laithwaites (formerly Bordeaux Direct) and the Sunday Times Wine Club, along with the BA and Natwest Wine Clubs. Direct Wines claims to be Britain's largest home- delivery wine merchant with 600,000 customers. While it may not be the cheapest, its mail- order services include voluminous bedtime reading and pre-selected cases of mainly exclusive wine labels. Allow up to seven days for delivery, which costs £4.99.

After the failure of a motley crew of wine websites in the initial dot.com surge, Virginwines.com, which absorbed the ailing Wine Planet site this year, is emerging as the new dot.com kid most likely to succeed. With plenty of jaunty, back-up information and a Wine Wizard that tailors its wines to your likes and dislikes, Virgin's well-chosen core list of 550 recommended wines is a deliberate attempt to get away from the boring shopping-trolley site. Case delivery is £4.99 in the UK, guaranteed within seven days, and if it gets your wine wrong, it pledges your money back.

An autumn case

1998 Clos LaChance Chardonnay, £14.75. This opulent burgundian-style chardonnay from California's Central Coast combines buttery richness with beguiling oak nuttiness.

1998 Crozes-Hermitage, Domaine Ferraton, £8.95. A classic smoky/ spicy northern Rhône syrah with juicy, pepper-infused fruitiness in mini-Côte Rôtie mould.

1997 Château Dalem, Fronsac, £10.95. From Fronsac's best estate, this is an expressive, merlot-dominated claret balancing the supple, plummy fruitiness of the merlot grape with a refined touch of spicy oak character.

1997 Pago de Los Capellanes Crianza, Ribera del Duero, £12.95. Tempranillo is in the major key, cabernet the minor, in this stylish, succulent northern-Spanish blend suffused with the charry, coconut flavours of American oak.

All from Berry Bros & Rudd ( www.bbr.com; 020-7396 9666)

2000 Grant Burge Zerk Old Vine Semillon, Barossa Valley, £8.15. Lightly smoky aromas and full-flavoured tropical fruit with lemon and lime-zest undertones make for a classic Barossa Valley semillon.

2000 Santiago Graffigna Malbec Syrah, £6.39. A fragrant, warming Argentinian blend with oodles of smoky, brambly fruitiness and a seductively silky texture.

Edizione, Vino da Tavola, £8.99. This distinctive five-way southern Italian blend shows elegant cherryish fruitiness cut by a damsony twist of acidity.

1998 Chateau Capet-Guillier, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, £11.99. A deep-hued, youthful, right-bank claret with fine merlot fruit finesse and a polished veneer of vanilla oak.

All from Laithwaite's ( www.laithwaites.co.uk; 0870 4448383.)

2000 Auburn Hills Clare Valley Riesling, £5.99. With the new screwcap favoured by Clare Valley riesling producers in Oz, this crisp dry white with its zesty, limey acidity, gives an affordable glimpse of the Clare style.

2000 Baron d'Alsace Tokay Pinot Gris, £6.49. Delicately spicy aromas and a refreshing spritz with a honeyed touch of sweetness make for an enticingly pear-like dry white.

2000 Zohar Mendoza Tempranillo, £5.99. Using the rioja grape to good effect, this aromatic, strawberryish Argentinian red is loaded with plush, gluggy fruitiness.

1999 Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel, £13.99. Fine California zinfandel from the family firm of Seghesio with a ripe, bramble-fruit opulence and spicy, plummy flavours.

All from www.virginwines.com

Comments