The United States is the largest wine market in the world, according to the Wine Institute, an advocacy and public policy association based in San Francisco. Despite the sluggish economy, U.S. wine sales in 2011 totaled $32.5 billion. In fact, the market has grown in size for 18 straight years.
This constant growth is great news for the wine consumer, who has never enjoyed such availability and variety as today. However, the sheer volume of wine to choose from also presents a challenge. Wine budgets vary widely, but most Washington area executives still have a mortgage to pay, and don’t have loads of free time to spend researching different wines.
The old expression information is power has never been more true. Online tools expand the power and productivity of consumers for many products, and wine is no different. The Internet allows for the automation of wine shopping and the delivery of retailer discounts. These tools can free up a lot of time and ensure that the wine purchased is competitively priced.
If you like good wine at good prices, give these online tools a try:
Wine-Searcher is a combination search engine and online magazine. It’s been around since 1999 and currently claims to list wines from over 36,000 merchants. Use of the search function is free; however not all prices will be shared, only those of the site’s sponsors. There is a $39/year Pro version that gives every price on every wine.
Wine Blue Book is a paid monthly subscription. It promises to aggregate a wine’s ranking and combine that with a national price comparison, based on a percentage with the average number being 100. For example, a Rhone wine might be scored 92, and have a price ratio of 75%, meaning it was priced 25% lower than comparable Rhones.
An annual subscription is $25, and each issue contains hundreds of wines.
This service bills itself as the “dating site for wine deals.” After you register you set up a profile of what you’d like to shop for – price, region, varietal, etc. WineNabber will then send you all the retailer specials that meet your criteria.
It’s a good example of the aggregation model made possible by the indexed Internet. The consumer gets a good price without having to searching, the wine retailer gets additional marketing, and WineNabber (presumably) gets a percentage for every sale delivered.
Forums are alive and well on the Internet. This one is the leading forum for wine lovers. Participating will of course involve some time investment, but you can learn a lot from fellow enthusiasts and get an early heads up on great wines and great deals.
These tools and many others make researching and purchasing wine much easier. The Washington, DC area is lucky to have many fine wine stores, and you shouldn’t neglect that option for wine. But don’t forget to unleash the power of the Internet to satisfy your wine palate – and wallet.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christopher Parente is managing director and partner of Strategic Communications Group, a social media and public relations consultancy based in Silver Spring, Maryland and Tysons Corner, Virginia. He also publishes Work, Wine and Wheels, a global top 500K web site as measured by Alexa, an online measurement company. You can follow Chris on LinkedIn or Twitter.