Five bottles of red and white wine in a row

Shopping for wine online: everything you need to know

olive’s wine expert reveals the websites offering top-quality bottles and next-level customer service

Where to buy wine online…

Most of us these days do at least some of our shopping online and, when it comes to wine, it really pays to use outlets that offer the convenience of internet shopping along with great customer service.

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Beware those who offer ‘surprise’ mixed cases to subscribers – often they’ll be palming you off with mediocre wines that are reaching the end of their drinkable life. Majestic’s Wine Concierge service is an exception. As well as a generous introductory offer, saving around 35% on the shop price, it sends a list of what it plans to send, so you can swap out any you don’t like the sound of. In addition, all wines come with a no-quibble return guarantee and free delivery, and subscribers may go to a Majestic store and taste any wine under £20 with no obligation to buy.

You can also buy confidently from Vinoteca, which was awarded Subscription Wine Club of 2019 by Decanter magazine. For £80 a month you get six bottles of wine tailored to suit your tastes, plus a 10% discount on any other wines you buy, invitations to tastings, and generous discounts on food and wine at Vinoteca’s five restaurants and wine shops around London.

Pull the Cork specialises in sustainably produced, natural, organic, biodynamic and vegan wines. While it doesn’t have a subscriber service, the website has loads of information on its wines and producers, and the online chat service answers any queries within minutes.

Honest Grapes has a wine club for subscribers starting at £50 a month. You get an immediate 10% cashback on your account, exclusive discounts, offers and tastings, and a personal wine guru online to guide you in your choices.

Established in 1698, Berry Bros & Rudd is the UK’s oldest wine merchant but its online service is bang up to date. Pick from its list of nearly 7,000 never-a-dud wines using its comprehensive search facility, or by contacting directly for personal advice.

I’m a huge fan of the Wine Society. With a one-off joining fee of £40, £20 of which is deducted from your first order, this not-for-profit organisation offers unbeatable value as well as brilliant service. Wines start at a gentle £5.95 and membership would make a lovely present for a wine lover.

So why not make 2020 the year that you’re saved from last-minute grabs in the corner shop by buying wine ahead online and always having a stash of decent wine at home.

@KateHawkings


The best wines to buy online…

Good Ordinary Claret 2017, £11.95, Berry Bros & Rudd

A classic blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon, this is a terrific, crowd-pleasing Bordeaux at a terrific price that would fit a treat with cumin-spiced steak salad.

A black bottle with a white label

Alimara Llumi Blanc, £12.50, Honest Grapes

Spain’s Catalunya region has been upping its wine game recently. A macabeu/white grenache blend, it has citrus freshness and a lovely mineral core. Perfect with chicken roasted on crunchy rosemary sourdough.

A green-tinged bottle with white wine in

Radford Dale Thirst, £12.95, Pull the Cork

Made from the on-trend gamay grape, this naturally made wine is really clean and thirst-quenching. Knock it back with this cauliflower, anchovy and raisin spaghetti.

A red bottle with a label on the front with the word 'THIRST'

Orgo Saperavi, £19.50, Vinoteca

A really special wine from Georgia, fermented in traditional clay qvevri buried into the ground. Fresh and crunchy red fruit with a brooding spine of spice, try it with our miso kale, pomegranate and chicken salad.

A dark bottle of wine with a white label on the front

Regaleali Bianco, Tasca d’Almerita 2018, £8.50, Wine Society

Made from the local catarratto grape by one of Sicily’s best winemakers. Aromatic and fruity with a zippy, lemony finish, a fine partner with spaghetti al limone with prawns and broccolini.

A dark bottle of wine with a white label on the front

Fizzy Bum Bum Pét Nat, £26, bintwo.com

A bonkers wine for bonkers times: a pink and creamy natural sparkling wine made with grapes grown by an eccentric boffin in Gloucestershire. Drink with a platter of smoked salmon.

Fizzy Bum Bum wine

Dr Loosen Estate Riesling, £12.50, harrogatefinewinecompany.com

At just 8% ABV, this lovely off-dry riesling is great for lockdown lunches and is best with gently spiced dishes such as Thai ginger salad.

Dr Loosen Riesling Estate

Sabar Keknyelu 2018, £12.99, novelwines.co.uk

Novel specialises in Eastern Europe and this, from Hungary, is a favourite of mine. Lemony and lively, have it with pearl barley primavera risotto with feta and pickled walnuts.

Sabar Keknyelu 2018

L’Abeille Picpoul de Pinet 2019, £9.95, red-white.co.uk

Picpoul makes for pitchperfect drinking with summery food such as green freekeh salad with peas, beans and herbs.

L’Abeille Picpoul de Pinet 2019

Château Mourgues du Gres Les Galets Rosé 2018, £11.04, lescaves.co.uk

A crunchier rosé than those from Provence – drink with dressed crab salad.

Mourgues du Gres Galets Rose 2017

Tahbilk Marsanne 2015, £12.99, thewhalleywineshop.com

From Lancashire’s favourite wine shop, this iconic Australian winery has the oldest un-grafted marsanne vines in the world. Opulent with gorgeous fragrant fruit, try it with Vietnamese-style salmon with roasted cashew rice noodle salad.

Tahbilk Marsanne

Domaine Jones Fitou Vieille Vignes 2017, part of a case of 12, €120, domainejones.com

Katie Jones is an English winemaker shaking up traditions in the south of France. A dozen bottles of her lovely wines sent direct from the vineyard offer incredible value for money. Buy the case and get an invitation to join weekly online tastings of the wines.

Domaine Jones Fitou Vieille Vignes 2017

Soli Pinot Noir, £12.95, swig.co.uk

Swig sniffs out wonderful wines from weird places. This comes from Bulgaria and punches well above its weight for the price. Ace with green lentil, vegetable and orzo stew.

Soli Pinot Noir

Domaine Le Cazal ‘Tradition’ 2018, £11.95, yapp.co.uk

Yapp Wines specialises in French bottles with bags of character and its customer service is superlative. This number has juicy berries with wafts of Mediterranean herbs: drink with harissa chicken and white bean bake.

Domaine Le Cazal ‘Tradition’ 2018

Thymiopoulos Xinomavro, £14.26, berkmann.co.uk

This red Greek gem is herbaceous, fresh and savoury like black olives – lamb chops with mint sauce potatoes would be a great match.

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Thymiopoulos Xinomavro

Pazo de Valdomino Cilantro, £24.84, iberiandrinks.co.uk

Head to Iberian Wines for kooky treasures from Spain. Tuck a bottle of this in your wine order: a liqueur flavoured with coriander seed and anise, it’s a perfect pick-me-up with pudding or afternoon cake.

Pazo de Valdomino Cilantro