50-70% Below Retail:
Deal or No Deal?

And to be totally honest, I’ve noticed some sites are not being totally honest when they toss out a suggested retail price. Question to these wine merchants: who suggested it, your brother-in-law?  

With wines made in the USA, I always suggest looking at the winery's website to get the real base retail price. This assumes a real winery is involved, one with a website.

So, sometimes the “greatly reduced” price mentioned on the websites is no better, or even higher than the average retail price at the bricks&mortar stores.

So whenever possible, check the average price of any wine at winesearcher.com or vivino.com.

But there are several logical reasons that enable web prices to be heavily discounted.

Mega-sites buy in huge volume. Sites like wine.com and totalwines&more.com can buy big and sell cheap, while still making a profit.

Most online wine merchants have lower overhead expenses compared to the bricks & mortar folks.
Every website is pushing sales by the case, or six-bottles. It goes along with the best shipping deals. Most traditional wine shops sell by the bottle; websites work by multiple bottles per sale.

Even Safeway now encourages six bottle purchases with a 10% discount.

Quite often, the wine deals come about as end of the vintage and final close-outs. Wine producers and distributors need to make room for the new vintage, so they reduce prices to move inventory.

This explains why you are seeing so many red wines from 2011 and/or whites from 2012 offered at discount. These wines aren’t necessarily bad or too old; it is just time to clear them out.

Some producers, typically small, family-owned ones, may need a little quick cash to pay the bills so they are happy to strike a deal to improve the cash flow. 

When you look closely at the website language, you sense discounts are all about marketing. It’s a win-win thing as the online store promotes the heck out of the specific wine offered and also hypes the brand.

Check out the detailed write-ups for each wine at www.wineaccess.com which is an extreme example of hyping a brand with its background stories, and narratives.

Building a brand by striking a deal with an online merchant is far less expensive than advertising. And many of the 4,000 wineries in California probably dont have an ad budget.

And again to be totally upfront, the sites are kind of like shills, and the discounted wines are like the old concept of loss-leaders. Also part of brand building.

Whatever the reasons may be for discounts, opportunities are created for great online deals.