Do you buy things online and are starting to wonder if you should buy wine online, too? The answer is probably yes (even if you prefer buying from your local wine shop). Here’s everything you need to know to be a savvy wine shopper online.
FYI: I find great wine deals so you don’t have to. To keep me on the hunt, I earn a commission when you buy wine based on my recommendations.
Wine is alcohol, and as such a lot of people in this country want to control how it gets sold. After the Prohibition of Alcohol was repealed, way back in 1933, many legal structures were put in place to make it difficult to buy alcohol (for our safety and decency, of course), that still exist today (so certain monopolistic alcohol distribution companies can stay really really rich).
So having wine sent directly to your home (what the industry calls Direct to Consumer or DTC) isn’t always straightforward. I break out all of the gotchas in my wine delivery guide, but you should skip straight to the bit about your state using the dropdown selector below. If you’re sending wine to someone else, select their state.
When you clear the delivery hurdles (which most people do), you might not be able to buy every wine you want to, even in your state.
For example, Wine.com carries thousands of bottles of wine located in warehouses all over the US, but if you live in Michigan the wines you can order are different from the wines you can order if you live in Illinois or California.
This is why it makes sense to buy from certain online retailers more than others. Some offer the same stock to everyone and some ship to more states than others.
There are several different ways to approach buying wine online, and they all depend a bit on why you’re buying wine in the first place.
There’s a statistic (without a source) running around the Internet that claims Americans drink 98% of their wine within 24 hours of purchase. I’ve seen a pile of variations to this, but the point is always the same — we buy it when we plan to drink it.
Sonoma State University performed a study in 2018 that included this question (specifically referring to the purchase of a bottle of wine) and they found that 90% of Americans drank their wine within two weeks of purchase. I personally find these statistics amazing.
If this is you, it turns out you’re in good company. If you typically grab a bottle or two at the grocery store while you’re doing your weekly shopping, then I suspect the main reason you’re shopping online is to get better prices or to stock up (or both). Definitely do a little comparison shopping and check out deals for first-time customers with online wine stores, especially BuyWinesOnline.com.
There are two ways to do this with online shopping. There’s the somewhat obvious “kid in a candy store” method where you pore over the inventory at an incredible wine store like Wine Access or Millesima and fill up a box of twelve wines with that look enticing.
Sexy wine bottles. Photo by SommSelect.
Wine sellers are a crafty bunch and there are some rather interesting alternatives to traditional wine stores and wine clubs to get your wine. Here are some interesting ones to explore, even if you’re only getting their emails to learn more about wine.
SommSelect. A “wine of the day” site where the wines are curated by a team led by one of the sommeliers made famous by the movie SOMM, Ian Cauble. Every wine is pitched as some truly amazing rare find. Many of them can be purchased elsewhere for cheaper. They have some extra features and a six-bottle wine club, too.
Last Bottle, Last Bubbles, Garagiste, Wines til Sold Out, Invino, CaseMates, and WineText are all flavors of the same concept — some amazing wine their buyers managed to procure for some astounding discount through a combination of luck and industry prowess. The first six services send you emails to inform you of the daily wine, the last one sends you text messages (and is owned by Wine Library, which helped Gary Vaynerchuk get famous).
Underground Cellar has their whole own thing going on. It’s kind of like a wine lottery. Essentially you agree to pay a “base price” for a selection of wines that fit some theme (like Sonoma County Pinot Noir). They provide a list of every possible wine in the mix and charge you for the cheapest one. You get a random assortment of wines from the list. The lottery part is that some of the wines on the list might be quite expensive and culty. You could end up paying $30 for a $300 wine. Or you could end up paying $30 for a $30 wine. It’s a fun mix of ordering wine samplers and gambling.
Caution: these services all rely on the manipulative technique of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out on a great price or exclusive wine) to get you to buy and they send A LOT of email.
#5 Send a gift of wine
All of the above methods work great for sending wine to yourself or someone else as a gift. Two super important things to remember when buying a gift of wine online:
All of the caveats that apply above also apply, so choose carefully and maybe choose a gift card for a great online store or winery. Don’t forget to check that the store delivers to your recipient’s state, because gift cards are usually non-refundable.
You can’t purchase wine locally, box it up yourself, and ship it to anyone else.
How to get wine when you order online
There are a few different ways you may take possession of your wine when you order online. Usually you will not get to choose which delivery service you use. Some awesome wine stores let you pick FedEx or UPS or other choices listed below when you check out.
All of these methods require someone 21 or older to sign for the packages.
Common Carrier delivery services.
This is an industry term which we tend to think of as “delivery companies.” It includes FedEx, UPS, and regional delivery companies like GSO. These services can deliver to your home, your place of work, to one of their own storefronts (FedEx Office or The UPS Store), or to one of their delivery partners like Walgreens, Duane Reade, and Michael’s.
Local delivery and same-day delivery services.
I’ve grouped these together because they all offer a smaller delivery window than the Common Carrier companies — typically 1-2 hours (or less). Local delivery is often managed by the store you buy from (like Total Wine or BevMo!), while there are a number of third-party same-day delivery services (Drizly, Saucey, Instacart, etc.). This category also includes grocery delivery via Amazon Prime and whatever local grocery stores you like to buy at. They each operate differently, but the result is the same — you can get your wine delivered to you on the same day.
Order online, pick up in store.
There aren’t that many places where you can do this, but they do exist and are the right solution for some folks. I like that stores offer this flexible option. Total Wine and BevMo! are the most widely available booze stores offering this service, but you’ll find many local wine shops allow you to pick up in store and save a delivery fee, too.
And, the flip side to where you can get your wine, here’s where you can’t:
- No PO Boxes (because the age-requirement can’t be confirmed)
- No military bases (APO/FPO/DPO) because the USPS is the only authorized carrier and…
- USPS does not ship alcohol
Note: one reason many people don’t order wine online is the perception that shipping is expensive. While shipping wine costs a lot of money for the retailers and wine clubs, they don’t all pass the cost on to their customers. Many offer free shipping deals either for new customers, or for all orders over a certain size (total money spent or number of bottles).
Where to buy wine online
When you buy wine online, you can choose between wineries, wine stores, wine deal sites, and wine clubs.
Which is the best website for buying wine?
The answer to this question depends entirely on what kind of wine you want to buy and what kind of information you want before you buy. I recommend Wine Access for the stories behind each of their fine wines, Total Wine for a big selection with store pickup, Vivino for user ratings, Wine.com for a mix of info about the wine and critic ratings, Organic Wine Exchange for organic wine, Plonk Wine Club for natural wine, The California Wine Club for wine from small family wineries, Millesima for French wine and Champagne, and BuyWinesOnline.com for deep discounts on widely-available bottles.
Wineries. The one group of wine sellers who has managed to make the most headway in easy wine delivery are wineries (because they have lobbying groups like FreeTheGrapes and The Wine Institute working on their behalf). You can order wine from almost any winery and have it delivered to almost any state except: Delaware, Mississippi, and Utah. There are restrictions in other states like Rhode Island, New Jersey, Indiana, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alaska. And there are still Dry Communities sprinkled throughout most other states. Wineries tend to offer delivery via Common Carrier or local pick-up if you live nearby.
Wine Access. This is, by far, my favorite online wine store. This isn’t a place to grab your next bottle of YellowTail, La Marca, or The Prisoner, rather it’s the best place to find interesting, well-made wines from benchmark producers around the world. Shop current releases, back vintages, and aged wine direct from the winery. Prices range from $12 to $3000 per bottle. Wine Access also has a number of great wine clubs to join and has time-limited offers. Common carrier only.
All orders over $150 ship free. All wine clubs ship free. No codes needed.
Wine access ships to AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, LA, MA, MD, ME, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Total Wine. While it’s not the easiest place to shop for wine, they have a huge inventory and hundreds of physical stores around the country. They regularly offer deals for both new and existing customers on their Winery Direct wines (a huge selection) and other booze, too. Common carrier, local delivery, and in-store pick-up.
Total Wine has stores in, or can deliver to, these states. Selection will vary by your location.
AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, MN, MO, NC, NJ, NV, NY, NY, TN, TX, VA, WA
Vivino. This is a giant wine marketplace, kind of like Amazon is for everything else. They carry their own inventory and wine stores all over the world list their inventory and special prices hoping you’ll buy. The thing that sets Vivino apart from other wine shops is that they collect (and display) user ratings and feedback about most of their wines, so you get the non-professional’s opinion about each wine. This is a double-edged sword — customer reviews tend to be more realistic than critic reviews, but people who were never going to like a Pinot Noir drink them and then rate them 1 star. The inclusion of these bad-fit circumstances muddy the water and make those reviews less helpful. They run many time-limited offers. Common carrier only.
First time customer discount at Vivino — Save 20% with code WINELOVERSCU20.
Vivino ships to these states. Selection will vary by your location.
AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Wine.com. The largest online-only retailer of wine in the US, their pricing is fair and their best discounts are reserved for existing customers. They offer a Wine Stewardship program which lets you pay in advance for “free shipping” the rest of the year (like Amazon Prime). When it comes to variety, this is a terrific place to shop but they don’t carry anything especially obscure and they don’t make it easy to find wines without a lot of scrolling. Common carrier only.
First time customers save on Picked by Wine.com (their wine club) with code PICK50.
Wine.com ships to these states. Selection will vary by your location.
AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, LA, MA, MD, MN, MO, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Organic Wine Exchange. The best place to buy organic wine online that I’ve seen. They carry a huge selection (mostly under $30) from around the world and make it easy to find what you’re looking for, like: Biodynamic, Dry farmed, Fair for Life, GMO free, Low sugar, Natural, No Sulfites Added, Vegan, Under 13% alcohol, Non-alcoholic, and 90+ points. Since every wine they carry is organic, you don’t need to check the bona fides of anything you find on their site. Common carrier and local pick-up in the Palm Springs area.
Get $10 off your $100+ order with code LOVEWINE10 or save $30 on your first three organic wine club shipments with code WC10X3
Organic Wine Exchange ships to
AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Plonk Wine Club. A great source for off-the-beaten-track wines made in earth-friendly ways. Their site says all of the wines are natural, but that’s a loaded term and there’s no standard definition for it. Regardless, they have a reputation for picking wine from great producers and unusual grapes or styles. Buy by the bottle or choose from themed samplers and mystery boxes. Six bottle minimum order comes with free shipping. They also have some cool food and wine gifts and a wine club. Common carrier only.
Save $10 on your first shipment of the Plonk wine club with code SUBSCRIBE10
Plonk Wine Club ships to
AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
The California Wine Club & Gold Medal Wine Club. While their names say they’re wine clubs, they both offer online stores that anyone can shop. If you are interested in shopping from a variety of small California wineries, the kind that don’t have multi-state distribution and almost never show up in wine shops, these are your starting points. They curate wines for their memberships and buy other inventory, too. It’s a great way to get to know some California’s “other” wine regions — like Paso Robles, Sta. Rita Hills, and the better producers in Lodi. Inventory changes frequently, so check back often if you don’t see anything of interest on your first visit. Common carrier only.
The California Wine Club offers regular deals. Get the latest on their Premier Series club or use code WCRHALF to save 50% (on the wine) on your first shipment on any of their upper level clubs. Shipping is extra.
The California Wine Club ships to
AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, LA, MA, MD, ME, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Gold Medal Wine Club ships to
AK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, LA, MA, MD, ME, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Millesima. This is the best place to buy fine French wine online. They’re among the few hundred approved negociants who are allowed by law to buy directly from Bordeaux chateaux. They store wine in their own massive cellar for years and ship wine to the US either when you order it or when they’re going to run a big promotion. You buy from their US retail arm whether the inventory is already here or is coming from overseas on preorder. They offer Bordeaux Futures, have an incredible selection of aged wine from all over France, including Burgundy and Champagne, and also branch out to other regions. Common carrier, local delivery, and in-store pickup in Manhattan.
First time customers save 10% on orders with code SHAREASALE10
Millesima ships to
AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, GA, IA, ID, KS, LA, MN, MO, NC, ND, NE, NV, NY, OH, OR, SC, SD, VA, WA, WI
BuyWinesOnline. This online-only store, it turns out, is very popular among my readers! They carry a lot of the widely-distributed well-known wines and do a good job of discounting their inventory. If you prefer paying less than retail for wine, this is a great place to keep on your radar. It’s also a great store to know about if you want to get to know a handful of wines that are available at many restaurants: they have daily deals on wines like Caymus, Bonanza, and other bold red wines. Common carrier only.
Buy Wines Online currently does not ship alcohol to AK, AL, HI, MI, MS, UT
Buying aged wine online
If you are a collector and you want to buy aged wine you buy it at auction. You can wait for a formal auction house like Sotheby’s Wine & Spirits or a well-known wine auctioneer like K&L Wines, Vinfolio, or Zachys to run an event, or you can try sourcing your older wines through an always-on auction site like WineBid or CellarBid.
Learn more about whether you should age your wine, how long you should age your wine, where to try aged wine (to see if you even like it), what to know before you buy, and where to buy aged wine in my extensive Useful Guide to Aged Wine.
Or take a shortcut to Aged Cabernet with The California Wine Club.
Can you order wine on Amazon Prime?
Yes, you can order wine on Amazon Prime in most places. You’re limited to what your local Whole Foods carries (they also partner with some local grocers, but that varies wildly based on where you live). They have a pretty substantial alcohol delivery fee attached to your order. If you’re already ordering your groceries, it’s not a bad idea to add wine on, but you can get much better prices and wines from the stores listed above. Similar services like Drizly and Saucey work directly with wine stores, too, so you might get a better selection or prices by trying them instead.