The internet is awash with great wine deals. Google "buy wine online" and you'll be hit with pages and pages of offers from New Zealand wine websites, individual wineries and the supermarkets.
The retail wine market has become incredibly competitive in the past decade, which means bargains for customers at every price point.
Blackmarket.co.nz, which is popular with friends of mine, says it's just as cheap as the supermarkets because the boxes are delivered direct from the winemaker or distribution company, cutting out the middleman. Blackmarket director Richard Knight says 80 per cent of orders are for six or 12 bottles of the same wine. He also sells pre-mixed cases from distributors.
Unless you really know your wine, it's difficult to tell what's a bargain and what's not because there may only be one website selling that wine.
Many of the websites, however, show customer reviews or the number of repeat purchases by customers, which is a good way to weed out anything that might be undrinkable.
If you've fallen in love with a wine from a specific winery you can probably buy it direct. Chris Canning of The Hay Paddock vineyard says many of his customers buy direct because they can't get the quantities they want from local wine stores. The Hay Paddock also offers a discount for case lots.
Canning says the supermarkets in their race to the bottom have turned the industry into a game of two halves: on one hand, wine; on the other, "alcoholic beverages made from grapes". Fortunately, the internet has come along and made it easier for small wineries such as his to sell direct to their customers.
One thing that appeals enormously is the "Mystery Wines" sold on Blackmarket. Typically, the winery doesn't want to be named because it wouldn't usually sell at such a low price point, says Knight. These mystery wines are good value because the websites know they must deliver above customers' expectations. The websites often have tasting notes from well-known wine writers as well as customer comments.
Related, but not as upmarket, are Cleanskin wines, where wine is packaged in unbranded bottles and sold below the normal price. Cleanskinwines.co.nz, as well as supermarkets, sell this wine. Another relatively new entrant is the one-day-sale websites such as Treat Me and GrabOne.
• Six bottles of quadruple gold-medal winning St Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux bubbly. $120 at GrabOneBottle.co.nz from tomorrow.
• Mix and match your choice of wines at TheGoodWine.co.nz for the same cheap price as a case. Free postage in Auckland.
• Mt Hector Pinot Noir 2011 at $11.50 a bottle in a case of six bottles at TreatMe.co.nz from midnight tonight.
• Wine of the Year Finalists box. $194.88 for the top-12 wines of the year and your chance to vote for first place. NZWinesociety.co.nz
• Single bottle sales with $3 delivery to Auckland. Winesale.co.nz