Rating eBay’s New Wine Dept.


The highly anticipated expansion of eBay into online wine sales took place a few months ago. This was in fact the second major effort to ramp up eBay Wine, so it seemed timely to look closely at what eBay now has to offer wine lovers.

Through a partnership with mobile app Drync and its retail partners, eBay Wine greatly increased its wine focus and now claims it is able to deliver wine to 45 of the 50 US states.

The Drync-eBay platform offers real inventory from large and small retailers throughout the US. So none of the pay now, and take delivery sometime in the future stuff which is far too common in this online world.

But that real inventory situation applies primarily to the Drync partners.

And according to Decanter Magazine,  eBay has stepped up its presence in wine by joining forces with mail order merchant Laithwaite’s in the UK. “eBay said that ‘a wide selection’ of Laithwaite’s red, white, rosé and sparkling wines, plus mixed cases, were now available on its UK site. That brings its total number of wine listings to more than 3,500.”

That all sounded like this time around eBay was ready to blow away the online competition, so I subscribed to see how the planned  attack would unfold.

And waited for a few days.  Every now and then subscribers are notified of new wine matches which range from 30 to 48 in number. The emphasis is on either 6 or 12 bottle deals with free shipping.

What’s new is that many of the featured wines are presented by a company called “The Wine Spies” which has been in business since 2007. It says it is not a retail outlet and offers new wines to eBay in the 20-60% discount range. This partner is based in Sonoma County and there are probably other similar retail partners in other states.

Today on eBay there are 36 wines offered by The Wine Spies, mainly from California.  Napa Valley is well-represented. And most are well-known , mainstream names such as Grgich Hills, Beringer, Flora Springs, Clos Pegase, Frank Family, St. Supery, and Saddleback. Hahn Family Central Coast Pinot was another match, and an Aussie Chardonnay was the only import when I last checked.

Except for Saddleback’s Albarino which I tasted last month and is wonderful,  the offerings are mainstream varietals from Cabernet to Zinfandel. So for those who like to stay within their comfort zone, these wines are from reliable wine producers.

With free shipping on six bottles or more and discounts of 25% or more, the deals are more than decent.

So, the new eBay wine section has improved, but in an oddly limited way. Continue reading “Rating eBay’s New Wine Dept.”

Buying Wines in France

Ever wonder how the French, who consume 4 times more wine per capita than we do, buy  wine?  One logical answer is that since they tend to visit the market every day to buy food, wine is available for purchase at even the smallest grocery store in the smallest village.

Good guess but when they want to replenish their cellars with enough wine to get them through the fall and winter month and also stock up on long-aging wines, they go another route: the “Foire aux Vins” provided by the major markets. 

Each year over the last week of September and the first week of October, the giant supermarkets, Carrefour, Auchan, Leclerc, and Super U, put on a super sale of wines from all parts of France and other regions.

Each “Foire” or Wine Fair organizes a large number of wines to be sold at discounted prices with an additional discount to club members that carry over to all wines.

During a recent visit, our wine-loving friends in Bordeaux invited us to join them at a special tasting at a Leclerc to kick off its “Foire aux Vins.” Crowds lined up before the doors opened at 8:30 pm to get a chance to sample wines from 36 different producers and to have first dibs at all wines up for sale.

This is France and of course there was food. Excellent finger food and they never ran out. The seasoned veterans headed directly to the oyster bar to go with the glass of Champagne, and then located the fois gras table before turning their full attention to the wines.

Now, if you are thinking there’s nothing to wash these down but ordinary supermarket wine, you would be blown away

by the overall quality. Sure, there were many under $5 bottles but the pleasant surprise was the number of beautifully made white and red wines for under $10.  

Two personal favorites in the tasting were the 2014 Ch. Verriere Bordeaux Superieur and 2014 Chateau Pitray, wonderful red wines for about $6.25. The latter is from the Cote de Castillon, one of several  Bordeaux sub-regions that Americans should get to know better. There’s also Bergerac for red and white wine, but that’s another story.

Many of the famous Bordeaux chateaux offer second label wines in off years. And, as expected, there were several second labels like the 2011 Petit Cheval from Cheval Blanc for $160 and the 2013 Carillon D’Angelus for about $60. My indifference to second label Bordeaux was more or less reinforced.

The biggest surprise of all was the number of high-end, high-priced wines on the shelves. The superstars that caught my eye were the 2012 Chateau Palmer ($250), 2011 Chateau Haut Brion ($460) and 2011 Chateau Lynch-Bages ($100). So not every bottle of fabled Bordeaux is exported to the US or China as some may believe.

The wide variety of wines at discounted prices, the food, and the festive mood converged to produce the desired results: supermarket carts were loaded with wine boxes and cash registers were busy over the next few hours.  It was amazing to see how many cases could be stuffed into one shopping cart.

The check-out lines were long, and we had to wait to find an empty cart. Once located, it too was filled up with a few bottles. Well, make that quite a few bottles.

When in France, do as the French do. And we did.

Harvest Time In St. Emilion

Enjoying a beautiful, warm sunny Sunday in St. Emilion. The tiny streets are crowded with tourists from everywhere making it more difficult than ever to find a parking place. And although the wine bars and restaurants are packed and the noise level is high, the surrounding cellars and vineyard areas are quiet.

No tractors are bumping along the numerous roads rushing from vineyard to cellar and spilling red juice along the roads as they were last week in the Languedoc region to the South.

In St. Emilion growers are playng that annual and risky waiting game as they hope for sustained warm, dry October weather to yield another miracle and make 2016 a surprising following act to 2015.

A noisy thunderstorm blew through here late last Friday dropping considerable rain for about 2 hours.

But Saturday was dry with slight breezes to dry things. Dark clouds were visible in the distance until the skies cleared in the early evening. The waiting game was on.

A few raindrops fell the week before. But this is France and nobody panics when rain arrives during the harvest season. Not here, at least. One grower suggested the vines would benefit from the rain so long as the thin-skinned Merlot grapes didn’t begin to split open from the added moisture. That would be a disaster because Merlot plays a starring role in St. Emilion wines.

But the red grapes are hanging, looking ripe and juicy to the untrained eye. The vines are still green, looking healthy. That’s an old Merlot vine carrying a small crop in our photo.

Merlot will be the first variety harvested. Possibly later in the week. Then the two Cabernets with Malbec and Petit Verdot coming in  to end the harvest.

Meanwhile, the waiting continues.