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.
If you search the site, you will find many other wines for sale. Single bottles with the standard eBay look of buy in now and add to your cart format. These are offered by sellers, often private parties, who have been on eBay for several years.
Wines listed and linked to these other retail partners, however, add shipping costs of roughly $44 a case, but they also average about 25% below retail price. The partners cited during my extended browsing session were hookedonwine.com, yianniswine, cultwines and grapesnmalt.
Yianniswine is based in Virginia, while hookedonwine, which claims to be the biggest eBay wine seller, is in Washington State. To me, they are part of the old eBay which involves a lot of re-selling or consignment deals and that raises questions about provenance with older vintages.
cultwines based in Florida, lists a number of old and rare wines. But the prices are high, and some of the wines were never much to begin with (the 1980 Chateau Lafite, $659 a bottle) and now likely to be way over the hill.
Also, another very prominent eBay wine partner is the large site, http://www.getwineonline.com. This is a major site and retail store based in New York. It is a reliable site and especially good for everyday wines under $10 a bottle. But it tacks on a shipping fee for some eBay purchases. Others are free, so check carefully.
To summarize the new eBay wines:
Improved selection of mainstream California wines with free shipping.
But with the numerous non-Drync retail partners, it is a total crap shoot and it makes no sense these day with so many online wine sites to pay shipping at all.
Old rare and cult wines offered at auction are just as risky on eBay as on any site.