Black Friday & Wine Affiliates 

Be an affiliate: No experience or expertise required. 

My last post introduced you to affiliates, behind the scenes bloggers/influencers making money.

These affiliate wine programs are not limited to a few small-time bloggers making a few bucks. The popular Wine of the Month Club has numerous, and, of course, everyone wants to have a link that leads to a commission from Amazon.

For example, Vinepair which I like and regularly follow tries to downplay it this way: 

  • “From time to time we work with various partners to highlight wine, beer, spirits and other products that we believe you, our readers, will be interested in learning about. When we link to Amazon and other 3rd parties with affiliate programs (and remember to tag those links) we earn a small commission.”

FYI: Amazon is said to pay a commission in the 1%-10% range, depending on the product. And should you check my review of Amazon’s wine selection at www.robywine.com, you’ll see the selection is vast.

 I recently clicked on a review of wine clubs published by CNET. Now we have definitely left the small world of wine bloggers, and CNET lays out an interesting background for why it, of all websites, is reviewing wine clubs:

“So which is the best wine of the month club or subscription for you, your budget and habits in 2019? If all of these choices seem overwhelming, we get it. It’s like being in wine country. That’s why we canvassed the wine club landscape to uncork the best memberships for you.” 

Setting aside the bizarre use of the word “canvassed,” if you read the fine print you are told: “CNET editors pick the products & services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.”

The assumption is that wine and wine clubs are just another product worthy of review and compensation when reviewed favorably. One day you review fitness watches and hotspots, the next wines or wine clubs.

BUT NO. Not so fast. 

As CNET noted, 

“Wine can be “overwhelming.” 

Well, for most people, except for the editors of CNET who can canvass the landscape, wine is complicated and both knowledge of and personal experience with the subject are essential before passing judgment.

But this brings me to the main point: wine continues to intimidate people, unlike shoes, fitbits, appliances, and most other products and personalized services. 

Can’t recall how many people once hearing what I did as a profession would then apologise for some reason for not knowing much about wine.

When buying wine, people still need good, reliable, and unbiased advice. 

It is pretty obvious that most publications mentioned with affiliates are targeting the millennial audience.

Millennials are targeted because, among many reasons, they might subscribe to a wine club. 

One website focuses on financial advice for millennials also explored wine clubs and ended this way:

“You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article.”

“Trust, “integrity,“”independent” and then maybe”compensation “?  

Wine to today’s bloggers and their colleagues is more lucrative than say shoes  and fitbits because it is meant to be consumed and replaced fairly often.

Wine can also be an expensive product, so affiliates can earn much more money through commissions.

And of all possible revenue sources, wine club subscriptions are the most attractive for obvious reasons, the main one being regular repeat sales. 

A commission is paid for the duration of the membership that originated in the blogger/affiliates review.

It is all about the money.

You can google “wine affiliates programs” and, yes. there are lists of the best ones for commissions and financial gain. 

You’ll also read that wine club subscriptions offer a great opportunity to make serious money.

Be an affiliate: No experience or expertise required. 

Looking for honest, non-affiliated reviews? Go to www.robywine.com

Sip & Swirl: Wine Influencers on Steroids

 

With holiday buying kicking off with Black Friday and continuing through Cyber Monday, if wine or anything related to wine is on your shopping list, you need to know about influencers and affiliates.

In the new world controlled by social media, bloggers need no credentials and can write whatever they want to. But thanks to this bullshit notion of influencers, the outer limits of truth and objectivity are being explored.

For centuries, wine lovers have cited the phrase, “in vino, veritas.” That means that after a little wine, the truth comes out. 

But now with a little wine in them, wine influencers are only out to obtain self- glorification, perks, and freebies. And the chance to make a few bucks.

So truth and objectivity are slipping away from the wine world. Posting a bottle photo on Instagram and exclaiming how great the wine is to one’s pod of followers is  only a minor infraction. But if you have hundreds of followers, it might keep the free samples coming your way.

I recently met a “wine influencer.” It (neutral pronoun) did the hand quotation marks when introducing itself. The occasion was a weekend wine event and the “influencer” was invited to enjoy free meals, wine tastings, and at least two nights accommodations.

The meeting confirmed my suspicion a self-proclaimed wine influencer is a sleazy, talentless, free-loader who should be exiled to the next Fyre Festival. (Transportation not included).

But the situation becomes serious as influencers morph into something known as “affiliates” and these people are now taking wine writing and reviewing one major step down the slippery slope. 

Much like influencer, the word “affiliate” is taking on a new definition.

While researching an article on wines for the holidays, I  encountered a list of 32 wines recommended for Thanksgiving on the Oprah website. 

That Oprah, the one person almost everyone still trusts for advice. 

I did think the number 32 was odd, but then digging deeper, things really got my attention. When clicking on more information for specific wines, I was connected to something called “Drizly,” an app set up for selling and delivering many of the wines recommended.

Drizly which operates in all major cities, sent me to e-commerce sites like www.wine.com and wineaccess.com or to the wine producer’s website when I clicked on a specific wine.

And then I read this in the fine print on the footer page:

“Do you and your readers enjoy sippin’ on an adult beverage from time to time? If so, we’ve got good news: The Drizly Affiliate Program makes it easy to earn some extra cash through your website, blog or e-newsletter. Cash that could be used for, well, more of those adult beverages we all love. (You could also use it for other things…we guess.)

The nitty-gritty: You can earn up to 8% commission on all sales that are referred to Drizly from a tracked link placed on your site. You’re paid the first time a customer visits to make a purchase, PLUS any subsequent tracked purchases that customer makes for up to 30 days. Average orders are over $70, so those commissions can add up quick. Which means you’ll be ordering the fancy drinks for next weekend.”

As a consumer, Drizly sounds kind of cool to me. Sort of the Doordash for booze.

 But Affiliates? Commissions? Money? 

Then when reviewing www.winc.com for another post published last week, I ran into this on its home page:

 Are you an affiliate looking to run the Winc Affiliate Program? Join now!

This also got my attention and eventually helped me understand why winc is so highly rated in reviews of subscription type wine clubs.

 A reviewer, aka an affiliate, any writer or influencer can enjoy the following perks: 

  • Earn up to $18 commission for every new subscription
  • 10% revenue share on gift card, gift box, and shop purchases
  • Variety of updated creative

Special coupons and seasonal promotional opportunities

  • Performance and bonus incentives for our partners
  • Opportunity to try Winc on the house!

Well, it seems this is the norm today, linking what appears to be advice to a seller like Drizly or winc for commissions. This goes way beyond the “refer a friend and get $20 off your next order.”

But just to be sure, I checked out other subscription wine clubs only to find some like the Cellars wine club that make even more lucrative proposals for affiliates:

  • 15% commission, no joining cost.
  • High average order of $192: That’s an average $28.80 commission on every order!
  • Lengthy 120-day cookie: As long as one customer signs up for one of our clubs within 120 days of their first click-through, you earn a commission.
  • Commission paid daily.
  • Use our high-quality images and easy to share information to assist your promotion.
  • Our staff is available to assist with individualized campaign strategies.
  • Access to special promotions and incentive programs.

Yes, we are talking real bucks $$$ and, yes, it is widespread.

A few reviewers, sorry, affiliates, will fess up in the beginning, as did this one:

“This article includes affiliate links. That means we will be compensated if this Winc review convinces you it is the right wine club for you.”

Sometimes on other sites a disclaimer appears in tiny print as a link at the bottom of a website. Such as this one which touts winc:

“Just so you know, this post may contain affiliate links. Meaning I receive commissions for purchases made through those links, at no cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something.”

Or this one:

“The wine club offers that appear on our website are from wine club companies from which http://www.thewineclubreviews.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all wine club companies, or all available wine club offers.”

Somehow it is worth noting the author who rated winc tops describes himself this way:

“The author of this site is not a professional wine taster but simply loves to cook as a hobby and is extremely passionate about it.”

How about those credentials? Well, hard to say if he’s passionate about wine or cooking. Or commissions.

But who cares. At least he didn’t describe himself as a “ wine influencer.”

Now some will say, “so what?” Websites can be so easily equipped with links and cookies that this is normal and no one is being harmed. 

That reminds me of those famous words recently uttered, “Get over it.”

But I can’t get over it because, as you’ll see in my next post, wine is not just another consumer product and marketing through affiliates is becoming big business.

Just google “top wine affiliates program” and see what I mean.

 

2018 Wine Website Annual Awards

 

Now that the post-Christmas sales are over and we can wrap up this absolutely crazy year for online wine sales, the results are in for the year’s winners and, yes, losers.

So, without further ado and other clichés, here we go:

BEST FOR ONLINE DISCOUNTS

One site kept improving its offering throughout the year while maintaining healthy discounts usually over 50%, sometimes approaching 70%.

The same site actually apologizes when the discount on a special wine falls below 30%. Others brag when they can offer something at 25-30% below average retail.

And the winner for best discounts in 2018: www.wtso.com

As a footnote, this site was sued 2 years ago for mis-representing average retail prices. So it has really cleaned up its act to become a role model.

We can only hope that other sites relying on false and misleading prices, scores, and narratives take note.

BEST ONLINE WINE DISCOVERIES

This category looks for wines that are not available either in traditional wine shops or on most websites. The focus is on discoveries of unusual, limited production wines that are true to their type. But NOT EXPENSIVE.

Every wine lover is on the lookout for something different, a wine not in the mainstream.

Such as outstanding wine from Greece or Slovenia as well as wines from Germany, Spain, Italy and France. A wine that is highly enjoyable and comes with a rich and exciting history.

And the 2018 winner for presenting the best wine discoveries is: www.sommselect.com

BEST WEBSITE FOR CULT-LIKE WINES

We know there’s a market for 95+ point rated wines priced on the high end. This wine buyer is interested in not only California cults (Cade, Pahlmeyer, Insignia, Shafer, Harlan) but also in the top rated Bordeaux and Brunello, as well as the Super Tuscans like Sassicaia.

Not limited to the current favorites but also interested in the next great cult wine.

This is a hotly contested category.

Over the year one site has proven itself to be the one-stop shopping for the cult and cult-wannabe wines of the world.

The 10-20% discount and free shipping on orders of $149 or more cemented its place on the top.

The proven track record for reliability doesn’t hurt either.

And that site is: www.wineexpress.com

 

BEST WEBSITE  FOR INFORMATION, KNOWLEDGE SHARING

This category may surprise those of you all too familiar with the non-stop hype that highlights fake scores, 100 point winemakers, “greatest vintage ever” nonsense so common on wine websites. 

You may be surprised that the category even exists.

But it does. And we reviewed many websites for their content and found that…

One site offers helpful background information about regions and vintages as well as insights about the wine producer.

One site knows the prime regions of France and offers insider insider information about recent vintages.

One site finds the best values available in Washington and Oregon, both fast-changing wine regions, as well as the occasional gem from California.

The winner is this category also seeks out wines that are organic and NOT MASS produced.

The winning website which is also a good read is www.garagistewine.com

BEST ALL PURPOSE SITE FOR WINE SHOPPING

Think of amazon prime but only for wines. And, no, sorry but amazon does not yet have a good, all purpose wine department.

Check out my review at www.bestonlinewineshopping.com

So for now finding an all-purpose wine website offering  wines from all regions, in all price ranges, including top sellers and cult-like wines is of extreme importance.

It can’t possibly have everything, but we looked for the one site that offers close to everything.

And the winner in 2018 is:

(We interrupt this awards program because it is New Year’s Eve and the Head Judge

just heard the sound of a Champagne cork…)

To be continued next year.

 

Is Amazon Primeday a Wine Day?

Surprise, Surprise! Amazon Primeday is on for July 10th

Amazon was previewing its wine selections and special packs over the weekend. An early Celebration.

And so I spent many hours over the weekend evaluating Amazon’s wine offers.

The Pitch: “Up to 40% off” on many selections

The Good News:

Many wines have special 1 cent shipping promotions

Over 8,000 wines and specials listed

And Amazon is the most trustworthy online presence

The Bad News:

The vast selection is vastly ordinary

The 1 cent shipping often applies only to case orders, 12 bottles

The best wines are NOT heavily discounted ( often less than 20%) and many are not discounted at all.

Many wines are mass-produced brands, starting with Barefoot, that are widely available

Overall, Amazon’s wine site has that supermarket feel to it which may be intentional.

It offers hundreds of made in America wines, but is weak when you look at French wines and South American wines.

It seems to be unloading many French wines from lousy vintages, such as 2011 and 2013.

The Detailed Update

Now that everyone is pumped for the special Amazon Prime Day on Monday the 10th, here are my thoughts.

Amazon has a large wine department. Not the biggest in the online world but close enough as the most recent listing of available wines exceeds 8,000.  Amazon is a little different from other online wine sellers because it loves to assemble wine packs of 2, 4, or 6 bottles. And toss in a few 12 bottle packs as well.

There seem to be more combinations of Game of Thrones wines (listed as the #1 best seller) than there are episodes of that show. The label art is quite detailed.

So that 9,000 wine items listed includes the various packs.

That said, now let’s get back to the details. About two-thirds of the wines on Amazon are US in origin, mostly California, but Washington State (1,500) is well-represented as in New York (550). These last two states have earned the recognition, so bravo Amazon.  French wines offered hover around 1,000, and Italy shows up with 485 offerings.

Maybe my expectations were too high, but after the first few hours of checking it out, I felt like I was browsing the wine section at Rite­Aid or Target with so many Barefoot wines and others found in most supermarkets and drugstores with a wine dept.

And yes, I check out the wine selection of every store visited. It is a habit.

And, yes I have tasted many Barefoot wines. NOT a habit, a duty.

When you begin hunting for deals and discounts, Amazon surprisingly is not exactly a savvy wine shopper’s paradise.  In fact, as is often pointed out in their customer’s reviews, quite a few of the wines can be bought at better prices at grocery stores like Safeway and at Costco and similar stores.

Apothic, Menage a Trois, Dark Horse, Smoking Loon, Pepperwood Grove,  Barefoot and a large number of other Gallo-owned brands may actually be cheaper at Rite-Aid, Safeway, Target and CVS.

Two of my favorite bargains, Columbia Crest Cabernet and Merlot, are cheaper at Costco and other outlets.

(Note to Amazon brass: you often get many negative reviews from your wine customers for this reason.)

As for small, family owned wineries, the choices are few. I did note that Brophy Clark wines are available as are a few from Hartwell, Peju, Anthem, Dry Creek Vineyard, Zaca Mesa, Qupe, Leeuwin from Australia, Ojai, and Chateau Diana.

All of Parducci brands are listed as are many Coppola wines. But both Parducci and Coppola which offer reliable wines are ramping up production in a big way and are widely available.

To summarize:

Shopping on Amazon Prime is appealing for three reasons: convenience, better pricing, and locating things not readily available from real stores.

When it comes to wine, Amazon scores big on convenience. Only convenience.

Best Tips:

First, check out the “Best Deals” by category.

Also, click on the 1¢ Shipping deals

And, go to the 20% off list and look for those items that are also part of the 1 cent shipping for the truly best deals on Amazon.