A Real Happening App

How is it that two guys from Denmark created the world’s most popular wine App, Vivino, now headquarted in San Francisco?

 

 

Vivino.com,  now the most popular wine App, began simply as a resource tool and has evolved quickly into an all-purpose site.  

It caught my attention about 3 years ago as a clever, useful App that allows you to take a photo of a wine label and get instant feedback and reviews of that wine.

The App is free to download on the apple store, google play, and windows phone. Other sites now have a similar app but these guys started it.

Headed by a couple of techies from Denmark, Vivino is the brainchild of Heini Zachariassen who was joined by co-founder Theis Søndergaard in 2010. The Founding Fathers, as they call themselves, simply saw a need for making information readily available to wine consumers.

Et Voila Vivino! Or whatever they say in Copenhagen.

Vivino now employ 80 people and even have an office in San Francisco to help it deal with its over 18 million subscribers. Yes, 18 million!

As it fine-tunes its own direct wine sales department, Vivino offers wines no other site has. Many are from California, and it is now featuring the 2013 T-Vine Grenache, 2012 Elizabeth Spencer “GPS,” 2012 Seltzer Stags Leap Cabernet,  2012 Lateral Napa Red, and Marietta Cellars Arme.

Vivino is also the only website offering wines from the cult-like Alpha Omega and other hard-to-find wines such as Sbragia  Home Ranch Chardonnay.

Imports, when offered, are equally fascinating, such as a Pomerol, the 2010 Gombaude-Guillot, and the 2013 Ornellaia Serre Nuove.

You also know how many bottles remain for each wine offered and how much time is left before the deal is removed.

New wines are added daily.

As A Search Engine

In the early days,  it occasionally failed to deliver reviews of older vintages or under the radar wines.  But recently, it had reviews of every Cabernet, Pinot or French wine I could think of because it now elicits reviews from its members as well as published reviews from experts.

These reviews from members follow the Tripadvisor 5-star format, and some reviewers are then followed by other reviewers on Facebook.  Several subscribers, mainly sommeliers, have reviewed over 1,000 wines.

According to the Founders, its “users contribute ratings for millions of wines from around the globe, and collectively, this database makes up the largest wine library in the world.”

To make your decision-making easier in this social media world, Vivino now lists the top wines rated by subscribers in specific states. So you can see the top 25 wines from $20 to $40  from Texas or Mass. Washington State, or whatever state you live in.

But the list of lists continues with 11 Malbecs, 10 New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs or 2 California Syrahs. Or maybe that was two turtle doves.

Well, the point is these people like compiling lists.

Admittedly, I was intrigued by the top ten wines sold at Safeway and Whole Foods. Seriously, do people buy Opus One and Dom at a Safeway?  There’s also a top 100 wines list.

As an Online Merchant

Recently, Vivino ratcheted up its own list of wines for sale using a third party retailer for fulfillment.  This exciting development is spearheaded by Peter Ekman who judging from the selections, knows where to find excellent wines at good discounts. Shipping is normally free for 4 or 6 bottles and the discounts range from 25% to 60%.

These wines are offered through a local retailer, Vintage Berkeley which ships out of San Leandro.

A Crash Course in Flash Sales

Hold onto your hat or whatever may blow in the wind, because on Tuesday, July 19th, WTSO (Wines ‘til Sold Out) is conducting its day-long marathon for wines priced at $19.99.

The kick-off is 8:00 am, East Coast time. A new wine will be for sale every 15 minutes or sooner. 

 

To sweeten the deal, they are offering free shipping with no minimum purchases and they will store your purchases for free, should there be concerns about high temperatures.

You can follow the sales online at www.wtso.com, download the app, or use your twitter account for notifications.

So, are you ready for some Flash sales?

If you are a newbie at this, it can be a bit unnerving with the time pressure. But if curious, this could be like a crash course in flash sales. You can be a spectator or a player.

I’ve followed WTSO for about 4 years and reviewed its 1,359 offers over the last 10 months to get a feel for what might be up for sale. At $19.99, there were a few exceptional deals, most were decent enough, and there were some wines I wouldn’t want if they were given to me.

Overall, the best deals were wines from the Rhone Valley, off-brand Champagne, Tuscany, and Australia, along with Pinot Noir and Zins from California.

If you are game and ready to tune into to this upcoming marathon, we are happy to offer a little pre-game advice and pep talk along with a game plan. Go to

www.bestonlinewineshopping.com

 

 

Wine Clubs Without Commitments

Two of the best-kept secrets among wine clubs offer exceptional introductory offers.

Joining a Wine Club without any membership fee or contractual obligation is like dating without any commitment. In other words,  quite appealing. That is so long as you don’t waste your time and encounter bad experiences on your first date or wine purchase.

In addition to almost every online wine merchant that offers some kind of club, we also have wine clubs from major publications like the New York Times and big businesses like American Express offering special wine deals through a club.

As is true of all online wine purchases, the key points to consider are quality, discounts, and shipping costs. We have recently been reviewing the field and found two that offer special 15 bottle deals that you might want to check out. Each promise major discounts.

But the most attractive feature you want is to be able to enjoy the introductory offer, and then cancel your membership. 

First, and this blew me away is the wine club offer from Virgin America Airlines. The current offer is a 15 bottle collection of Dry Rose wines from around the world. The price is $79.99, plus any applicable taxes. So no shipping cost.

The deal is you have to fill out a lot of paperwork and become a member of The Club from Virgin Wines. If you continue, they will ship a case 4 times a year. But you can cancel at any time. There is a mention of a money back guarantee. You also can earn 3,000 Elevate Points for future flight purposes.

All Roses are from 2015, so nice and fresh. The selection is excellent. Their origin ranges from European regions to South Africa, New Zealand, California and Long Island. Yes, good wines are made there.The 3 extra Roses are from the cool Edna Valley and made by a top local winemaker.

The learning opportunities are intriguing because the Roses are made from a variety of grape varieties. So you can judge whether you prefer Pinot Noir, Syrah, Malbec, Sangiovese or a few blends.

If you like Rose, this is a fantastic deal.

www.virginwines.com

Secondly, The WSJ Wine Discovery Club has “Special  Introductory offers” that merit your attention.

Here’s the deal: 15 bottles for $69.99 plus $19.99 shipping, and any taxes. You can choose red, white, or a mixed selection of 15 bottles.  So, we are talking $6 a bottle.

On the plus side, you can cancel anytime and there is even a reference to refunds and money back guarantees.  

Here’s the Inside Story:  The wines are billed as “World Class” which of course is far from the truth. And the producers are said to be “Small Estates” which is open to debate. Expert tasting notes are included which really doesn’t sweeten the deal much.

Of the three  choices,  the collection of red wines is a slightly better deal than the wines. The Cabernet and Zin from California are good, and the Chianti, Aglianico, and Tempranillo are also from reliable producers.

The whites are good enough, if you prefer whites. The White Bordeaux, Ch. Le Coin, the Spanish Albarino and California Chardonnay are very good.

The mixed case includes most of the better reds and whites. So this is an excellent way to go if you like reds and whites equally.

 

Two Great Wine Deals

Two Awesome Wine Deals for This Weekend

  1. Winelibrary.com just announced  that it will offer 150 wines from various regions as part of its July weekend sales.

Most of the wines will sell for 50% below suggested retail with free shipping for a case. Just remember that you need to use the code JULY2016 to get free shipping.

As an added incentive, you can mix and match wines to qualify for the free case shipping. That’s an attractive  alternative.

When thinking about case purchases, I looked for wines under $20 a bottle and came up with these five beauties.

2014 Lafage Cuvee Centenaire Blanc, $11.98, lovely, full-flavored white from southern France.

2014 Gabriel Meffre Cotes Du Rhone Saint Vincent, $12.01, from a reliable producer, and a real deal for a Rhone red.

2010 Olarra Laztana Rioja Reserva $12.44, This is a ready to enjoy classy Rioja from the fine 2010 vintage.

2012 Casey Flat Ranch Estate Red $19.99, An excellent combination of Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and a dash of Viognier.

2013 Willowbrook Cellars Kastania Pinot Noir $19.99, This delivers pure Pinot flavors and soft,silky texture. Hard to find a better Pinot at this price.

2. As a big fan of Navarro Vineyards, I was thrilled to see this special July 4th offer in my mailbox. For some reason, wineries aren’t allowed to ship totally free, but every now and then a winery will go with the 1 cent per case shipping fee. That saves about $40.

Since the owners, Ted and Deborah, are better writers than I am, I’ll quote their offer below.

The Sauvignon Blanc is one of my all-time favorites and this  vintage is the finest to date.

I’d also go with the 2014 Pinot Noir at the enticing price of $16.50 a bottle. But the Pinot Grigio is a perfect summer sipper as is the Rose of Pinot Noir. Tough to decide, but what great choices!

Here’s the offer:

“The Fourth of July is just around the corner and Navarro has six Gold Medal winning new releases that will make your barbeque taste better than ever, especially since the One-Cent Ground Freight offer is still in effect. Here, in order of popularity, are our bestselling new releases:

2014 Pinot Noir, Anderson ValleyBottle price by the full case: $16.50

2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Anderson ValleyBottle price by the case: $17.55

2014 Chardonnay, MendocinoBottle price by the full case: $16.50

2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Cuvée 128Bottle price by the case: $17.10

2014 Chardonnay, Première ReserveBottle price by the case: $24.30

2015 Pinot Grigio, Anderson ValleyBottle price by the full case: $12.42

2015 Edelzwicker, Anderson ValleyBottle price by the full case: $12.42

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, MendocinoBottle price by the case: $28.80

2014 Riesling, Deep End BlendBottle price by the case: $26.10
Can’t decide which wines to purchase; check out Navarro’s Summer Samplers with savings up to 25%! You can assort twelve bottles of these new releases or any other wines or juices, and qualify for Navarro’s One-Cent Ground Freight and discounted Air Freight. You can place your order online at www.NavarroWine.com

 

 

Wines for 4th of July Parties

With a week to go before the 4th of July holiday, the web wine retailers are already competing to light up the skies with special deals, massive discounts, blowout sales to end all blowouts, and free shipping incentives. You can be sure the wines chosen for your July 4th celebrations will be made by rockstar winemakers, from the greatest vintage since 1945, and have earned numerous 90+ point ratings.
Yes, there is a lot of hot air. For over a year I’ve been following two dozen leading web wine retailers, and if nothing else, I’ve learned how to cut through the hype, and silly descriptors, the aggressive sales pitches, and those numerical ratings to find the websites that have genuine deals and deliver on time.
If flash sales appeal to your independent side, my favorite is www.lastbottlewines. com which is headquartered in Napa.  Usually, offering only one wine daily, these guys have an unpredictable nature and they love holiday surprises. The discounts are usually deep, as in half-off, but to purchase wines, you have to act quickly. I recently missed out on a super Zinfandel from Lake County offered at $10 a bottle.  This is the go-to super source for Napa and Sonoma wines, especially Cabernet. Shipping is free for 4 bottles or more.
Another excellent website is www.cinderellawine.com which offers two daily deals and gives you a little more time to think things over. Though any connection between Cinderella and wine escapes me, this site has come on strong in recent months. Its best deals are wines from Italy, Spain and Australia. If you prefer Italian, this is the site for you. However, in mid-June it began offering unusual 2 and 3 bottle packages, but unlike others who offered “curated” wines, this site offers creative packages. As an example, a 2012 Chardonnay duo consisted of the Auntsfield Chard from New Zealand and a Franciscan Cuvee Sauvage Chard from Napa’s Carneros ($36.99 the pair). That’s an intriguing side by side comparison. Additionally, once a week its parent company, winelibrary.com, offers subscriber a special deal. These usually fall in the under $20 price point and are often good to excellent deals. Continue reading “Wines for 4th of July Parties”

Rating Wines by Points

Once upon a time in a kingdom far away, only Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate  and The Wine Spectator dueled over which one could score the most wines 90 points or more. Then along came Stephen Tanzer, The Wine Enthusiast and others  to jump on the 100 point scoring system with a steady barrage of 90 point scores in their publications.

Then,  things really began to get out of hand. Parker’s onetime protege, Galloni or Baloney or whatever, split off and now pumps out 90+ ratings on hundreds of wines.

Today, I can’t think of a qualified expert who does not rate wines by the 100 point system and now with the bloggers, everyone is an expert.

And as more and more sommeliers land a day job as consultants or advisors to online publications, well, the points just keep on coming at you.

You need  to understand  that this scoring system for wine as it has evolved is all about mutual promotion. By that I mean  every producer whose wine is rated 90 or above is likely to promote that wine and also mention that writer or publication or blogger.

That’s how Parker became so well-known early on and forced The Wine Spectator to start using the 100 point rating system to keep up.

For producers, the 90+point ratings only encourages them to increase prices at every opportunity. That is good for the producers; not so good for the consumer.

Even www.wineaccess which is no stranger to hype and self-promotion had this to say recently:

“But perhaps more than anything, what most has us reaching for the TUMS are the soaring prices of Napa Valley’s (admittedly herculean) 2013 Cabernet Sauvignons.

Wine Spectator primed the Napa Valley pump, calling 2013 “an ideal season.” Then Parker came on like gangbusters, posting a record 19 perfect 100-point ratings, before calling 2013 “the greatest vintage in 37 years.” Finally it was Galloni’s turn. Parker’s former protege has always been stingier than his counterparts, causing many to suggest that if you want to compare a Parker score to Galloni’s, it’s best to just “subtract two.” Galloni poured fuel on The Wine Advocate’s Napa Valley fire, publishing a record 46 reviews of 97 points or more.”

And this week, wine.com emailed everyone announcing that “New Big Scores have been Added.” The wine and/or price is now second in importance to the scores?

The whole system is indeed flaming out of control, rendering most point scores in the 90s, well, rather pointless, when it comes down to being useful information for wine consumers.

visit http://www.bestonlinewineshopping.com  for tips on how to game the system

 

 

Amazon’s Wine Dept

Chances are good if you own a smartphone, have a credit card, and are over the age of thirteen, you are familiar with Amazon. And if you are among those who once enjoyed hanging out at bookstores, you may still be a bit resentful, but for most people, Amazon is the Mother of all online sellers.

So you will not be shocked to hear that Amazon has a large wine department. Not the biggest, but close enough as the most recent listing of available wines exceeds 9,000.  Amazon is a little different from other online wine sellers and Amazon loves to assemble wine packs of 2, 4, or 6 bottles. And toss in a few 12 bottle packs as well. So that 9,000 wine items listed includes these packs.

To digress, it is fascinating to hear Amazon label this category “wine packs” whereas the other sites prefer to label a selection of two or more wines as something curated. And the curation, if that’s a word, is almost always performed by experts curators.  

But Amazon is not without shame as many wine packs are grouped by producer, by region or by theme, as in wines to give to pacify the “Mad Housewife” or some other equally silly theme. Then there are wines sporting  the “Fifty Shades of Grey” theme. That’s pushing it.

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 with so many Barefoot wines and others found in most supermarkets and drugstores with a wine dept.

Amazon invites advertising, and it would appear that many of those wine packs feature wines from their advertisers. No problem with that; it is good business to punch up its featured brands and partners.

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. Cupcake, Layer Cake, Pacific Rim, Smoking Loon, Pepperwood Grove and Barefoot….and many other brands owned by Gallo may be cheaper at Rite-Aid, Safeway and CVS. (Note to Amazon brass: you often get as many negative reviews from your wine customers as 4 stars.)

When it comes to basic discounts, again Amazon pushes its mixed packs, offering 20% off on most of them. All told, there are about 165 “Deals,” many of them packed. But I could not find much to get excited about under that category. Not totally discouraged, I then clicked on  the category of “1 cent shipping,” Eureka! The mother lode. The Mother’s mother lode. If you have some leisure time, you can browse through about a 161 pages with about 4,000 listings.

Better yet, save yourself the time: there’s not much there of interest save for a few French wines.

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

For more of our review of Amazon, go to: http://www.bestonlinewineshopping.com/amazon