Buying wine over the Internet

We can buy virtually any wine in the world over the Internet, from the most exceptional to the most ordinary, of every grape variety and at every price, and with the same guarantees that physical stores offer. We just need to know how to identify reliable retailers and have all the necessary information available about the payment method.

The Internet is a particularly interesting form of communication for wine lovers. Without having to go anywhere, we can find comprehensive and updated information about thousands of wines, and check the evaluations and tasting notes of wine specialists and enthusiasts.

With so much on offer, it is essential to be sure about what type of purchase we want to make; that means in effect, the buying strategy. Is the wine for a gift? Are you planning your own wine cellar? Do you want to broaden your sensory perceptions? Is it an investment?

We offer some advice below, in the hope that we can help you in the exciting experience of buying wine, both when you select the wines and also make purchases in the shop. If you have any doubts, please contact our Customer Service Department; we would be delighted to help you.


Advice on the selection of wines

1. Keeping to our personal tastes

The person who has to like the wine is oneself. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep closely to our tastes and buy wines of the grape varieties, type and length of ageing, sensory characteristics, wine-making region and even brands which are most to our liking.

A wise strategy is to buy bottles from those wineries whose wines we usually always like. In addition, it is important to take note of new wines which we have tasted at restaurants, or when visiting friends or relatives, and which we have liked; and pay attention to the evaluations and tasting notes of trustworthy sources, such as specialist guides (Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate, Guía Peñín, Wine Spectator, Decanter, Stephen Tanzer's Wine Cellar, René Gabriel...), publications, websites, etc.

This does not mean holding back and missing out on the nuances and pleasures of other wines, as yet unknown to us. Gradually our tastes will develop and, without realising it, we will find ourselves varying and widening our selection. It's all a question of making a start, and taking it slowly.

2. Try, try and try again

Trying as many wines as possible is highly recommended for educating ourselves and enriching our senses, just as it is for understanding which wines we should really buy.

We can take the opportunity to try wines when we go out to a restaurante; especially those which offer an interesting wine cellar and serve wine properly, which normally only occurs when the establishment provides the services of a sommelier.

Another way to try wine is to attend organised tastings or even go over to the actual wineries. Consequently, if we intend travelling to a wine-producing area, it would be interesting to plan a visit to the wineries in the locality in order to try their various products in situ.

Lastly, we can always start by buying one or two items at a time, or enrol in a wine club, such as the Club Vinissimus, which will send us a selection each month. These selections, when they have been carried out by qualified sommeliers, put wines within our reach that have an excellent price-quality relationship, are original and will help us to learn.

3. Finding wines which pair up with our favourite dishes

Wine is most often drunk as an accompaniment to a particular dish. Effectively, its principal function is to assist and complement a meal. The aim of pairing is that the dish and wine gain from being combined, thereby avoiding one taking precedence over the other.

Therefore, the best thing we can do is to take good note of all our favourite dishes (meat, fish, sauces, desserts, cooked meats etc.) and how often we have them to enable us to draw up a profile of suitable wines.

Pairing is an art, but its basic principles are not complex. We just have to think about matching the weightiness and the complexity of the wine so as not to make a mistake over our selection.

The weightiness of the wine has to be similar to that of the dish. So, for example, game, roast meats, fish in strong sauces and cured cheeses go better with wines that have plenty of aromas, are enveloping with some evidence of tannins on the palate, and a long finish. These wines are generally red with a long time spent in barrel.

As regards the complexity, we have to try to ensure that it complements that of the dish. Simple dishes, with very definite aromas and flavours, are better accompanied by wines rich in sensory nuances: wines rich in fruit aromas, with spicy and toasty notes, balsamic aromas and minerals... When pairing complex dishes, in contrast, we would match them with wines that are easier to understand, more direct wines, showing the predominance of a definite aroma and flavour.

Other strategies are the complementing and contrasting of flavours and aromas. In the first instance, it is a matter of bringing together wines and foods with similar flavours, so that the range of both sets of flavours is reinforced. For example, a mild dish such as a fruit tart intensifies the flavour of a mild, sweet wine. In a second instance, the intention is to highlight one of the two, or set them against each other if they both have a lot of character, selecting a wine with a flavour and intensity that are very different from that of the dish. The best examples that we come across are powerful cheeses, such as Roquefort or cured Manchego, which need very robust wines like Sauternes (Bordeaux) or other concentrated sweet wines, or else for the latter Crianzas and Reservas from the Ribera del Duero, for example.

4. Balancing the basket with moderately-priced and select wines

There are thousands of quality wines which cost between 5 and 15 Euros, but we would find it difficult to find an exceptional one at this price. Consequently, to give a touch of distinction and class to our cellar, it is interesting to consider some wines priced between 30 and 150 Euros, which is the range in which the most select wines feature, leaving aside the rare ones.

It is advisable to buy the most expensive wines the moment they come onto the market or, if you have the chance, to buy en primeur (when the winery is still carrying out the wine's ageing). These are wines which, if kept well, increase their value over time and end up being an excellent investment. In addition, we can rest assured that they have not been stored unsuitably by one of the intermediaries, since they have just left the actual winery. In any case, before making a purchase of this type, it is essential to receive good reports from an expert who has tried the wine directly from the barrel.

The most economical wines can be set aside for more immediate consumption (less than 2 years), although if there is one that has impressed, it would be worthwhile leaving more time between tastings so as to study its evolution.

5. Diversity in the cellar to minimise risks

It is quite possible that one of the wines in our cellar will not age as expected, maybe due to the characteristics of the wine itself, due to defects in the stopper or simply because it has not been stored in ideal conditions.

The risk is minimal in high quality wines, but unfortunately these items usually do make up a small part of our investment. It is therefore advisable to buy wines from different wineries, wine-making regions, vintages and grape varieties, provided that the previous advice is not ignored. Naturally, at the beginning it will be difficult to create diversity in the cellar, but as we begin to get deeper into the world of wine our tastes will start to evolve and broaden, and by the end it will have become both easy and fun.

6. Not buying more wines than can be consumed now or stored properly

Possessing proper facilities with a large capacity is only within the reach of a few people. A cool location is required, ventilated, with little light, without abrupt changes in temperature or humidity, and where there is not much movement in the vicinity. This scenario does not occur in the vast majority of our homes, so the best thing is to have a temperature-controlled wine storage unit (a wine fridge, in other words).

There are wine fridges for just a few bottles and ones too that hold hundreds of them. Therefore, depending on its capacity and the rate of wine consumption, we would decide upon the maximum number of bottles to buy, especially if they are not for immediate consumption, in which case it would not be necessary for them to be kept in such special conditions.

In this sense, it is important to bear in mind that, although the storage conditions may be very good, improving in the bottle always has its limits, and if we leave these wines for too long closed up in the bottle we may well ruin some great products.

Traditional cellar Traditional cellar

7. When and how to acquire wines to lay down

Temperature-controlled wine storage unit Temperature-controlled wine storage unit

There are increasingly more wine enthusiasts who are interested in wines to lay down. It can prove a good investment, apart from a pleasure, to keep a great wine until its most opportune moment. Moreover, there are also people who buy a special bottle at the time of a birth, with the intention of keeping it until the child comes of age or for other special occasions.

Whatever the circumstances, we recommend you follow this advice:

  • Have available a cellar or a proper wine storage unit
  • Regulate the ageing period and do not keep the bottle longer than the time recommended by the winery or your source of reference (guide, book, website)
  • Buy the bottles as soon as they are released onto the market (see point 4)
  • If you are going to lay down a wine for a number of years, it would be better to purchase the magnum size (1.5 litres) rather than the standard 0.75 litre bottle, since wine matures more slowly in a large bottle (the oxygen that seeps through the stopper is distributed over a greater amount of wine, lessening the proportion lost). In addition, since there is a larger mass, the temperature fluctuations inside are reduced and the surface area of wine exposed to the light is also proportionally less.
  • Quality wines are preferable, which elegantly retain their structure over time, and if at all possible, wines with a lot of fruit, marked acidity and good tannins (fruit-forward, not astringent).

At Vinissimus we usually indicate the recommended length of time for laying down in the wine notes, but there is never any harm in confirming this with other sources (winery, guide, etc.).


Reliable shops

Whom to trust

Reliable shops offer quality products and impeccable service. In the case of the wine, the product's quality depends largely on the producer, but the retailer too is partly responsible, since it is they who have offered the item for sale and handled it for a certain period of time. Therefore a wine which is obviously not of the quality expected does not say much for the shop selling it.

Regarding the service, it is important for the customer to be aware of the following information and guarantees:

  • Comprehensive and good quality information about the wine: vintage, grape varieties, alcohol content, winery, tasting notes and if possible, an evaluation independent from the one provided by the wine producer.
  • Updated catalogue: a reliable shop constantly adds new items and information, and is up-to-date with any new products that appear on the market.
  • Clarity of the conditions of purchase: price of the wine and cost of transport, taxes, payment methods, delivery times and returns guarantees.
  • Company information: presentation, name, address, VAT number, telephone, email address and contact form.
  • Payment security: it is essential for personal details to be transmitted over a secure connection.
  • Returns guarantee: If the bottle does not arrive in a proper state due to having suffered some damage during transport, or the wine is not in a good condition or simply does not meet with your expectations, any reliable retailer ought to replace it with a new bottle or another wine, or reimburse you for the appropriate amount.

Bottle condition

One of the advantages of buying from a quality online store is that all the bottles remain in the winery until the time of dispatch. This means that the bottles are not exposed to high temperature or to light from a window.

In any case, there are a series of indicators which can help you to decide whether a wine has reached you in a proper state:

  • If the cork is sticking out or there are sticky marks of wine around the capsule, this may possibly be due to sudden variations in temperature at some point during its warehousing or transport.
  • If the level of the wine is lower than normal, it may be that the cork has a significant defect and has allowed some of the liquid to escape, with the resultant possibility of the oxidation of the rest of the wine.

Other phenomena, such as the appearance of deposit or sediment in the bottom of the bottle, or of small crystals or grains of sugar on the inside part of the cork (caused by the precipitation of tartaric acid salts), are definitely not signs of the wine being stored badly, in fact quite the contrary, they are indications of the product being less manipulated, and have no effect on either the wine's aromas or flavour.

Packaging and transport

Wine is a product that must be transported in very special conditions to avoid its quality being affected. The packaging must be sufficiently reinforced to protect the bottles from possible knocks and external bumps during transportation, as well as from close contact with each other, and the length of time in transit should not exceed a week.

A reliable retailer would not consider a sale concluded until the customer had received the wine in a good state. This means that you would receive precise information about the situation of the order and a prompt response to any request.

Payment methods: types, features, security, cost

There is considerable variety in the forms of payment, especially for online shops, although the most common way is to pay by bank transfer, with a credit card or cash on delivery.

  • Bank transfer
    Payment by bank transfer is totally safe, since the money goes from one account to another and there is proof of payment, should a claim arise later. It just requires some care and advice from your own bank if the retailer's bank is not in your country or in a free trade area.
  • Credit card
    This payment method is very advantageous for the buyer, because it is most convenient and is just as secure, or even more so, as using it in a traditional store.
    Vinissimus operates card payment transactions through PAYTPV, an online payment service provider with validated PCI-DSS compliance. All the information provided for this purpose (number, expiry date and card security code) is encrypted using the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) protocol, in order to guarantee the data maximum security, ensuring that it cannot be intercepted whilst being transmitted over the network. Vinissimus has an Online Retailer Security Certificate issued by the company GeoTrust.
  • COD (cash on delivery)
    It is the most sensible payment method when the retailer does not offer sufficient guarantees of security and confidentiality. For the consumer, it offers the advantage of not having to pay anything until the product is handed over, but it has the inconvenience of needing to pay a commission fee, due to the risk and cost that its administration involves both for the retailer and the transport company. At Vinissimus a commission fee of 5% is applied (with the minimum amount variable depending on the destination).
    If this method of payment is chosen, it is important to have the money ready in cash, and if at all possible in the correct amount, since products cannot be handed over if the amount is not paid in full. Once this is paid, the carrier should hand over the payment receipt, which is required in the event of a claim.

Confidentiality

The personal details which customers provide a retailer should be treated as confidential. It is therefore important that every online store offers its users a security and privacy guarantee which explains how those details will be handled and which sets out the rights which every citizen has by law.

Customer service departments

In the event of a retailer not dealing with your complaints, you can seek protection and advice from consumer advice centres and consumer associations:

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