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By Liz Thach, MW

“It’s too expensive to ship wine to my house …..wine delivery is a hassle….I usually buy less expensive wine and you can’t buy that online.”

These are just some of the excuses listed by American wine consumers when asked why they don’t buy wine online – even though eight in ten Americans purchase many other products online, according to Pew Research. Yet wine is purchased more frequently online in other countries, with China leading the way at 30% of wine sold online, followed by Great Britain at 11%, France at 9%, and the US at only 5%, according to the e-Performance Barometer.

Even in California wine country, it has been expensive to buy wine online and have it shipped to your house, with delivery fees hovering around $10 for a bottle. Since 75% of consumers purchase wine in grocery and discount stores for less than $10 per bottle, according to Nielsen, these types of fees do not make sense.

However in the past several months, a couple of innovative California retailers have taken steps to make it easier and less expensive for Sonoma and Napa customers to purchase wine online and have it delivered to their home the same or next day. These include both Raley’s and Bottle Barn.

At Raley’s, Napa and Sonoma county customers can now order both groceries and wine online – yes even wine on sale and/or priced under $10 per bottle. The first delivery is free, and after that, the delivery fee is just $5.00 per order. Even better, customers can have everything delivered the same day, and can select the time they want it delivered. As with any alcohol, however, an adult must be present to sign for the wine shipment.

“We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time at Raley’s,” said Curtis Mann, Head Wine Buyer for Raley’s, “but a key issue was finding a delivery partner. Now we’ve found several, including FoodJets.com, and we are starting to see more customers order wine with their groceries – just like they would pick up a bottle of wine at the grocery store when shopping.”

Bottle Barn is another innovative local business that has recently introduced online wine sales and shipping. With a 15,000 square foot superstore, and the largest selection of fine wines north of San Francisco, Bottle Barn has long been a go to wine destination for many locals from Sonoma County. Now, if a customer purchases 6 bottles, including the incredible deals they offer on flash sale wines, the delivery fee is included, and the wine usually arrives the next day. Again, it is still mandatory to have an adult at home to sign for the delivery.

“This new ability to sell wine online and have it delivered locally is very exciting for us,” reported Barry Herbst, Head Wine Buyer for Bottle Barn. “We’ve been working for a while on how to provide affordable local delivery, and now we’ve figured out a way to do it. We are very excited to be able to do this in Sonoma County, and are working to expand to other markets.”

Other retailers such as Safeway and Whole Foods also allow consumers to purchase wine and groceries online, but at slightly higher prices. Safeway charges $9.95 for orders of $150 or more and $12.95 on orders of less than $150, but the first delivery is free. Whole Foods allows this, but only for Amazon Prime members through their Now platform. Here members can purchase groceries and wine online, and receive complimentary two-hour delivery, or one-hour delivery for $7.99, on orders of $35 or more. However, they also charge a mandatory tipping fee of around 10% per order, which can cause the cost to increase.

In general, this is positive news for both consumers and the wine industry, and proof that Americans can find a way to catch up to other countries when it comes to wine ecommerce.

About the Author: Dr. Liz Thach, MW is the Distinguished Professor of Wine at Sonoma State University where she teaches full-time in the undergraduate and Wine MBA programs. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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