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Wine Buying Optimization: How to Get Great Wine on the Cheap

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Guest Post

[The following is a guest post by Jeff Sauer.] Good online marketers are tweakers. No, I am not implying they use of methamphetamines or are addicted to caffeine. With oodles of data available at our fingertips, we online marketers need to tweak each step in the marketing process in order to deliver the best results we can, inexpensively. A good manager of a Google AdWords or Facebook Advertising account can reduce expenses of a campaign by 50% or higher by understanding the quirks in each bidding system and testing the waters for budget efficiency.

When I attended the MozCon conference in July, a hallway conversation with Marty Weintraub left me excited. Truth is we barely talked about online marketing at all. In addition to having my mind blown by Marty’s talk about psychographics, retargeting and DSP’s, I learned that he is a big fan of wine and his favorite varietal is Zinfandel. Being a huge fan of Zinfandel myself, I knew I had the perfect conversation starter.

Having just been married at a winery in Sonoma Valley this June, I decided to show Marty a picture I had on my phone of me and my bride walking through a vineyard. He took the bait.

We started talking about our favorite wines, how to heighten the experience with some chocolate or cheese, traveling with other wine enjoying couples, and much more. Before too long, we were talking about the best way to purchase wine without breaking the bank. Drinking good wines doesn’t have to be an overly expensive endeavor. In fact, we both learned that we have our own methods of purchasing wine at a discount.

The rest of this post will show you how two online marketers go about Wine Buying Optimization

Wine Buying Optimization
While we didn’t get a chance to go over all of our secrets, we did agree on one thing: Wine can be overpriced if you aren’t careful. A $50 bottle of wine may be available for $20-$30 online. You may also be able to get a tremendous bottle of wine for only $35-$55 if you play the game properly. Here are some services and techniques we use to ensure that we get the best deal possible.

*Please note that you must be 21 years old to visit any of these sites. Please also note that the prices may vary due to a number of factors.

1) Join a Wine Club

4 Seasons Wine Club

When I first started drinking wine, I refused to pay more than $10 per bottle, including tax and shipping. That meant many nights of Australian wines named after a color and an animal (Yellowtail being my flagship). I signed up for the 4 Seasons Wine Club partially for a Northwest WorldPerks signup bonus, but mostly to broaden my horizons in the world of wine. Every 3 months I would get a shipment of 12 wines from France, Spain, Australia, Argentina and the US spanning too many grapes to list here.

Likes:

  • Introduced me to 20+ types of red wine and grapes that I normally would not have tried
  • Priced between $10-$15 per bottle, it fit perfectly into my budget

Dislikes:

  • Shipped to my house when I wasn’t home, requiring a visit to my local UPS far too often
  • Little control over what wine was received. Some great wines and some duds

2) Join the Mailing List for Your Favorite Winery

Wellington Vineyards (my favorite small winery)

If you ever visit wine country, you will be asked to join a wine club. If you are drinking a lot of wine that day, you will probably join the wine club if you aren’t careful. Joining a wine club can be a fun proposition (big discount on wines, free tastings, etc.), but doesn’t always lead to the best prices per bottle. Considering only price, you can do better if you simply sign up for the email newsletter/mailing list for your favorite winery. This is usually when you can receive large discounts and closeout sales of wines.

Likes:

  • Good price on wines from your favorite wineries
  • Inexpensive relative to other wines from a particular winery

Dislikes:

  • Shipping costs from wineries can be expensive
  • Little control over the wines that go on sale, often sale wines are out of season

3) Wine.Woot

Wine.Woot

My first breakthrough into wine buying optimization was using Wine.woot.com, a daily deal site for wine (it was weekly when I first started). Every day, a bottle of wine goes on sale at a steep discount (usually 25-75% off) until the wine allotment is sold out (usually within a few hours of being posted). The website is well designed and makes repeat orders a breeze, with all purchasing information on file. They even allow me to ship to my work address so that there is always an adult to sign for the shipment. $5 shipping doesn’t hurt either!

Likes:

  • Great introduction to new wines that were previously unknown (especially US wines)
  • Hilarious product descriptions and intros from professional writers or the winemaker herself
  • Occasional sales of unique products that aren’t wine at all (i.e. wine accessories, artisan cheeses, wine art, etc.)

Dislikes:

  • Their RSS feed is broken since their recent update
  • Sometimes the wines are very expensive
  • Shipping often takes 2-3 weeks to complete

4) Subscribe to WTSO (Wines Til Sold Out)

Wines ‘til Sold Out

For a long time, I was sure that wine.woot was the best deal available on the web. Then I learned about Wines til Sold Out and my quality of life improved. Rather than posting a single wine a day, WTSO posts multiple wines each day until the allotment is sold out. It also has free shipping and most wines are 30-70% off.

Likes:

  • Best prices you can find on the web – even shows you the prices you would pay on other websites
  • Super fast shipping, for free with minimum order (usually get wines in a week)
  • Fantastic variety of wines from primarily US winemakers

Dislikes:

  • Too many emails if you subscribe to all alerts (you can now receive a single daily email)
  • No RSS feed, unless you subscribe to Twitter account RSS
  • Site feels a little dated at times

5) Do the Marty

Sometimes even I am amazed by the amount of effort one can put into optimizing their buying process. It takes a real tweaker to go beyond the methods described above, and those who have heard Marty speak understand how he can surely apply his method of madness to things outside of marketing. To paraphrase Marty, here is how he describes his method of finding wines at a fantastic price:

It all starts with getting Wine Spectator rating and pricing information into a digital format (something that does have an expense associated with it). From there, filter by your favorite varietal and by price to get within your range. Then, all you need to do is sort the list by average wine spectator rating and you can get a list of the best wines within your price range.

Bonus Tip from Jeff: Take this list and print it out. Use this information when reviewing what is available on WTSO and wine.woot. When a great wine is available for 50% off with free shipping? You have have truly achieved wine buying bliss.

Likes:

  • Umm… getting an insane bottle of wine for $25? Sign me up!
  • Who doesn’t love double coupon day? This is like using two stackable 50% off coupons at once

Dislikes:

  • Need access to a tool that costs money before starting
  • Your head will likely explode trying to keep track of everything

There you have it. Wine Buying Optimization in a nutshell. If you are just getting started in drinking wine, the first two options are likely the safest. As you get more advanced, you will probably learn and discover you own wine buying techniques. Already a wine buying pro? Share your tips in the comments or send me an email at jeff [dot] sauer at gmail [dot] com.

About the Author:
Jeff Sauer is a partner at Three Deep Marketing in Minnesota, a world traveler and wine enthusiast.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily those of aimClear LLC or aimClear Blog.

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2 Comments

  1. Kelly Garbarino on August 3, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Hi Jeff,
    This is a really great post. I am actually just starting to get into wine buying myself, and this will definitely be handy. Do you have any suggestions as to how an aspiring wine connoisseur would make the next step to the deeper steps, like 3,4, & 5? The first two steps are certainly easy enough, but I’m a bit overwhelmed by the more advanced options.

  2. Jeff on August 6, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Hi Kelly – Thanks for the comment. For #3 & #4, I would recommend starting by just checking those sites once a day to find something that meets your price/style needs. That allows you to see what you like.

    For #5, I would probably hold off until you clearly know what you like before embarking on that journey.

    Hope that helps!

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