In Food + Drink

The Best Online Wine Boutiques For Stocking Your Cellar

Meet the sommeliers creating their own online boutiques, and new breed of modern wine club models.

Buying wine over the web may have fewer pitfalls of purchasing clothes online, but the lack of a good fit is still a common fear. You may find that new world gamay as ill-fitting as a pair of too-tight jeans, sans free returns policy. 

The mainstream outlets are perfect for punters who know exactly which brands and labels they like, but if you seek new wines or something out of the box, there’s no lack of digital boutique merchants offering exclusive and small batch bottles.

New players on the market, from Magnum + Queens modern wine club model to French Vine’s exclusive biodynamic champagne imports, are here to change up the way you buy wine.

Here are the best starting points for navigating the new world of wine merchants.

Best for premium French wines and champagne

French Vine’s range of Leclerc Briant’s biodynamic Champagnes. Photo: French Vine

Newcomer French Vine is a luxury champagne and wine retailer based in Surry Hills. Run by ex-Wallaby player David Lyons and his wife Justine, the website offers an impressive portfolio of elegant artisanal wines from key French wine regions spanning from Languedoc to Champagne.

The wine selection is organised by producer, highlighting the strengths of each region, but mix packs offer a good overview of what’s on offer. The La Palette offers a mix of traditional syrah and chardonnay with non-traditional blends from organic-certified Domaine Gayda’s Figure Libre Freestyle series, while champagne connoisseurs are well served with the L’Art D’Epernay – a mixed case from Leclerc Briant, one of the first entirely biodynamic champagne houses in Epernay. Leclerc Briant is exclusive to French Vine in Australia.

In brief: Beautiful artisan wines and exclusive champagne that you are unlikely to find outside of France.

Best for interesting and natural wines

Not your usual line-up: options from DRNKS. Photo: DRNKS/Instagram

Any serious lover of the natural wine movement will be well acquainted with DRNKS’ online platform. As well as organic, biodynamic and orange wines, expect a lucky dip of sheep whey vodka, sake, Normandy ciders, and even a three litre cask of barbera from Piemonte. 

The wine selection offer serious gems from cult Australian labels such as Patrick Sullivan, Smallfry, ShobbrookJaumaMallalukaArchitects of Wine, and Brash Higgins, and lesser known labels. From Good Intentions Wine Co.’s Ooh La La Noir, a white and red blend classed as “smashable”, to the “elegant and complex” El Bandito Redemption syrah from Swartland, this wine selection is one of Australia’s most interesting.

In brief: The unpretentious tasting notes are a delight to read, and you’re guaranteed to find something you’ve never tried before.

Best for food lovers

One of Nomad’s monthly curated wine boxes. Photo: Nomad/Facebook

Surry Hills restaurant Nomad has launched its own wine club, offering a monthly mix of pours from the restaurant wine list, which focuses on smaller Australian producers. Opt for the three bottle or six bottle option, and receive wines such as Brave New Wine’s Klusterphunk chardonnay or  Frankly, Bob Made This’ petit verdot merlot.

Not convinced? You can pop into the restaurant to try the wines before purchasing a whole pack, and there’s no ongoing financial commitment or cancelation fees.

In brief: You’re basically saying “surprise me” to an accomplished sommelier each month.

The best for expanding your palete

Love a glass of red but always defer to pinot noir? The Wine Gallery is here to help, with a palate quiz to generate tailored suggestion that walk the line between familiar and fascinating. The inventory is selected by Banjo Harris Plane, one of the Australia’s best sommeliers, with a flat fee structure of $23 per bottle. Wines ranges from traditional French Cotes Du Rhone, to a shiraz-mataro-malbec blend from McLaren Vale.

Subscribe to their monthly service for three fresh bottles, and build your own diary of personal preferences that will allow you navigate wine lists with a new confidence.

In brief: Nice for wine buyers who need a little hand-holding, and at $23 per bottle, a very low risk investment.

The best for dinner parties and gifting

One of the wine subscription packs on offer. Photo: Magnum + Queens/Facebook

Based in Melbourne but delivering Australia-wide, Magnum + Queens is a luxury take on the wine subscription model. Each month follows a theme (High Altitude is currently in rotation), with options for three, six or twelve packs of wines sourced all over the world.

Curated by sommelier Virginia Selleck, whose resume spans some of the state’s best restaurants, in partnership with Kristen Dickie, the wine range spans the globe with a handful of other rotating packages – Little Red Gems, White Diamonds and Crown Jewels – on offer.

In the High Altitude box, expect to find Martin Zahn pinot blanc from Alsace, La Maldicion Tinto from Spain and Jericho Fiano from the Adelaide Hills, among other treats.

In brief: For serious wine lovers, complete with tasting notes, recipes and food matches each month.

Best for buying by the case

Vinomofo is an online ‘black market’ for wine. Photo: Vinomofo

Blue Sky Equity-backed Vinomofo is one of the highest profile tech start-ups in Australia. At first glance, the website has a lot going on but the idea is that each customer works with a ‘wine broker’ who will get to know their taste and preferences. Black Market deals offer significant discounts on the recommended retail price of wines (think a $40 Adelaide Hills chardonnay for $11), and free returns if its not to your taste.

In brief: Brave the black market labels to find a new favourite wine, and return them if its not to your taste.

Best for bidding on bargains

If you’ve ever dealt with an e-bay addiction, proceed with caution. Grays Online allows you to bid on everything from Provence rose to mixed vintages of Grange. Champagne fans will find Krug, Tattinger and jerobaoms of Veuve Cliquot, but be prepared to shift through a large amount of lower quality wine, as well. 

In brief: You can score some premium labels for discounted prices, with the right bidding strategy.

(Lead image: Magnum + Queens Wine

Published 11 August, 2017