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ONLINE SHOPPING

My latest financial-world assignment keeps me on the road between 90 and 95% of the time.  With the holiday season approaching, I donít have much time for shopping at the mall, browsing at the eclectic shops frequented by Wino Bob, or looking through tons of mail order catalogs (canít discuss the ones received by Wino John).  I thought about purchasing gifts for my staff, my children, and my wife (S.A.W. Sharon) online.  The clincher was an article I read in The Wall Street Journal (capitalismís ultimate rag).  The writer was amazed that the percentage of Americans who shop online is so small.  His conclusion:  given that the excuse for not shopping is the fear of credit card fraud and that the greatest exposure to a credit card holder is $50, everyone should go for it.  I liked his enthusiasm and decided to complete my gift shopping online.  After getting that done in record time, I opted to browse the web and see what options were available for winos.

Rather than going to the WinoStuff retail links (a great option, but one requiring multiple searches given our extensive retail links), I opted to start my search at www.pricingcentral.com (by the way, a site with a link at Wino Wallyís golf links, exclusively at WinoStuff.com).  In the Gifts category, Pricing Central provided me with a Wine and Spirits subcategory.  I was a little surprised that I only was offered two more categories:  Top Online Retailers and Price Search Engines.  I opted for Top Online Retailers and was given a choice of three:  Prime Wine (www.primewine.com), Windsor Vineyards, and wine.com (www.wine.com, now owned by eVineyards).  Having been to the wine.com site before (and knowing the breadth of its selections), I opted for the Prime Wine site.

The Prime Wine site home page was organized into three major categories:  Quick Search, Recommended Buys, and Advanced Search.  The Recommended Buys category listed five wines:  Oppenheimer Krotenbrunnen Kabinett ($13.99), Michel Labbe 1er Cru Champagne ($34.99), River Road California Cabernet Sauvignon ($17.99), Tuscan Torciano Baldassarre ($36.99), and Nagyrede Kekfrankos Ausbruch ($18.99).  Of these choices, I was only familiar with the River Road Cabernet, so I opted for the Quick Search.

Quick Search provided the visitor to opt for any of four search categories:  by color, by taste, by region, or by price.  There were subcategories in each. By color offered red, white, and bubbly.  By taste offered dry, medium, and fruity.  By region offered California, France, Italy, and Germany.  By price offered under $15, $15-30, $30-45, and $45 and up.  A quick mathematical calculation told me that I had a possibility of 144 unique wines if only one wine per category was available in inventory.  Adding multiple wines per category could quickly inflate the stock.  However, a quick review determined that there were 133 wines listed under the color category, 121 under the taste category, 126 listed by region, and 175 listed by price (probably the all inclusive category).  Given that Wino Bob is a red fanatic, I opted to go for color:red and found 64 listings with no priority or recommendations.  Each selection had a wine label which could be enlarged to reading size.  About the only selection I was familiar with was the River Road Cabernet, a featured selection.  Since that was disappointing, I opted for the Advanced Search.

Advanced Search offered up a sophisticated series of opportunities for wine selection.  The five major search categories were:  All taste choices (3), All color choices (4), All food choices (14), All varietals (43), and All regions (36).  If my math is correct, these selections potentially provide 260,064 unique combinations.  However, I had already determined that there were only 175 selections in inventory.  So, I decided to click through a few of the options.  Food choices was not available in the Quick Search, so I began there.  Among the 14 choices were six called z FAV FL, z FAV MI, z FAV NY, z FAV TX, z FAV, and z FAV NJ.  Not being as quick with acronyms as with math, I guessed that z FAV meant ďthe favoriteĒ and the initials were for states.  Given that Winos Bob and John are Jerseyites, I went with NJ.  I knew this site was the best when I found (among the 17 options listed) a selection called 1999 6 Bottle Westhofener Bacchus Kabinett Jubilee 2000 for $113.94.  Bacchus was the clue, Wino Bob was the glue (a little Mohammed Ali thrown in there).  I clicked on the label and lo and behold, it was a selection of German whites in commemorative bottles.  Sorry, Wino Bob!  All of this search time and I didnít have a decent wine gift to speak of.  Ready to give up, I noticed a link to the left side of the page which said Find Any Wine.

Find Any Wine took me to Findawine.com (www.findawine.com).  The home page had one simple line:  Find any wine in the world (click here).  I clicked and it provided me with a simple menu.  I opted to go with a very tough selection:  Piper Heidseick Champagne, year 1946.  I was fortunate to have imbibed in a few of these glasses at a high school graduation party thrown by a wealthy friendís father (back in 1972).  Too bad that I didnít appreciate this fine vintage.  However, I wanted to find some, so I figured Iíd test this site.  With a 50k connection, I clicked and waited.  Twenty minutes later, I was still waiting for the search results.  I then noticed that the site claims to have 673 stores featuring 405,734 unique selections as of 12/10/01.  Per the site, over 2000 sites sell wine.  Many are out of date, donít answer emails, and donít provide good service.  Ok, that was all I had time to read while losing patience with the search.  I inserted another selection:  Chateau Margaux, year 1990.  Within a second, I had 50 matches.  Listed in order of lowest price to highest, I found the lowest price to be a half bottle for $279 and the highest to be a bottle for $639 (the lowest for a bottle was at www.nextwine.com, a site previously reviewed by this writer).  Liking the results, I opted for another search:  Sassicaia 1994.  Within three seconds, 23 matches appeared.  This time, the lowest price was $62.99 from a retailer in Italy.  The lowest USA site was $70.99 with the highest at $175 for a bottle, $450 for a magnum.  I decided that I really liked this site.

My wine shopping search took much longer than I originally anticipated.  Ultimately, my recommended shortcut for anyone seeking a particular wine would be to go to Findawine.com.  That siteís search engine is not only thorough but it provides price comparisons of the wines that you want.  I bought a few bottles (no, Wino John, I did not get the Margaux) for gifts and felt confident that I found the best price.  I havenít received my wine yet, but Findawine provides me with the opportunity to review any site that I buy from and if thereís a complaint, they weed them out.  Hoping that this review provides at least one wino with a shortcut to gift shopping this holiday seasonÖ.Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Seasons Greetings.

Wino Wally

December 10, 2001

 


 

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