Well it’s about time I wrote about something other than government inflicted price rises, so here is another financially driven pain in the neck, the wine buying public have to contend with. The emergence of ‘Arthur Daley’ characters looking to make a quick buck by selling wine online.

Established wine merchants have premises, staff and a relationship with their suppliers built on trust ensuring the wine is genuinely what it says on the label, and has been transported and stored correctly. Many have opened an ecommerce website over recent years to make their wines more widely available, which means the public get more choice and better value for money with more consistent pricing. However, there’s a new breed of online traders who believe they can make a quick profit by trading wine online. They’re not wine merchants and have little or no knowledge or experience with wine, which is not good for the wine buying public!

Generally these people develop a flashy website, listing hundreds of wines but actually holding no stock. Their prices sometimes look very keen but are most likely seriously out of date, as they’re not involved in the industry and are not up to date with current trends. They tend to trade from the spare bedroom with no overheads and in some cases no VAT registration either. So Joe Public orders a case online. Normally with a bona fide merchant this case would be despatched same day to arrive with the customer the following day. However, with one of these ‘no stock’ wine merchants delivery is likely to take up to two weeks as they then frantically try to buy the wine in at a lower price than they sell it for! Often they can’t find any at the right price and offer a weak excuse to the customer, or worse still don’t even bother to inform them at all.

To give an example I ordered 12 bottles of Laurent Perrier Rose Champagne from winebuythecase.co.uk. I’ve had a similar story from several other people who have had the same experience as myself and have been as suitably frustrated too. After four days I had still heard nothing other than the email I received shortly after placing my order. I sent at least three emails over the following days and tried phoning over twenty times, only to receive an answerphone message informing me they were extremely busy and to email if I had a query! After two weeks I just gave up. Fortunately they had not debited my card as they were trying to find the wine first.

If I had been informed at the time they had no stock I could have ordered it somewhere else, and avoided a lot of frustrating hassle. There’s a growing number of these people getting into the industry these days and they’re spoiling the wine buying experience and making people nervous about ordering online.

So how do you avoid these people and the hassle caused? It’s quite simple. Look for a contact address and phone number on the website. Make sure the merchant you’re ordering from actually holds the wine in stock and has next day delivery available – with all the courier services available, there’s really no need to wait seven days for delivery these days! Make sure you’re buying from a genuine company with premises – it only takes a few seconds to Google an address or postcode. If in doubt phone them up and speak to someone. If nobody answers it’s most likely because Arthur’s downstairs painting his shed!

Would you buy a car from an Arthur Daley? So why risk buying your wine from one?