The 10 Best Online Wine Shops
As someone who carefully researches a neighborhood's brick-and-mortar bookstores, florists, and grocery stores before signing any lease, I'm honestly surprised by how much I enjoy scrolling through a good online wine shop. Sure, I'm trading what I consider to be a genuinely enjoyable experience of chatting with my local helpful wine merchant for the pure comfort of my sweatpants, but there's also something to be said about the opportunity to research a region, varietal, producer, or even importer on my own time, on my own couch. Plus, I'm still able to support small producers and, in many cases, small wine shops themselves.
While I'm fortunate enough to live in walking distance of several wine shops whose selection I love and advice I trust, I have several friends who haven't quite found that spot in their cities yet—or they're daunted by the prospect of donning hard pants to venture out into the world and ask semi-intelligent questions about what pairs best with, say, savory oatmeal (no, just me?). In those cases, I point them towards the following sites.
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Astor Wines & Spirits
Walking into one of New York City's biggest wine and spirits shops feels a lot like taking an Americano to the face as soon as you wake up –– it can be both overwhelming and overstimulating, which is why its equally well-organized digital storefront can be an especially appealing option, even for locals. I'd recommend getting creative with the many filtering options the site allows for, from organic type to price range to sub-region, and paying especially close attention to the thoughtful staff picks.
I'm often skeptical of pairing notes like "perfect for sipping in the bathtub" or "toasting with friends"; how do you know what I enjoy drinking in the tub? And my friends could actually really suck (they don't, though). Still, LA-based wine shop Helen's suggests twelve different bottles for tub-drinking, and after having tried a few in this context, I'm on board. Helen Johannesen was a Food & Wine Best New Sommelier in 2016, and she's a partner at famed Italian joint Jon & Vinny's, so yeah, I'll trust her tub wine recommendations any day.
Whether you're just now dipping your toes into the world of natural wine, or looking to expand your horizons with sustainable producers that don't necessarily have the widest distribution, Primal Wine is absolutely a storefront to bookmark if you're looking to get funky with your drinking habits.
Chambers Street Wines and Spirits
It's safe to call Chambers Street Wines an OG of the natural wine movement in the United States, and their selection from small, biodynamic producers from around the world certainly backs up that point. If you're looking to get deep into lesser-known (but delightful) wines from the Loire Valley, Burgundy, and beyond, this is a must-browse.
If you're looking to give someone a nice bottle but have no idea what they'd enjoy, sending them a gift card to wine.com is probably the safest bet out there. Not only do these folks have a highly desirable domain name, they carry thousands upon thousands of bottles, from classic California Cabernets to Dom Perignon, gift box and all. And their online wine advisors (who do not work on commission, it's worth noting) can be surprisingly helpful.
I first heard about Domestique through their wine fellowship aimed at diversifying and broadening representation in the industry, and was delighted to learn that the Washington D.C.-based shop is actually a collaboration between Jeff Segal and Selection Massale, one of my favorite importers. If you're feeling lonely, chatty, indecisive, or all of the above, I highly recommend taking advantage of Hotwine Bling, the shop's fantastic advice line.
Decision fatigue is a real risk of online wine shopping, which is why sometimes, it's worth handing the reins over to someone else. Plonk's three wine clubs—focusing on white, red, or mixed bottles—are designed to showcase some of the newest offerings from small, biodynamic producers without forcing you to do the discovery legwork.
K&L Wine Merchants
Old-school wine authority K&L has been around since 1976, and has three brick and mortar locations across California in addition to its sprawling online marketplace. It's noticeably less flashy and voicey than a lot of newer sites you can buy wine from, but that certainly doesn't take away from the staggering breadth of K&L's inventory. They've also got a rather impressive old and rare wine collection, if you're looking to add something special to your cart.
Looking to geek out on a producer's past wines, or different expressions of a particular grape? Compass Wines prides itself on a truly impressive inventory of past vintages, as well as popular club delivery options like Washington Wine of the Month and Washington New Classics, both dedicated to showcasing the best wines of the state.
Gary’s Wine & Marketplace
With 5,500 wines available online ranging in price from $1.99 to $2,999, I think it's safe to say Gary's adds new meaning to the old marketing adage "there's something for everyone." Plus, they've got a substantial cheese and pantry goods selection, in case you're looking to make a night of it.