There are several great reasons to buy Champagne online as well as some definite gotches to avoid. I have bought a lot online in the past as have my friends and you’ll find some very practical advice here, as well as retailers I recommended highly!
First of all, there are two reasons to buy online, variety and price. Although I can buy a fair variety of Champagnes at stores within 60 miles or so, the variety is far greater when I buy from online retailers as well. As just one example, some Grower Champagnes (as well as big names) are simply not imported into my home state. As another example, I have a lovely Jeroboam, 3 Liters, of Bollinger Grand Annee sitting in my cellar that simply was not available in that format locally.
Also, prices can sometimes be far better. Dom Perignon locally for
example, the most recent vintage, is close to $200 but I can find it at
almost half that price online. Even adding shipping, prices can be
You have the same concerns with storage when you buy Champagne locally, but many large Internet retailers store all their wines in temperature controlled storage. Buying from reputable dealers (and I list some below) is always recommended.
There are also legal and shipping issues in some cases. As I have no legal training, I can make no suggestions here except as they relate to shipping and shipping laws are a mess in the USA. Other countries I cannot comment on, but make sure when buying Champagne online (or other wine/beer/liquor) that it can be shipped to you somehow or you can pick it up in person.
As an example, in the past some retailers in California would gladly ship to Maine but not New Hampshire or Massachusetts, one only to Massachusetts but not New Hampshire or Maine, one to New Hampshire only but they charged sales tax, and that’s just retailers in California! One shipped to my home state of New Hampshire when I originally bought the wine, but once the weather cooled and I wanted it shipped they had stopped shipping to New Hampshire so I had to make other arrangements!
Many people do have wines shipped to a friend or relative in a nearby state. Until the laws get sorted out it is what many resort to as a practical necessity. Retailers will gladly tell you where they will and won’t ship. It is your responsibility to make sure you are not breaking any laws of course.
You also want to ship when the weather is favorably, not too cold (deep freeze temperatures) and absolutely not too hot! Cold weather is not bad, unless perhaps your wine gets stuck somewhere due to inclement weather, maybe a freak snowstorm, and maybe freezes!
For example, in New England, there are two shipping seasons, spring and fall. I like April/May and Oct/Nov. In Texas, Arizona, etc. shipping season is winter. Make sure you comply with local laws wherever you are, or your wine may be confiscated (although that’s never happened to me or my friends).
Usually I’ll have them shipped on a Monday to arrive Wednesday or Thursday. I do not like the shipping companies storing my wine over the weekend. Who knows if it’s in a warm warehouse or sitting in a freezing truck? I’m happy using 3 day or so service, although for older bottlings or when shipping during fringe seasons I may use the much more expensive overnight service.
When it comes to buying Champagne and other wines online, here are some retailers I love – and there are many other reputable ones as well.
The Rare Wine Company rocks! Sign up for their free newsletter! Their prices are not always the best but are certainly fair, and their provenance is superb, meaning the wines have been stored and shipped appropriately. They often find and import older bottling of Champagne and I buy with absolute faith from them (older Champagne can be problematic as storage is a major issue – where has the bottle lived its entire life?)
Premier Cru (.net) is also a great source and I love them. Their prices are superb, especially on pre-arrival bottles. One word of warning though; pre-arrival bottles can take a very very long time to arrive sometimes. If that’s an issue, you can also buy from their in stock wines.
K & L Wines is another favorite. Selection, advice, and excellent to very fair prices. They are a bit more conservative when it comes to shipping than most however.
Why buy Champagne online? Selection and price! There are some difficulties sometimes, but they are often easily surmountable. And it's so cool being able to check out wines online!