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Price comparison sites - the details

20 Sep 2010 by Jancis Robinson

I have written an overview of the main wine price comparison sites but thought that you might find a bit more detail useful.  Below are some of the facts, figures and opinions I have assembled on this subject. I have divided them into sites primarily designed for wine lovers/amateurs and those aimed at professionals and investors.

FOR CONSUMERS

www.wine-searcher.com

  • The market leader, set up in 1999 and now based in New Zealand with a staff of 20
  • 3,966,654 wine offers and 18,085 wine stores when I last checked but increasing steadily
  • Extremely basic but workmanlike design
  • Lots of fields, designed to make the site as useful as possible for the user
  • Designed for regular consumers 
  • Truly international – maybe a little weak in Asia?
  • $, £, Euro, Swiss Franc, Aus$, Can$, NZ$, HK$, Yen, Sing$, SA Rand
  • No ratings though there are lists of top wine recommendations (including my 20-pointers), min/max price, by case or bottle, auction or not
  • Ads and featured retailers – retailer listings are free but merchants have to pay if they want to appear frequently 
  • Policing retailers is a major duty: banning for six months those who lure customers with 'ghost' bargains
  • Pro version at $29.95 per year is necessary if you want listings from retailers other than the featured ones
  • See this LA Times profile  

www.vinopedia.com

  • Set up in the last few years by two wine lovers in IT who now work for it full time in the Netherlands
  • 1,557,581 wine offers
  • Very simple, clean, modern design with one search box on pale pink
  • Designed for regular wine consumers – lots of stockists and lots of price comparison
  • Tabs allow searchers to choose either US, Canada or Europe
  • $, £, Euro, Swiss Franc
  • Wine Spectator ratings are also included for each wine
  • Searches by minimum score are possible
  • Price drops and most popular searches by category (though rarely vintage) on the home page
  • Free
  • Income from advertising and from paid listings. For smaller stores, a listing is free, but the big ones that receive a lot of traffic are required to pay 

www.globalwinestocks.com
  • Founded in 2005 and still run by programmer Eric McGee outside Montreal, Canada, with a staff of three, once over 20
  • 6 million wine offers from 20,000 retailers claimed
  • Truly global and designed primarily for the wine trade eg their data underpins www.wineprices.com on Vinfolio
  • Currently being revamped 
  • By no means beautiful – all wine names are in capitals
  • Each listing is dated, really dated sometimes!
  • The basic information is free to consumers
  • Income from selling data and systems to others presumably

www.snooth.com

  • Founded by ex-wine trade Philip James in 2006 and launched in New York in 2007
  • 11,000 retailers and over 1 million wines with 2 million reviews
  • Brilliant search engine optimisation so that it features strongly in many Google searches
  • Part of Philip’s motivation was apparently that he ‘realised that the wine industry was hopelessly fragmented — with neither a standardised naming system nor a centralised repository of information’ but in fact Snooth suffers from messy wine descriptions  (eg Forts de Latour is different supposedly from Forts de Latour Pauillac), which when I looked was apparently just $52 a bottle at ‘Berry Bro’s & Rudd’ (sic) according to Snooth when in fact it was £162
  • $ only but merchants in 10 different countries
  • If you click on ‘Learn more about this wine’s winery’ you too often get the message ‘We don't have much information about this winery'
  • There’s one general para that covers all the Médoc wines, for example
  • There are genuine attempts to impose a social media overlay on the site and to build up a community feel, which differentiates it from Wine-searcher
  • User tags re Forts 1995: fruit, berry, velvet, black currant, chateau, closed, astringent, clean 
  • Income presumably from ads and deals with the likes of Conde Nast, Time Inc, AMEX Publishing and Yahoo! I wonder how closely they inspect Snooth's search results?

www.wineaccess.com

  • Established by Jim Weinrott in the US early this century
  • 100+ retailers, all in the US (so presumably they pay for the privilege?)
  • Real-time price and availability information
  • Marketing services provided to some of these retailers
  • WineAccess is also the host for Stephen Tanzer’s independent wine information, International Wine Cellar 
  • Special offers of wine now made, and which provide a major income stream, so presumably the information given is not 100% independent

www.winealert.com
  • Founded by Julian Berkin in the US for the US early in 2001
  • Good network of US retailers, but this is an exclusively American site. About 200 retailers, most in the US.  About 400,000 listings.
  • In 2005 the service was completely absorbed into the American critic’s website www.eRobertParker.com, which has increased traffic considerably

www.winezap.com

  • US only
  • Only paying retailers are listed
  • Sets its cap at younger (American) wine lovers
  • Poor consistency (and spelling) in wine names
  • Very broad presentation of results, so much so that you could get neck ache reading them
  • Tries to be hip with videos and reviews and featured new members  – good effort
  • There’s also a forum but it seems little used 

www.classicwines.com
  • US only
  • Very much a wine retailer so the information is not 100% independent
  • Very American 
  • Presentation of results in this case seems too narrow, even though there is not much on either side except a caricature of Michelangelo’s David
  • Confusing – all merchants seem to have the same price but they are featured only one at a time

www.winefetch.com
  • Includes retailers in US, UK (and England!), France, Germany, Canada
  • $, ,£, euros
  • Much clearer layout than Classic wines or Winezap
  • ‘Ship to which state?’ option, which is useful
  • But the order of results seems random and not changeable
  • Doesn’t tell you how many bottles the price relates to (one or a dozen?), or just how much wine each contains

www.vinquire.com
  • Founded in 2005 and based in San Francisco
  • More than 1 million wines and spirits
  • Claims to use ‘our unique crawl technology’
  • Users are encouraged to browse wines by varietal, from Acolon (0 wines) to Zweigeltrebe (0 wines)
  • Social networking bells and whistles added to the site
  • Retailers charged for listings: $200 a year for a basic listing but much more for an ‘enhanced’ listing
  • Advertising provides another revenue stream

www.drinkprice.com
  • All-British site at the beta (test) stage in Sep 2010
  • Not just wine but all alcoholic drinks
  • Social media model with an attempt at 'independent' reviews and videos, clearly aimed at those in their 20s and 30s
  • Specials offers such as £50 off Armand de Brignac Gold, bringing the per bottle price below £200!

  • Modest if well-intentioned entirely French site dating from 2007

  • 12,500 French wines available from just seven different merchants

  • Strong emphasis on wine reviews, from both professionals and amateurs

  • Clear design


FOR INVESTORS/PROFESSIONALS

www.liv-ex.com

  • For collectors and, especially, fine-wine traders
  • '5.6 million lines of data, including trade-to-trade transactions, auction hammer prices and merchant list prices. Data sourced from 320 merchants in 26 countries (and 21 different auction houses)', who together, according to Liv-ex, account for more than 80% of global fine-wine turnover 
  • Online trading platform.  Price spread. No stockists
  • Sevenmajor currencies but no geographical indication of where stocks lie
  • Liv-ex Price Watch supplies limited merchant list price data but the meat of the thing costs from £49.95 a year with the ability to track specific wines

www.wineprices.com 
  • US only, $ only
  • Apparently based on GlobalWineStocks technology and displayed on Vinfolio.com’s collectors’ section
  • Auction history given, with average prices of different vintages – but no stockists other than Vinfolio
  • The US retail average price for the last 12 months is also given
  • Links to tasting notes of various wine websites, including JancisRobinson.com 
  • Best for red bordeaux and California wine
  • Lots of jazzy fine-wine indices  
  • Very clean design but lots of gaps
  • Free but fairly skeletal

Tags:  internet
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