As part of our policy of independent wine sourcing here at Champagne Tuesdays, we like to keep our collective finger on the pulse of what’s happening in wine retail. With the demise of Oddbins, the customer is pushed ever further into the arms of multiple retailers and with the current trend for on-line shopping, ever further into the armchair of the computer room when buying vino. Marks and Spencer have recently re-vamped their wine website; more of a make-over than a complete re-design, but they have also launched a new service. Following in the footsteps of Virgin Wines, Laithwaites, Berry Brothers, Lay and Wheeler (now of course owned by Majestic) and many others, you too can now receive ‘significant discounts’ on a quarterly delivery of a dozen bottles of wine.
The homepage is easy to navigate and the offers are seemingly clear (it looks a lot like Waitrose’s website, which looks a lot like Tesco’s so there’s obviously a formula that works), not a big fan of the extra box that pops up when you roll over a picture though, especially as it has erroneous information in some of them. Useful drop down boxes in the top left hand corner which allow you to ignore all the marketing and search the site for what you actually want. Speaking of which, back to the wine club…
Under features the first title is Wine Club and a click here will take you to the new section where three cases are on offer. As with all wine clubs, discounts are promised and a bunch of wines you have never heard of are sent to your door for your drinking pleasure. I’m always sceptical about these clubs because whilst I am all for people trying new wines, it seems to me that they often try and offer too broad a range of wine styles to be truly successful. So cue the video on the Old World Classics, explaining in relatively simple terms why the man from M&S thinks you have got such a fantastic deal for wines at such a “ridiculously low price for wine of this quality”.
The wines are presented in a straightforward, unfussy style with little marketing guff and plenty of flavour descriptors, so you can decide if you like the sound of what he’s drinking. Useful food pairing suggestions are made and enough information overall to make an informed choice. I have to say a bit more enthusiasm would not have gone amiss and perhaps explaining that the first white wine was Austrian might also have helped, but what is deeply unfortunate about the whole thing is that if you go to buy the case in question, the wines you get are totally different to those in the video. No sign of the Gruner Veltliner, Cote du Beaune or others that we see pictured in the video. Given that this is ‘Launching in June’ and we are 8 days in, one cannot help but wonder what has gone wrong.
No matter though, looking at what is on offer I think you won’t be disappointed, although applying the ‘Old World Classics’ name to wines like Rueda, Pinot Bianco and Monferrato might be stretching things a little. What’s also missing is any notes on the wines whatsoever – if you browse the ‘mixed cases’ section you get a blow by blow account of each wine you are buying, something that would be very useful in the wine club area.
On the whole though, an easy site to get around and order from with a well ordered and broad selection of products, just make sure you read the small print once you’ve watched the video.