Forbes: Where to Buy Wine Online: The Top Eight Wine E-commerce Sites for Unique and Interesting Wines

It’s the holiday season for consumers, but for the wine industry value-chain its “OND” – an acronym for October-November-December – also known as the make or break time of year when upwards of 40% of all annual retail wine sales are realized.

Retail store sales still account for the vast majority of wine sales, yet online wine sales are growing into a bigger slice of the overall sales pie.  And, while so-called “flash” wine sales sites catch flak from the wine chatterati for being bottom-feeder opportunists capitalizing on the oversupply in the upper-end of the wine business, an infrequently acknowledged fact is that these deal-a-day sites are helping customers acclimate to buying wine online, a significant factor for an ecommerce category that has grown steadily, but unspectacularly for the last decade.

For example, Wine.com, the leading online wine retailer online for seven years runningaccording to Internet Retailer magazine, announced that their sales in their fiscal year ending March 31st were $56 million. As a counterpoint, Lot18, perhaps the premiere “flash” wine sale site, is on pace for $25 millionin their first year of business. Some estimates indicate that the “flash” wine sales category alone represents $100 million in sales.  This rising tide is doing a whole lot of good for the future of online wine retailing and a number of proverbial boats will be lifted in the process.

Many of these boats will emerge from niches offering a personal touch.  Big online wine retailers and flash sites notwithstanding, the following is my top eight list of the most compelling niche wine sites (read: neither the biggest nor the cheapest, but mostly with a personal touch) to buy from this fall and holiday season, the guys (and gals) likely to benefit from growth in online wine sales.

Plonk Wine Club

What’s to like: Besides the elegantly designed, easy to navigate and information-rich web site, Plonk Wine Club is also a carefully curated selection of offbeat and affordable wines (all under $30) from around the world.  If you’re an intrepid wine explorer who knows that Garnatxa is Catalan Spanish for Grenache or that Blaufränkisch from Austria can be mighty tasty, then Plonk is for you.  It’s a bonus that the customer service is impeccable.