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The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired a digital transformation in the wine world. With restricted access to wine shops, liquor stores and wineries, many consumers embraced buying wine online for the first time. E-commerce operations quickly evolved from being niche businesses to a necessary channel, but what will happen when it becomes safe and easy to shop at supermarkets and liquor stores again?

Even when lockdown measures are lifted and bars and restaurants are once again fully operational, industry experts suggest online shopping will continue to be a robust part of the business because it offers more than just the convenience of having wine delivered to your door.

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Some Canadian wineries are claiming more than 1,000 per cent growth in online sales over the past year, though it should be stressed that sales were minuscule prior to the pandemic. The industry has long focused its efforts on tasting room operations and traditional retail and restaurant sales.

Significant investments made to create or enhance digital platforms and marketing have not only stimulated sales, they also offer wineries – as well as wine agents and bottle shops where permissible in Canadian markets – a chance to build a stronger relationship with their consumers.

During last week’s Ontario Craft Wine Conference 2021, Luis Osorio from the consumer research group Wine Intelligence shared survey results about the estimated 17.5 million Canadian wine drinkers. Osorio’s presentation stated 16 per cent of wine lovers in this country are already buying online, while an additional 44 per cent are considering doing so.

This direct-to-consumer option has become too big to ignore, with the added benefit that Wine Intelligence’s findings suggest online wine buyers are younger, spend more and are interested in discovering new products.

The investment in digital innovation made by various wine retailers in recent months and the consumer data they have acquired as a result is sure to make ecommerce a permanent part of wine buying.

Using your phone or computer to buy a selection of pleasing reds and whites to enjoy over the long weekend or securing a special bottle from Italy for a special occasion or your cellar is soon to be second nature. Many wine drinkers had already embraced shopping online as opposed to visiting physical stores for many other goods. Now, they have become used to ordering wine for home delivery and enjoying the selection and convenience as a result.

E-mail your wine and spirits questions to The Globe. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Good Taste newsletter and on The Globe and Mail website.

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