A great alternative to buying wine from a supermarket is to go to an online wine merchant. While supermarkets can buy in bulk to drive down the price, they usually deal with large volume producers, leaving wine merchants to deal with many of the smaller producers making great wine at affordable prices. And you can come across the ocasional absolute gem. Wine merchants also offer wine tastings - trying before you buy always makes sense.
If you have an independent wine merchant near you then it is worth a visit but if not, many of the larger specialist wine merchants have great websites where you can order online. My favourite is Avery's of Bristol. But I can also recommend Berry Brothers and Rud (www.bbr.com) and the Sunday Times Wine Club (www.sundaytimeswineclub.co.uk).
All three websites are a fascinating source of information. They offer insights into the world of wine and give plenty of details about the wines you can buy - where they were made and by whom, their style, and foods that can accompany them.
For the wine novice who is bewildered by the often-confusing array of wines, these merchants offer mixed cases of similarly priced wine so that you can try different types from different origins, many themed such as 'Dinner party reds' or 'Summer mixed case'. Many come with tasting notes and food matches, which add to the wine experience and allow you to impress your friends with your increasing wine knowledge.
If the idea of buying 12 bottles of wine, which is the usual minimum order is off-putting there is nothing to stop you getting together with friends to place an order.
If you enjoy wine then these online wine specialists are definitely worth a visit.