Shopping for affordable wine online is a bit like Internet dating. Although there's no shortage of available options, the reality on your doorstep can end up being very different from what looked appealing on the screen.
Plonk Wine Merchants, however, is a welcome alternative to the impersonal warehouse wine sites that dominate the online market. Its founder, Etty Lewensztain, has seamlessly translated the experience of browsing through a quirky boutique wine shop to the virtual model.
Don't be discouraged by the negative connotations of the website's name. It's true that Plonk features inexpensive bottles exclusively; all the wines cost $30 or less, and the majority of them hover in the $10 to $20 range. But the offerings--many of which are small-production wines made from obscure and indigenous grape varieties--taste far better than their price tags might suggest.
Best of all, each Plonk selection is accompanied by an interactive video review, in which the charismatic Lewensztain stars as sommelier and provides critical background information, tasting notes and food-pairing recommendations.
As with any great neighborhood wine shop, much of the fun on Plonk involves leisurely picking your way through the selections to see what catches your eye; as a starting point, here are two of Lewensztain's favorite new arrivals: Gentilini Robola, a minerally Greek white wine with grapefruit notes, and this Moric Blaufrankisch from Austria, which is rich with raspberry, cherry and spices.