Want to top up your wine cellar and your Qantas or Virgin Australia frequent flyer balance at the same time?
So which provides the best drop in a sea of points?
Virgin Wines is a simple online wine store where anybody can place an order.
Qantas epiQure is more of a 'wine club' which you have to pay to join – annual epiQure membership costs $99 or 13,000 Qantas Points – with a social aspect incorporating fine dining and other events.
To offset that joining fee, new epiQure members are given the choice of an 'exclusively blended' Seppeltsfield Rare Tawny or a bottle of Taittinger Brut Reserve NV Champagne (below, valued at $59.99 if ordering a case).
EpiQure members can also buy wine using Qantas points instead of cash.
Ordering and delivery
Both the Qantas epiQure and Virgin Wines websites have a reasonable interface, although in terms of functionality, Virgin Wines needs to work on its search options – selecting “sort by price: low-high” displays products out of pricing sequence.
Qantas epiQure provides free delivery on all orders, while Virgin Wines charges $9.99-$14.99 per order depending on your location.
In addition to retail wine purchases, both companies also offer wine subscriptions – known as the Discovery Club with Virgin, or simply a Wine Plan with epiQure – which automatically sends you a mixed case of wine every three months.
This keeps a supply of vino on tap and also lets you sample a variety of drops.
With 81 reds in the cellar, Virgin Wines isn’t to be sniffed at – prices begin at $16.99/bottle for the Saturday Night Special Shiraz Cabernet, and max out at $40 for a bottle of Peter Lehmann’s ‘The Antiquus’ Shiraz 2011.
On the other hand, Qantas epiQure boasts 200 red selections – including the affordable Brokenwood Cricket Pitch Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2012 for $14.99/bottle in a case of six.
If you’re after that all-elusive Penfolds Grange 2008 Shiraz, you’ll find it here for $729 per single bottle – although thrifty wine buffs could buy a case of 6 for $4,314, saving $60 over six bottles.
Virgin Wines boasts a respectable list of 50 whites, ranging from an $11.99/bottle Fat Hen Single Vineyard Sauvignon 2011 through to a Cloudy Bay 2012 Sauvignon Blanc at $35.99/bottle.
Qantas epiQure members can choose from 80 white wines – from the 2013 Squealing Pig Sauvignon Blanc at $16.99/bottle (in a case of six) right through a case of six Chateau d'Yquem 2004 bottles for $1,500 – or nearly 1.3 million Qantas Frequent Flyer points if you have no better use for them.
Sparkling & Champagne
Unlike the red and white wine offerings, the Virgin Wines selection here is remarkably poor… only six products are listed, with one being a gift pack devoid of any description or imagery:
At the upper end of Virgin’s limited range is Veuve Clicquot Brut NV (Yellow Label) at $80/bottle, with Bollinger Special Cuvée for $67.99/bottle, plus delivery charges.
Oddly enough, these top drops are not available from Qantas epiQure!
On the Qantas side of the vine there are 31 sparkling wine and champagne varieties – ranging from a Taittinger Brut NV gift pack for $79.99 (including two champagne flutes), right up to the $1,299/bottle Krug Vintage 1995 Magnum.
In between the two extremes is a more realistically priced Dom Pérignon Brut Vintage 2004 – it’s a lovely drop for special occasions at $199.99/bottle, while the award winning Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2000 from Qantas’ first class cabin can be had for $265/bottle.
Qantas epiQure: more than a wine club
Setting Qantas further ahead from Virgin Wines is the focus on food events – naturally, with matching wines.
Over the next month, there are dining and tasting events in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Melbourne, with ticket prices of $50 to $170 per person.
Also available are tickets to events in conjunction with the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival in Queensland, including a Taittinger champagne breakfast ($112 p.p.) and a seafood feast with Neil Perry ($175 p.p.) – both of which are taking place on the gorgeous beachfront.
Wine club pricing vs the real world
But how do those prices compare against a buying from a chain such as Dan Murphy's?
Using a delivery address in Sydney, Virgin Wines' Veuve Clicquot Brut NV (Yellow Label) would cost $89.99 including delivery. However, Dan Murphy's will deliver that same bottle for $61.95, or even has it available through 'click and collect' for $54.95.
Assuming you prefer delivery, are those 269 Velocity points really worth the extra $28.04 outlay on a single bottle? Probably not.
The situation is reversed if you're hunting a Dom Pérignon Brut Vintage 2004 – Dan Murphy's has this for $236.99 including delivery (or $229.99 in-store), while the same bottle can be found on Qantas epiQure for just $199.99 with free delivery.
The take-out here is to compare before you click: prices may or may not be cheaper online or in a bottle shop.
The winner? Qantas epiQure
All things considered, the crown goes to Qantas epiQure.
With a more comprehensive wine list, free delivery, fine dining events and a welcome gift in exchange for the membership fee, it’s the clear winner.
If you’re about to flip a coin to decide where to place your next wine order, perhaps sample a taste of Qantas epiQure before doing so.
Qantas Frequent Flyers who aren’t epiQure members can sample a limited selection of wine without fronting for the membership fee, including a case of the sumptuous Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve NV.
Although available for the same price with an epiQure membership, non-members can only earn one point per $1 – if you were going to join anyway, you may as well do so before ordering, as you’ll earn three points per $1 spent from the onset.
Prices referenced in this article were correct as at March 20 2014.
Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT