Up to 200,000 Bonus Amplify Rewards Points - St.George Amplify Signature
Over 2 years when you spend $12k on eligible purchases each year.* Plus reduced first year annual card fee $179 (usually $279). New Amplify Signature cards only. Click here to apply.
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
Qantas epiQure vs Virgin Wines: flogging fizz to frequent flyers
How Jeremy Daunay puts his AMEX Platinum Business Card to work
Qantas, Virgin in battle to launch new flights to Tokyo: here's why
Emirates plans first class Champagne Lounge at Dubai Airport
Virgin Atlantic eyes Sydney, Auckland, Singapore in expansion plan