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No Sour Grapes Here: Wine.com Battles the Heat

When a heat wave grips the nation, “temperature management” becomes an issue for anyone looking to stay comfortable. But when your business involves shipping heat-sensitive items, it takes on a whole new meaning.

Gabriela Hasbun | Aurora | Getty Images

Such is the case for Wine.com, one of the nation’s largest online wine retailers, which shipped more than 2 million bottles in the past 12 months. When the temperature spikes, consumers often worry the intense heat will spoil their purchase during shipping. To protect a consumer’s wine purchase the company employs what they call “weather safe” mode, which allows a customer to buy wine online but delay the shipment for up to six months.

“It's really about making the process as transparent as possible to the customer, giving them options and letting them call the shots” says Wine.com CEO Rich Bergsund.

Bergsund says typically 10 percent of all orders this time of year would be in “weather safe” mode but when the recent heat wave hit much of the nation this summer, about 20 percent of all orders are being held for future shipping.

Using the weather-safe option, the customer can select a future ship date, usually in the fall, to avoid the potential impact of heat. Wine.com will store the wine free of charge for as much as six months. Consumers who don’t want to wait until the fall can choose the "ship when safe" option, where Wine.com will monitor the weather and ship the product to them when it is safe to do so.

“We’re looking at where they are shipping to, where the wine is coming from, the path it has to take to arrive” says Bergsund. “We’ll include ice in the packaging and generally want the temperature to be below 85 degrees in the area we are shipping.”

If a customer wants their wine right away, they have the option of using overnight shipping with delivery by 10:30 am. The wine ships in ice packs during the cool of the night and arrives before peak heat.

Wine.com has six warehouse locations scattered throughout the country which serves 90 percent of the population, and allows the company to reach most customers within one or two days with standard ground delivery.

Customers tend to understand why they are waiting until the fall to ship their wine.

“When they are buying for themselves, most people are fine with waiting until it is safe to ship. Often the wine will end up sitting in their home anyway and there is no reason to pass up a good deal or risk the damaging the wine” he says. “It’s the "gifters" that pay for expedited shipping.”

It also helps that summer is a slower month in general.

“Most of what we sell is red wine, so there is less demand,” he says. “We’re always comparing business to the same month the prior year. June was up 20 percent over last June, but given the record temperatures we’ve seen this summer, we do have quite a bit of revenue deferred into the fall.”

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Tom Rotunno on Twitter @tomrotunno.

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