A site with a wealth of information and an appealing editorial slant.

This French-controlled company is one the biggest on the web. Their Unique Selling Point is sommelier Jean-Michel Deluc, formerly of the Paris Ritz hotel, who chooses and recommends their wines.

The crowded interface to ChateauOnline takes a little getting used to. On the opening screen a central panel displays the latest news and current special offers. In the right hand panel, beneath a photo of the estimable Sommelier, M.Deluc, are some drop-down lists containing his top recommendations of the moment and links to general information. To the left of the opening screen there are wine browsing and search options and, beneath, a navigation panel to several of the site’s main sections.

The site is database-driven, but the load speeds are more than adequate, though a few seconds of blank screen seems to preceed the appearance of each page.

There is a good deal of information on this site, including quite a lot of topical features which add to its browsing appeal. Much of the background information to wines and regions is very obviously translated from the French. Whilst always readable, it is often inelegant and the translations are peppered with minor errors.

WHAT'S ON OFFER

The Wine List Over 800 lines are stocked, and there is a good mix with something to suit everyone from casual bibber to connoisseur. They feature wine from every corner of the globe, but being an Anglo-French concern, the line-up from France is extensive and is their particular strength. There are dozens of top quality Cru Classé Bordeaux for example, from the current vintage back to bottles from the 1950s. A clickable map of France lets you browse through different regions, with prices starting at around £4.50 per bottle. There are a number of special promotional offers at any given time, usually cases offered at a discount. You might just be interested in a bottle of rare port, believed to date from 1676, and yours for a cool £18,520. If you’re an experimental wine drinker The Mix of the Month could be a good bet. It is a mixed case of wines from their tasting range and includes wines from several different regions. Taste-wise they try to include a bit of everything: red and white; sweet and dry; still and sparkling.

The Service Delivery is guaranteed within five working days for all promotional stock. The full range has a delivery guideline of one to three weeks. Chateau Online claim that every wine is between 5 per cent and 30 per cent cheaper from them than anywhere else and they offer a 'refund the difference' policy if you can prove otherwise. There is also a money-back guarantee if you are dissatisfied with any purchase. The delivery charge is £5.99 irrespective of size of order, or £11.50 for deliveries anywhere in Europe.

Product Information M. Deluc offers well-written notes on his wines that vividly convey the character of each. There’s a description as well as suggested food matches, serving temperatures and advice on cellaring potential. Label images are featured for some wines.

The Ordering Process Against each product is a colourful little Add to Basket icon. When clicked, you do not see a confirmation screen, but the basket simply appears filled. Beside it is a Click Here to Order button. You can go on shopping from different screens at this point as in the background your order is accumulated, but at the top of every screen a Your Basket button will let you review what you've selected so far. When you are ready to purchase, click the Order button and you will see your order with the chance to alter quantities or remove items. Below are your payment options: phone, fax or online. If online, click on the credit-card icon. Previous customers can enter a login and password to save supplying address details, otherwise you will need to select Click Here If This Is Your First Order. Supply your address, delivery and billing details and click the Confirm Order button at the foot of the page. This takes you to a secure server area to supply card details.

More than the Hard Sell? The home page has topical features and the navigation panel to the left hand side of the home page offers access to several useful reference sections. Sommelier’s Advice has a Weekly Wine Tips feature, articles on how to create a wine cellar and guides to wine-producing regions. Wine News is regularly updated with interesting articles including ‘Brits conned by fake Rioja’ and, believe it or not, ‘Denmark, Sweden, and Ireland — The new wine-producing countries’.

A Monthly Column contains more features on wine and food. There are also interviews with personalities in the wine industry. The food features are satisfyingly meaty, covering the background and history of the featured food. They are accompanied by a small but well-chosen list of recipes which range from traditional to nouvelle cuisine and would more than satisfy the wine drinker who likes to rustle up a tasty dish to accompany their wine. With this in mind Chateau Online have thoughtfully included a recommended wine which is suited to each dish.