I began this blog because over the past few years I have become passionate about the wine I drink, the food I make and the fun I have in my life. That passion for wine has evolved into exploration, adventure, and new opportunities and I am loving every second of it. With the goal of sharing accessible, affordable wines with my readers who span the country and the world, there have been some snags inherent to the wine industry that have made that goal more of a wine dilemma and a bit tricky to achieve. I promise you this…The goal will not change, but how you use the information, I provide may.
The Superstore Wine Dilemma
Two weeks ago, I went into our local Total Wine store with the task of finding three different bottles of wine for no more than $20 per bottle and the wine had to be nationally distributed. That last caveat was to ensure that readers from all over the country could find this wine. I happened to be standing in front of wines from various regions in France. The clerk looked at me and said, “well that rules out all of the old world regions (Europe) because these winemakers do not mass produce that much wine that could give them the reach from coast to coast in the USA. Ah! Duh… I know this, and that certainly explains why all of the tags displaying prices state that the wines are “Winery Direct”. But then we go over to the California wines and most of the wines there are also “Winery Direct”, not all but enough to make my selection truly difficult.
Winery Direct means that Total Wine will buy up an entire production run from the wineries whom they have established relationships with, and you will not find this wine anywhere else. Let me just say that Total Wine is almost exclusively now Winery Direct except for those recognizable national California and the few international brands. It did not start out that way, but that is what the store looks like now.
Here is the rub. Should you have a glass of wine at a local restaurant or bar and you like it so much that you want to buy some for home use? You will not be able to go to Total Wine or similar type superstore to find that wine. And special ordering also presents a problem because it is more than likely that Total Wine will not have a relationship with the local wine importer/distributor that sells to restaurants and independent wine stores.
One more difficulty when buying wine at a superstore is that you are basing your buying decision on information and opinion that may be irrelevant to your preferences/style. Using the wine profile written by the winery, an award that some magazine or wine guru gave the wine or a salesperson’s favorite wine probably means nothing since none of these suggestions take your preferred style into account. Going into a store and saying, I like Pinot Noir is not enough information for anyone to make an informed suggestion. While all Pinot Noir wines are made with the same grape; where it is grown, in what type of soil, with how much rain, as well as other natural elements all matter. Then add in the winemaker’s preferences in making his style of wine, and that too plays into the wine’s taste profile. How do you choose? An Oregon Pinot Noir is quite different than California Russian River Pinot Noir which is different than an Italian or French Pinot Noir.
The Grocery Store Dilemma
Oh Go…lly, I am not going there…. I have already demonstrated that you will overpay for wine at the grocery store. Sometimes as much as $10 or $12 a bottle. See image ar right as another example.
Never buy a new wine at a grocery store that you want to “try”. You are on your own and end up with some “cah-cah” in your mouth. The only time you buy wine in a grocery is if it’s wine you are familiar with and you are willing to pay the inflated price because it’s a wine emergency.
NOTE: Costco is not a grocery store. It is a warehouse club. Their wine selection in the wooden bins is highly curated and are great values. I still am not sure I would suggest you buy anything there unless you are familiar with the wine and or willing to take a chance. Now the long rows of stacks, leave all of it alone unless you know you like that wine.
An online store is where you buy wine that you know, cannot find locally and you MUST have it. Go to wine-searcher.com and see who sells it. Be prepared to pay for shipping. You said you MUST have it.
Direct from the Winery Club
Not much to say here. No wine dilemma here. You spent a vacation in a wine region, did several tastings, found wines you really love and can only get direct from the winery. Join the club and go for it…. Let them send you their lovely’s once a quarter. Anyone can buy direct, but you get special pricing and maybe even free shipping.
Other Wine Clubs
These are hit and miss and only for the adventurous and throws the wine dilemma on its head because this is all about allowing someone else to decide what you need to try. But if you like to gamble then the risk may be worth the reward. But when I joined a club many years ago, many of the wines received I did not like. Unfortunately, you will not know until you’ve popped that cork. Proceed with caution.
The Specialty Store with Wine Dept.
The Specialty Store a good option, and I would say at low risk for buying “pourly”(pun intended). Here is why. Specialty store highly curates their selections in each department. And since it is a “specialty” it should be of a higher quality. I would venture a guess that the select staff members taste most of the wines and that at least one employee on a shift is well trained to assist you. You tell them what you like and what your palate preferences are and they can direct you properly. The downside to a specialty store is that you will pay a premium for this curated service and selection, perhaps as much as 20%. For those that need the guidance, it should be well worth it.
The Independent Wine Specialty Store
For me, this is where I feel the wine dilemma is at lowest risk. But you have to choose a store that is like the bar in Cheers “where everybody knows your name.” The proprietor and his/her staff need to take an interest in you. If they do not know your wine style, they need to use your past buying history to make recommendations. Find a store that tastes the wine it chooses to sell. When Gary worked at a local store, there were days he tasted 30-40 wines. At this store, you are expected to experience the wines for your customers so that you can give your feedback as it relates to each client’s needs. When you first try a retailer tell them you are looking to create a relationship with a store. Give them the opportunity to earn your business. But if they do not step up by asking lots of questions about what you like and what you drink, etc…. they may not be “the one”.
My Continued Promise
The wines I taste and share with you will continue to be wines that I love. I will tell you why I love it and do my best to describe it in approachable terms. If I can find it for purchase online, I will share that with you. I will share with you the winery’s website so you can inquire about distribution in your state or area. For my local readers, if it is available locally, I will share that information with you as well. I will do all I can to minimize the “what to buy” wine dilemma.
But what I want you to do is take the information and run with it. The Beaujolais Blanc I reviewed on Wednesday… it will be hard to find but look for others to try that are similar in style and vinification. Please reach out to me in the comments section, and I will help however I can.
And speaking of where wine is distributed…. I just learned more information about where LaGaloche Beaujolais Blanc. So I have updated the post from Wednesday.
I am here for you.