Some intriguing news about how wine retailing works just in time for the holiday shopping season.
• Best places to buy wine: W. Blake Gray ranks the nine best places to buy wine, and it’s not surprising that his top pick is the independent where someone waits on you. More important, though, is that he speaks rare truths about a couple of respected retailers: At No. 4, “You won’t find bargains at Whole Foods, but over $25 you will find interesting wines” and No. 8, where “there’s a widespread myth that Trader Joe’s wines are great values. Actually they are just cheaply sourced wines: an $8 wine there has the same markup as an $8 wine at ay other store, but most other stores put more effort into quality control.” That’s the kind of honest wine writing I wish we had more of on the Internet — and in print, as well.
• Because points matter: Australian wine writer Philip White details the sad and not exactly honest relationship between wine scores, wine writing, and wine retailing. “Put very simply, whether it’s the wine shows or the shiny mags or books, the system of scoring wines has not done much to improve the average quality of the wines made in Australia. Rather, the scores are awarded according to fad, fashion and what needs to be sold, usually as dictated to the judging teams by their chair.” In other words, the only way retailers, producers, and wine media is with high scores, which don’t necessarily benefit consumers or the quality of the wine. Wonder if White is the down under version of the WC?
• Don’t forget the wine: How powerful is Costco (which ranks No. 5 on Gray’s list?) So powerful that one stock expert called the warehouse company, the largest retailer of wine in the world, “Amazon proof.” There is no higher praise for a retailer these days, given how Amazon has helped destroy entire categories of traditional retailing. But “Costco has been able to incentivize in-store visits by offering items that members need or prefer to buy in person — namely, gasoline and food.” And, of course, wine, which the story doesn’t mention but which has played a key role in the retailer’s continued success.