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Oct 3, 2006 04:49 PM

Wine in Supermarkets -pro vs. con

Massachusetts voters are going to decide whether on not to allow wine sales in supermarkets. I have no strong feelings one way or the other, but I wonder if it makes fine wine less available because it eats into the profits of "mom and pop" liquor stores? I'd love to hear some opinions.

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  1. What do you mean it makes fine wine less available? It would seem to make fine wine more available.

    1. Actually, it will probably have no effect on "fine wine" but it will hurt the bread and butter of most wine shops, the low to mid range walk in buy. Supermarkets are not going to be the place to go get fine wine or small production wine. Unless you are talking about a place like Costco, supermarkets are going to try to turn over the stock quickly and will be selling wine in the "easily affordable" range. Sure there will be a few that will have some "fine wines" but for the most part, you are still going to have to go to a good wine shop to find the great wines.

      3 Replies
      1. re: dinwiddie

        Here in the SF Bay Area, some supermarkets (Andronico's and larger Safeways) have better selections than many wine shops, sometimes with a locked cabinet of rare and older bottles.

        Costco's wine selection is by comparison quite limited.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Of course in SF wine is a different thing. However, Costco is the largest retailer of wine in the country and in places like Virginia they are one of the better, and better priced, fine wine markets. Personally I think that a good wine shop is always a better place to go, but I have to give Costco its due, they actually take wine seriously, unlike many of the supermarkets in areas that are not in the SF area (where wine is a holy item.)

          1. re: dinwiddie

            Costco's wine selection's not the same everywhere. I read an interview with their buyer that mentioned some good-sounding inexpensive French wines that never showed up here.

      2. In Arizona, wine in supermarkets has been the norm as long as I can remember. The small number of independent wine stores that do exist are usually specialized, high-end stores that offer a selection that is both more varied and more esoteric than what is available at supermarkets. The independent wine stores also try to distinguish themselves with knowledgable personnel, case discounts, and in-store events.

        My guess is that if Massachusetts make this change, it may affect some mediocre liquor stores that benefit from being the only available source of wine. Those that are truly devoted to wine and that treat their customers well will probably maintain a niche for themselves.

        2 Replies
        1. re: silverbear

          Posting from Oregon, completely agree with silverbear. The supermarkets here actually have a pretty good selection, esp at the locally owned markets, with good pricing and an additional 10% off for 6 bottles or more. At the local Ray's, Kiona Lemberger is $10.79, or $9.71 if buying a 6 bottle mixed pack. This is an excellent wine that many have not even heard of, and it's $12 at the winery.

          1. re: silverbear

            Exactly. Which is why crummy stores like Sav-Mor liquors on McGrath highway are urging customers to Vote NO. But places with a great variety and good service like Kappy's in Medford aren't too worried. Speaking for myself, I'd be happy to be able to pick up a bottle of plonk at the supermarket but I'll still go visit Mark, my wine guy, at Kappy's for rec's.

          2. It is a pure win for the consumer. It will provide: (1) convenience; (2) lower prices, especially at the lower end of the market ($7-$12 wines); and most importantly (3) pressure on distributors.

            Fine wine purveyors will continue to just fine by focusing on carefully selected offerings that most supermarket chains won't carry, and by offering knowledgable service.

            Living in CA as I do, I can say that the three tier system is an antiquated and anticompetitve relic that deserves to be made voluntary rather than mandatory throughout the country. Jeez, how long ago was prohibition lifted?

            1. As noted about, in N. CA many of the groceries have excellent wine selections. The new Safeway in Alameda has Stag's Leap, Silver Oak and any number of other outstanding CA wines. There is one wine and cheese shop in Alameda that offers as good or better choices of wine, other than that the Safeway is probably the best in town.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rtmonty

                I agree. In the foothills I've seen some great buys on wines in the local grocery stores, sometimes a buck cheaper than at the foothill wineries. My go to place for good wine deals is Longs Drugs. It's hit or miss because I think others have found the good deals there too.