How do you prefer to buy your wine?
Do you buy a bottle at a time, or do you stock up? Do you buy based on reviews or do you just explore on your own? And do you buy from specialty stores, grocery stores, or online vendors? Curious about all these things!
Personally, I still prefer to buy from a local small specialty store as well as sometime online, when I'm looking for something specific. Being in the biz makes me very particular about how I do my wine buying, but if it's something I'm not carrying, the thing that is paramount for me is supporting my local wine stores (and secondarily, getting a decent price).
In person... a great wineshop for me is like an escape...
I've always treated a winestore like a library... a place to buy, but also a place to just roam the aisles and learn.... Bring your notes of what you're searching for and just see what they have.
I buy most of my wines from small specialty wine merchants. Some I buy direct from the wholesaler/importer or from the producer. (A lifetime of working in the wine trade has left me with some connections.)
If I am "stocking up" on wine, then I usually buy a mixed case or two -- 3-4 of each wine. There are too many great choices out there for me to stock up on wine a case at a time . . . I would rather have fewer bottles and more variety. Very rarely do I later say, "D'oh! I should have bought a case!"
I do probably about 1/3 of my wine buying from a wonderful boutique wine shop which happens to be a block from my office. Agree with CM that a good wine shop where you've got a relationship with the proprietor often becomes a "Third Place".
Another 1/3 or so is direct-from-winery purchases. Mostly these are mailing lists, some are wine clubs though not many (I usually like to pick myself but sometimes like to be surprised, like the Bonny Doon "Distinctive and Esoteric Wine Network" ). Sometimes will buy direct just because I've either tried and liked something at a restaurant or heard of it somewhere (though I'll then usually put myself on the mailing list). I work with a few other vinophiles and we'll often make swaps where one of us may be on one list and someone else is on another, or where somebody orders more than they want of a particular wine to reduce shipping cost.
Remainder is from other retailers, either brick & mortar or online.
In NYC, you can only buy wine from licensed liquor stores, so that simplifies it a bit. There are very few "big" retailers -- almost every shop is a divey liquor store or a boutique.
Two of my favorite wine shops send me a random assortment of 3 bottles in the $30 price range monthly. They're chosen by the shop owners based on what my husband and I like to drink. I love getting my monthly surprises and we've rarely been disappointed.
The rest I buy myself wandering into my favorite wine shops. I'll buy based on something I read occasionally, but usually tasting notes not scores. Most often I'm just exploring a region that I find appealing. In familiar wine shops, I'll trust the shopkeepers. In unfamiliar ones, I'll buy based on the importer or a familiar producer. Occasionally, I'll just go with my gut!
I have bought online, but it's so much fun to browse a wine store and just peer at all the labels, that I don't do it often.
Sadly my smallish apartment and 28-bottle cooler prevent me from buying in bulk. I do a bottle at a time.
There are a handful of wine stores in LA that I frequent; I tend to shop, browse and loiter around those closest to my home (wine house, 20/20, wine expo).
Although reading isn't as preferable as tasting, I do read A LOT. Typical sources are magazines, newspapers, newsletters from wine merchants and wine and food focused websites such as this board, cellartracker, vinocellar and ebob to name a few.
Early on in my addiction to wine, I joined clubs offered directly by wineries, but that habit was broken because I grew tired of paying a premium for wines that I could buy cheaper at retail. However, I still have two clubs that I continue to enjoy because I like the wines and want to support the winery and the winery’s complete wine portfolio is not widely distributed.
Also, I’m on several mailing lists of small producers where the distribution is limited and the price of wines at retail is significantly marked up.
Last, recommendations from friends and family and within each of those groups, I’m lucky to know people “in the biz” which is beneficial in terms of getting useful wine “intel” and in some cases, great prices.