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Mar 3, 2011 05:03 PM

Store wine tastings etiquette: how often do you buy?

I go to a wide range of wine tastings at stores that range from a few dollars to $50+. At many tastings (even the higher end ones) it is clear the store owner cannot be breaking even on what they charge for tasting. I frequently end up buying much more wine than I will ever drink, just to help the store owner.

I was wondering what code of ethics others follow. Buy a little, a lot, seldom, selective.....?

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  1. I've personally not run across paid store wine tastings where it was apparent that the store was losing money, even when small appetizers are factored in. The economy may have shifted things to where something that was once been a profit center is now a break-even marketing tool, but ......... losing money if you don't buy?? It's nice of you to want to help though.

    That said, I apply the same 'rule' I would apply without the tasting. I buy wine that I feel is worth the price and only as much as I can afford or feel I want to have. Where were you when I owned my wine shop? ;o))

    3 Replies
      1. re: Midlife

        You probably have more insight into the business than I do but last week I went to a tasting for $15 for 2 oz pours of:
        2007 Gaja Rossj Chardonnay 1998, Gaja Sori Tildin Nebbiolo ,2003 Clerico Ginestra Barolo , 2005 Clerico Ginestra Barolo. Maybe with an agreement with a distributor this works economically but even at wholesale prices for the area I am in (OH) with state mandated 30% markup, it is had to imagine them breaking even on the tasting.

        I was simply curious to determine how people interact with the vendors.

        1. re: caputoOO

          I can't find a price for the Chard but you're certainly right that $15 is a loss IF the shop paid for the sample bottles. Depending on the volume of business done and the relationship one bottle of each wine could have been a freebie from the vendor. Understand, of course, that an individual merchant is always free to make his own marketing investment this way. The merchant just has to see a return at some point or be able to run at a a loss. When I owned my shop I was told about a woman who ran one in a major city in the LA Metro and finally closed because she was just giving away too much wine. It takes all kinds.

      2. Wow, what a nice customer you are!!
        Bottles are sometimes supplied by the distributors. It is part of the cost of doing business.

        1. I actually never sample wine at the wine stores... if I could get a case of wine home without driving, though, I might! So, I buy wine purely on recommendation and what I already know I like. But... if I did sample wine, I admit that I would feel honour-bound to also buy wine... (but then I don't go to wine stores without intending to buy anyway.)

          1. Just to clsrify............ in California a wine retailer is limited by law to giving away only 3 one ounce sample pours. Beyond that they are required to charge and they do not usually lose money on tastings.

            1. First, I think there are a variety of kinds of and /motives for tastings. One shop in my area often uses tastings to move some wines that aren't selling (nothing necessarily wrong with the wines, but...). At the other extreme is a shop, with less frequent tastings, whose tastings are always in conjuntion with a distributor's subsidy/free bottles--so these are always money makers for the shop. And then there are those in between. But regardless of what's behind the shops' tastings, you're under no obligation to buy what you taste. The few tastings I attend are in shops where I know the "palate" of the pourer--in other words, I want to have a wine recommended because the pourer knows my palate; I don't want to be "sold" a bottle of wine. So, narrow down your tasting venues, establish a relationship with the shop and then buy what you're fairly confident you'll like. Let the shop decide how it will make a decent return.