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Dec 15, 2012 09:31 AM

Why it Pays to Shop: A Tale of Two Wine Stores

Am a great fan of Spanish wines, and particularly like Vina Ardanza Riserva. Was in Central, a wine store I generally like, and saw the 2001 Riserva for somewhere around 40 plus a bottle, so I passed it up. Picked up a Terre Nere etna rosso instead, at a more affordable 20 or so. Later this week was at Gordon's in Waltham: the 2001 Vina Ardanza Riserva was about 24.00. The 2011 Terre Nere was about 15.00. I checked a few more and found Gordon's cheaper on 6 out of 6 bottles I had looked at when at Central's. think I'm going to give up supporting cambridge real estate.

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  1. Haha based on appearance (and location) alone is it any surprise Central Bottle is overpriced?

    1. I can understand what you mean. I love Central Bottle for their curation and knowledgable staff. I've yet to have a wine there that wasn't well-made (even if it wasn't perfectly aligned to my tastes.) I've also been introduced to wines at Central that I've then gone on to buy elsewhere at a discounted price. To a degree you are paying for real estate, but I also like to think I'm paying for curation and knowledge, and thus worthwhile suggestions.

      It's sort of like going into a specialty store, talking with the clerk, getting them to help you find what you're looking for and then going on Amazon and buying it cheaper. It all works out well until there isn't enough demand to support the smaller shop and their knowledge base. That's not to say CB is going to go out of business anytime soon, but it is to say I don't mind paying for knowledge from time to time.

      At the same time, I've seen wildly different liquor prices around town even between generic stores and it definitely pays to shop around ie. 1.75L Tanqueray for $31 at Blanchards vs $42 at other shops in town is a big difference.

      $40 to $24 is a huge difference for a bottle and if you know what you're looking for it's worth it to go wherever is cheapest, but (and I say this as a wine geek) there still is something to be said for a knowledgable wine shop making recommendations vs the clerk or "wine buyer" at many big box discount store.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Klunco

        If you like a wine, its also worth seeing what the smaller retailer will sell it for as a case price (speaking in general, not to Central). If they know they will get repeat business in larger quantities, they maybe able to take a larger drop and reduce prices. (I make almost all of my purchases from two smaller retailers along with one other ethnic wine store.)

        Gordon's certainly can take a drop of more cases, which is how you get a discount because prices and discounts needs to be listed in MA. However, I think its wrong to lump them in as a "big box discount store" -- they carried Adonna Imports wines before some of these other stores and I think you will find other larger retailers which provide support to local wholesalers. Some carry less common ethnic wines, liqueurs, and spirits too.

        1. re: itaunas

          Totally agree. Gordons gets a lot of great stuff. I recently got some excellent grower champagnes there. They do volume, but their wine selection is extremely well procured. The best of both worlds really.

          1. re: Gabatta

            Clearly I must have unfairly lumped Gordon's in with some of the other larger stores. Thanks for the recommendations.

            I think this calls for a trip out there.

            1. re: Klunco

              I've been plugging Gordon's on this board for years. It really was at it's peak when David Raines was the wine director there. He now has his own importing business and is just a great guy.

              Gordon's really has always been the best of both worlds, great selection and good prices with nice staff.

              Check out their free, annual Grand Tasting some time pretty amazing the wines they will pour gratis.

              Also all of their Saturday tastings and other classes and events in their full demo kitchen/ tasting room are head and shoulders above what anyone else does in the area; just saw on their calendar that Raines is giving a tasting their on Saturday!:


        2. Gordon's also has multiple locations so that helps with their costs since they buy and sell in quantity. The one in Waltham has not only good prices but some strange and unusual stuff.

          1. Central Bottle is overpriced...period.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Gabatta

              Totally, and even noticeably so in comparison to shops with similar approaches like Formaggio and Wine Bottega.

              I've found the River St. Whole Foods to be stepping up their game a bit and carrying some of those same wines (importers like Lynch, Rosenthal, Louis/Dressner) at much better prices. It's nice for the area because everything else near Central is just terrible.

            2. I'm not sure how extensive its coverage of US merchants is, but (which originated in Australia) is brilliant. If wine-searcher's coverage of the US is limited, surely there's an equivalent for the US ... ?