Five things that make me crazy when I buy wine

buy wine
Which price am I going to pay for this wine? And why are there so many prices anyway? It makes me crazy.

Negotiating the Great Wall of Wine at the grocery store (or any retailer, for that matter) is difficult enough. But why is it that so many in the wine business go out of their way to make it even more difficult? Hence, the five things that make me crazy when I buy wine:

1. Wine shelved incorrectly, where Chilean wine is in the Spanish section, French wine is in the Italian section, and so forth. Some of my irritation is because I’m the son and grandson of retailers, and they taught me the need to stock inventory correctly. But most of it is because that kind of mistake makes it more difficult for people to buy the wine they want. If you’re looking for malbec, and it’s not in the Argentine section, you’re more likely to forgo wine or buy beer.

2. Sweet red wines that don’t say they’re sweet on the label. If I have trouble figuring out whether it’s sweet or dry, and I do, how much trouble does the average consumer have? Using the adjective smooth, which seems to be the winespeak of the moment for sweet, isn’t enough. You’re making sweet red wine because people want sweet red wine, so what’s wrong with telling them it’s sweet?

3. The boxed wine ghetto, where all the boxed wine — regardless of quality — is stuck on a dusty shelf in the back of the store or wine section. One reason that Yellow + Blue, a great cheap wine, isn’t better known is that it comes in a 1-liter box. That means you’ll find it with the Almaden and Franzia 5-liter boxes, and about the only thing the Yellow + Blue has in common with those is the box. It’s like putting Italian-made shoes next to flip-flops, and who does that?

4. Three — or four or even five — prices for the same bottle of wine. There’s the regular retail price. And the club price. And the sale price. And the “buy six, get a discount” price. And the “buy 12 and get a discount” price. The consumer isn’t sure what the price is, and ends up paying more than they thought they would. Which, sadly, may be the point.

5. That every winery in New Zealand seems to have a bay in its name — Oyster Bay, Monkey Bay, Destiny Bay, Cable Bay, Brick Bay, Pegasus Bay, Clifford Bay, Picton Bay, and so on and so forth. It’s one thing when the winery, like the respected and well-known Cloudy Bay, is actually located on a bay. But when the winery doesn’t exist, and the name is made up to sell private label wine or by Big Wine to establish a New Zealand brand, enough is enough.

Slider image courtesy of Houston Press food blog, using a Creative Commons license

13 thoughts on “Five things that make me crazy when I buy wine

  • By Tommy G. -

    At least you can say you have Argentinian and Chilean wines to choose from. Here in NC the shelves are stocked by grape variety for the most part. 90-95% comes from CA with a little bit of OR and WA mixed in so you have to search for it. Usually there will be the obligatory Italian 1/2 shelf of Chianti in a fiasco and Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. The French 1/2 of the shelf will consist of Jadot, Fat Bastard, and Red Bicyclette. Aussie and NZ wines since the usually lists the varietal on the bottle are interspersed with the CA wines. Local wines, the few that are carried, are usually placed near the bottom of the shelves with the BoonesFarm, Manischewitz and the box wines.
    It didn’t make your list but my biggest grip with grocery stores is the fact that there is no one there to help with your selections. You best know what you like or what you want to pair with a particular meal before you go shopping. I would rather support one of our local independent wine merchants

    • By Wine Curmudgeon -

      I didn’t say there were a lot of Argentine and Chilean wines. Kind of stuffed in a corner.

      And have not seen Red Bicyclette in a store in the Dallas area in a while.

  • By Franklin Liquors -

    Thanks for this feedback! Curious how you feel a wine consumer wants to find wines by Region or varietal? On you point about bays???how about wine name with things not in that region? example Monkey Bay from NZ???No monkeys in NZ are there??
    Like to also know what you feel about shelf talkers???likes and dislikes.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon -

      I think consumers don’t want to be confused, and since too many of them aren’t quite sure about regions, doing everything as a varietal is probably the best idea.

      Not a big score guy. Mark, so those kind of shelf talkers don’t do much for me. But staff recommendations do work, and especially when they’re in English and not in winespeak.

    • By Molly Putnam -

      Definitely region! I hate not being able to find Spanish wine.

      • By Mark Lenzi-Franklin Liquors -

        We agree Molly when it comes to Spain. We have found Spain,France,and Italy are better displayed by region BUT we overlap them by varietal as well. Nothing beats good customer service thought when buying wine.

  • By Terry Sullivan -

    Destiny Bay winery has vineyards sloping down toward Woodside Bay. So there is a bay, just not called destiny.

  • By Brian Burns -

    Don’t forget the “rating” cards that are typically three to four vintages out of date.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon -

      I got several emails about this, plus your comment. I guess I don’t notice, since I don’t pay attention to scores.

  • By Alleah Friedrichs -

    What drives me nuts is seeing a label that looks like a nice family vineyard. Then to research the bottle and find out that no family vineyard exists and it’s just another farce private label from mass produced wine. 🙁

  • By Michael Graves -

    You’ve touched a nerve here. We live proximate to three different Kroger supermarkets, all of which have a decent selection of wine across a range of price points. However, they are all merchandised differently.

    The oldest store of the three has the most rational organizational structure, offering the wines largely by country of origin. The department manager and I once took a WSET class, so I have some confidence that some though has gone into the merch.

    The other two stores are completely haphazard in their presentation. worst they seems to be broken down by merely, red or white and price point.

    It infuriating that a store so planogrammed would have such variability in shelf structure.

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