Winebits 80: Costco and scores, no wine for Amazon, millennials and wine

? Costco loves those 90-point wines: Costco, which may be the country ?s biggest wine retailer, has a new policy for wines it carries in its store. Two people who deal with Costco ?s wine buyers have told me that the chain, with 407stores in the U.S., has told its vendors that it will only buy wines that will retail for $15 or less and have scored at least 90 points. I ?m also told that ?s currently the policy at Walmart ?s Sam ?s Club. This is not only silly, but bad business. Using these guidelines, neither could be able to carry Avalon ?s Napa cabernet, a $12-$15 wine which scores in the high 80s, and Cristalino, the world ?s best cheap sparkling wine, also high 80s. How much more must we do to demonstrate how silly scores are?

? Is Amazon wine deal dead? Wine & Spirits Daily is reporting that ?s plan to sell wine, along with its books and MP3s, is almost certainly finished after the company that was going to handle wine shipping for Amazon closed last week. Writes editor Megan Haverkorn: ?As a result, it ?s looking less likely that Amazon will enter the wine business at all, particularly not anytime soon. ?

? Millennials and wine: All of the people in the wine business who are much smarter than I am (and there are so many) tell me that millennials ? those born between 1982 and 2003 ? are going to reshape wine in the U.S. They won ?t care about scores, they will drink regional wine, and they want value. I love them already. The Bacchus Babes, two Ohio bloggers, put it this way: ?[W]e mean common sense. Stuff you can actually use. ? And the fine wine and food writer Gretchen Roberts has taken it one step further, with a blog called, aimed at millennials. Now, if I can only get Gretchen to write about Tennessee wine.

11 thoughts on “Winebits 80: Costco and scores, no wine for Amazon, millennials and wine

  • By Tish - Reply

    Shame on Costco. On top of your point, in addition to missing out on very good wines that did not get rated 90 points or higher by some middle-aged man sitting in an office tasting 25 wines at a pop without a crumb of food, Costco customers can now be guaranteed a steady flow over overripe, overoaked wines that ring bells for blind critics but are difficult to drink over the course of a meal.
    And what’s next: Costco won’t carry socks that get rateed 90 points or higher by the Sock Spectator?

  • By Jeff Siegel - Reply

    That’s the damndest thing, Tish, because for years and years Costco was
    known for doing the right things about wine. It really has been a well-run
    wine operation. But I suppose the recession has everyone panicking.
    And l love the Sock Spectator idea. Can I write it next year for the April
    Fool’s extravaganza?

  • By - Reply

    I can’t imagine Costco completely following through on that. They sell a lot of wine under $10 and most don’t get rated by major pubs, let alone high scores. And I’m sure they can find (or create) a publication that will rate it highly if they think it will sell (95 points, “Moldy Cheese Weekly.”)
    But if the wines they want to drop aren’t selling, that makes sense, despite the high quality of some unrated or lower-rated wines. Costco is in the business of moving a high volume of goods very quickly and with their profits falling, they are going to find ways to improve the numbers.

  • By Jeff Siegel - Reply

    I should clarify: I was told this was for new wine that the chain was
    considering, and didn’t necessarily affect wines currently in stock. Having
    said that, it’s still silly, because, as Tish noted, scores have nothing to
    do with quality. And Costco is allowed to carry whatever wines it likes and
    sell them for as much as it wants. My concern, and my gripe, is that there
    are better ways to pick those wines than by using scores.

  • By Joe (joeshico) - Reply

    Don’t have Costco here in NY, at least none that I know of.
    Hard to imagine any large store here surviving with that policy. Why are they doing this anyway? Do they believe that
    most of their wine shoppers are looking for only 90+ wines or is this a short term PR gimmick?

  • By Jeff Siegel - Reply

    I guess I’m going to have do a full-fledged post on this, and navigate
    through the vagaries of the Costco PR process, given the interest to this
    This decision is not a gimmick. First, it’s how they believe people buy
    wine. Second, it gives them what’s called a metric – they can measure
    performance by price and score, and come up with all sorts of Excel charts.
    What makes a big company happier? Third, in the recession, this is a way to
    pass blame. “Well, we only ordered wine that is cheap with a good score.
    It’s not my fault that it didn’t sell.”

  • By Gretchen Roberts - Reply

    “Now, if I can only get Gretchen to write about Tennessee wine.”
    Thanks for the shout-out on Vinobite, Jeff. As to Tennessee wine, much of what I would say is better left unsaid. But I promise, if I ever find one I love, you’ll be the very first to know.

  • By Ac - Reply

    you should talk to a winemaker or two and see what they have to say about the proposed “slotting fee” Amazon had in mind for the products.

  • By Tish - Reply

    Jeff, I think your assessment is proably the most accurate. THis is not so much about sanctifying points as it is about making sure what they take on can sell through; and their past metrics have probably told them that the surest bets are wines that they can visibly tout as low price and high score. Think of it as an official “Corporate QPR” standard.

  • By margieotl - Reply

    Knowing that Annette Alvarez-Peters, Asst. General Manager for COSTCO – Wine, Spirits & Beer communicated to you that this in not true and is not Costco policy, it is surprising to me that you would never the less report this – and leave out Costco’s emphatic denial.

  • By Jeff Siegel - Reply

    Did you check out my follow up? I printed Annette’s emails verbatim — I may be cranky, but I always try to be fair.

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