Shopping for Wine in Supermarkets
Supermarkets and discount warehouses make wine accessible to everyone. When you shop for wine in supermarkets or discount stores, the mystique surrounding the wine selection process evaporates: Who can waste time feeling insecure about a wine purchase when there are more critical issues at hand, such as how much time is left before the kids turn into monsters and which is the shortest line at the checkout? And the prices, especially in large stores, are usually quite reasonable.
The downside of buying wine in these stores is that your selection is often limited to wines produced by large wineries that generate enough volume to sell to supermarket chains. And you’ll seldom get any advice on which wines to buy. Basically, you’re on your own.
If you’re shopping in a supermarket where there’s no one to turn to for advice, do one of the following:
Consult a list of recommended wines from the last wine article that impressed you.
Call a wine-knowledgeable friend on your cell phone (assuming that his or her palate and yours get along).
Buy the wine with the prettiest label. What have you got to lose?
Discount stores are good places to find private label wines — wines that are created especially for the chain, and that carry a brand name that’s owned by the store. These wines usually are decent (but not great), and if you like the wines, they can be excellent values. Some of the “club” chains may also offer — in smaller quantities — higher-end wines than supermarkets do.
Many stores offer shelf-talkers — small signs on the shelves that describe individual wines. These shelf-talkers should be taken with a grain of salt. They are often provided by the company selling the wine, which is more interested in convincing you to grab a bottle than in offering information to help you understand the wine. The information will be biased and of limited value. Find a knowledgeable person from the store to help you, if at all possible, rather than rely on shelf-talkers.
The bottom line is that supermarkets and discount warehouses can be great places to buy everyday wine for casual enjoyment. But if what you really want is to learn about wine as you buy it, or if you want an unusually interesting variety of wines to satisfy your rapacious curiosity, you will probably find yourself shopping elsewhere.