I currently buy my wine from a variety of sources, both in-person and over the internet. A colleague of mine has recommended that I consider consolidating all of my purchasing to one local shop to build a stronger relationship and get on their special early-access email lists. I have two shops I could do this with, but I don’t think I could spend enough to get access to the emails for the really allocated stuff - my budget is only ~$5k/year tops, and Seattle is full of loaded tech workers. He buys far more than I do and as far as I know even he’s only on their second or third round of emails for allocations.
Is it better to spread the love across three local wine shops (plus the occasional internet deal), or should I really consolidate >90% of my buying to just one?
As in all things, relationships matter. Good business is personal. A personal relationship requires attention and reciprocity. You have to be willing to risk rejection and disappointment. Some relationships work out, some do not. Every relationship is unique. Let it develop organically.
I agree with Joe. In the ideal, you’d have one place that offered great prices, great selection, and a good working relationship. But it may not always be possible.
In my case in New Orleans there were two shops that I considered “pretty good” and two more that were “good”. None came anywhere near carrying the breadth of what I wanted. One was great for European wines but had almost nothing from the US. Two more have a bit of a niche carved out and not a very wide selection. And the fourth had a good selection of every day/ QPR wines, and a lot of the typical “names” the mass market looked for, but not much else I’m interested in. They also happen to be the biggest and most important when it came to allocations.
I sort of patched together what I wanted but it was less than ideal and the prices weren’t great. It’s possible that I could have consolidated down to two - perhaps they would have been able to order me things they don’t normally stock. But I just went to my handful of internet
sources for those things.
Now I’m in a new city (and country) and get to start all over. I’m much more attuned to the value of relationships than I was when I started to really get into wine a few years ago, and so I will probably pay attention that component more this time around. I also have to figure out how I want to handle my wine buying back in the US. My collection is stored in Chicago, so I’m limited to Illinois (primarily Chicago) retailers for many of the harder-to-find things I could just get off the web before. A bit nervous to see how that all plays out.
I don’t know if that’s possible in most cases. I live in a large city and I still can’t find a store that has all of the bottles I’m looking for. I have to use wine-searcher or search online inventories in order to find which shop in town has the bottle I’m looking for. I do however, like to give repeat business to good wine shops to the extent they’re offering what I’m looking for.
I have bought from many stores over the years. However, I started to benefit more once I started consolidating my purchases with one store and shop. I started getting better access to the wines I wanted. We’re living at a time where more people are interested in, and want wines that sometimes struggle to meet the demand. Just 3-4 years ago some producers wines were widely available and relatively easy to secure if you looked around. That’s becoming harder to do and far fewer people are able to secure those wines now. I think there is value in finding a store where you spend 75% of your money at…smaller stores value that. Total wine; probably not so much. Yet, there are plenty of smaller shops in larger areas that can offer real value if you show the interest.