Wine retailers are the weakest link

I’ve been hit up recently by three so-called wine buyers for ratings on my wines. What’s up with that? Do they do NO WORK OF THEIR OWN whatsoever?! If they buy and sell on points, just what the hell are they doing that’s of any value? Escorting people to the shelf sections? They can’t even be bothered to look up wine reviews on their own? It’s the pinnacle of retailer laziness when they’re actually buying this 90+ Cellars crap simply because the name suggests a high score. Have you heard about this? Apparently the pitch is that they’re buying finished wine from whatever wineries that got 90+ points on something from someone. Unbelievable that a retailer with any pretense towards integrity and respect would buy that BS. Disgraceful.

Sorry for the rant, but really, retailers, step up and get serious.

You’re absolutely right. I hate the fact that retailers are constantly bothered by the 100’s of people (customers) that come in and spend their money on over-hyped schlock and juice that some editor or “wine guru” tells them via magazine that they should buy. In fact I’m gonna put up a sign telling my customers to take their money elsewhere. That from now on I’m only carrying NON-RATED wines. From this rant can we not draw a paralel between Hollywood producing subpar quality movies and restrict movie buffs to only Sundance. Let’s all stop watching NFL and reside in our homes Saturday to watch college ball, after all, isn’t that the better league? The players have “passion” and not in it all for the money… There is that one thing called bills, rent, etc that we have to pay and if our CUSTOMERS want rated wines, give it to them. I never waste a moment to put in my two cents though. If you like this, try that, gain their confidence. By putting rated wines down you’re insulting many people that make a living rating the wines. A career they have worked long and hard to get to where they are.

To top it all off you are insulting me and the potential buyers that could and want to have your wines on the shelf… but you just flat out blame it on me 'cause that’s the easy out.

I love the people that buy Rombauer Chard by the case @ $35 a bottle, and I never hesitate to ask if they’d like to try something similar, so at least they’re not buying a name. It takes time. And I’m trying to work with people. But you can take your rant and f*** off if you just want to cry and blame in on “us”… the retailers.


[scratch.gif] That’s the spirit!
Is that what you tell wine buyers when attempting to sell them wine “you lazy bastard, look up the review yourself?”
We as retailers have customers that are specific about their purchases. When they ask “what wine do you have with 90 or more points”. We should tell them to do their own homework?
You may not like it but it is a selling tool and we are quite capable and possibly have checked out reviews prior to you walking in the door. I guess I’m old school “the customer is always right” and we as retailers/wine buyers are your customers. It’s not always glamorous but it is part of what we do.
Maybe I’m misunderstanding exactly what you mean but all I can say is, I don’t have an importer, distributor, sales rep that doesn’t love to flash the reviews to help sell their product.

I should start a new business “The Wine Consumerist”. Send me your wines with a cheque and I’ll guarantee a 95+ rating that you can put on your shelf talkers.

Please don’t make us work, send shelf talkers complete with notes & reviews. Remember we’re lazy! neener

If I have an importer/distributor who is too lazy to do whatever it is I feel the need to ask of him in order to help him sell his product in my store, I will find another vendor to buy from who is willing to help me. Pretty simple.

I think Chaad’s real rant is that he (like us) mostly sells wines on which he is so ahead of the curve that there AREN’T any ratings or reviews in English language pubs. We don’t use ANY scores or outside reviews and our customers are fine with it.

In your case yes. But Chaad’s customers are the retailer (in part at least) and apparently he’s not fine with them asking for scores.

I definately see both sides of the argument here -

as a Retailer - 90+ point wines are the easiest sale in the world - and frankly, it’s nice having a few wines in the store that you don’t have to spend a half hour hand selling one bottle of - also 90+ point wines are easy as hell to sell in newsletters and e-mail blogs - send out 5,000 e-mails on a 93 point Napa Cabernet that sells for $25 and you could turn 100 cases in a day. Send out that same e-mail on some obscure Bobal from Spain that you have fallen in love with (that is twice the wine the napa Cab is - and half the price) and you may move 3-4 cases of it.

I do believe that breadth of selection is the total key to fine wine retailing - something for everyone - you should have a great selection of Southern French reds etc - even though they don’t fly out the door - but you can’t ignore the “easy” customer that will purchase a case of wine without tasting it because it received a 90+ score -

On the other hand, your average retailer is surrounded by competition - most of which are the “lazy” buyers who purchase rated wines only (or sold their soul to Southern or some other dominant liquor wholesaler) - so you have to carry the obscure wines to pull in the kinky customer - usually the point wine buyers are far from loyal customers anyways, usually looking everywhere for the highest rated wine at the cheapest price - so there is no need to cater to them unless a “too-good-to-be-true” deal comes by that you can turn quick cash on -

As a retailer, you have to stick to your game plan - but should never give up the quick and easy dollar - after all, you have to pay the bills -

Just because you specialize in obscure wines doesn’t mean that you can’t turn 200 cases of 90 point Martini Cabernet in a couple days at a blowout price if the opportunity exists (and you can make a profit) -

Amen brother!!!

When I had my shop I tried to make it a rule that I’d never bring in a wine we hadn’t tasted. How else could we properly recommend it??? But I DID bring in some wines that I knew my customers would buy based on reputation, which often translated to scores. I didn’t do it a lot, but I did do it. As much as I wanted to run my business solely based on ‘principle’, I found (alas!) that I had to do it based on money (at least my landlord thought that was a good idea).


In light of Roberto’s comment, I want to clarify that I totally understand the distributor’s lament when they go to retail accounts and they get the ‘I only want to sell wines rated 90+pts’ line. I’m sympathetic to that. But as Thomas mentioned, if you have 90+pt rated wines that you sell, be smart enough to realize it and have POS material ready for your retail customers, and don’t be surprised or offended if they ask you for it.

Can understand your frustration, but I think the buyers were trying to be helpful to you in telling you about their criteria. Like Carrie said, the Customers always right.

There’s a lot of good wine out there and there, and the amount of competition is staggering. Even for small accounts there’s at least 35 distributors who regularly call on them, for major accounts, over 200.

The onus is on you to tell the buyer what makes your wine unique, or the events and circumstances leading to the tremendous deal you can offer on that wine, or Points if that’s what they want. If you don’t provide that information, the appt right after you will.

Just to be clear: If Parker gives it 90 points plus, we say “Hey, look, Parker gave it a big score.”

If Parker didn’t score it, or gave it a score below 90 points, we say “Parker is a fat old lawyer from Maryland, and who cares what he thinks.”

I can’t honestly say we taste everything before it hits the shelves, but close enough that I don’t worry about it. Unless something really extraordinary is going on, I don’t need to taste the latest vintage of Alamos Malbec, or of Laurel Glen Reds, or of Folie au Deux, etc. On the other hand, nothing sells like personal experience.

I went on Chaad’s website and reviewed the wines he had. Granted, the East Coast is more familiar with European wines, but I didn’t recognize a single wine listed. I don’t know the price point of the wines, but noticing the wines are carried in grocery stores, Whole Foods, some restaurants and some wine stores, I assume they range from $10 to $40. All the people listed who carry the wine are all in his home state.

So, Chaad has a limited customer base, not well known wines and a customer base with limited buyers.

I can see Chaad’s frustration, trying to market his goods in such a limited market. Worse, Chaad would last about ten minutes in our store trying to sell us “hand sell” wines nobody knows. Now we can move “good” unknown wines if they are reasonably priced and not readily available in Cost Plus, Costco, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or standing up in the wine section of the local grocery stores. I’m willing to bet that the people who wanted to know scores were dedicated wine shops. The grocery stores just want cheap.

Chaad, marketing my friend, marketing. If the upscale wine merchants don’t want an unknown and you dump it at a grocery store or Whole Foods to survive, you’ve eliminated half your customer base. If the wine sells best to the grocery stores, push that market, make your quick money and don’t bitch.

Now there is a merchant in Calistoga called Wine Garage. All his wines are $25 or less and he makes a killing. If you need another outlet and can handle California, he can unload more or your wines in that price range than all the grocery stores in your state. Reach out. Quit bitchin. Don’t be a distributor supporting HR 5034.

Randy, I’m going to have to disagree with you on “dumping” wines to Whole Foods. There are very many Whole Foods around the country that cater to those willing to spend over $40 for wine (and they buy at normal wholesale), and they have enomatic systems as well for the consumer. Just wanted to clear that up that I would not bundle Whole Foods in with the others you listed. Now perhaps the Whole Foods in Napa is a “dumping” area for wines, but not many I’ve seen and sold to around the country.

Oh, and sorry about your clubs! No bueno.

T Bone, you’re right on Whole Foods. Trader Joes is next door and I need to keep from from blending the two. My bad. I’ll go bend another shaft on one of my clubs. [oops.gif]

If it’s any consolation, I offered up my 6 iron to move the coals around the fire last night.

Good thing my golf game sucks anyway! Cheers Randy.

(Fire good…US Airways baaaaaaad!)

Wanting ratings to help sell a wine is one thing…

Needing ratings to sell a wine is another.

So, I will counter your rant with one of my own.

I NEVER want a wholesaler to send me a review or tell me a score b/c of the frequency with which they are WRONG.