Shopping For Wine – Part One

Mo Wine Please

Where Do You Buy Wine?

Do you pick up wine while grocery shopping? Do you frequent a “big box” liquor store? Or a local wine shop? Do you “have a guy”?

Each source has its benefits. Taking advantage of all of these is probably the best way to find a good variety of wine at decent prices.

Let’s start with…

The Grocery Store

I know, some of you live in states like Pennsylvania and Tennessee which do not allow the sale of wine in grocery stores. I’m sorry.

But you never know when you might be on vacation in Florida and have a sudden need for wine. So listen up!

You can’t beat the grocery store for convenience. Obviously some stores have a better selection than others. Here in California, many grocery stores have a pretty extensive wine section, especially (big surprise!) those from California wineries.

Keep in mind that the wines are arranged by price with the more expensive wines at eye level and the least expensive at your feet.

Vons wine section

Also, look for sales or specials. Safeway stores (Vons, Dominicks, etc.) offer discounts – and a handy carry pack – if you buy six or more bottles.

For the most part, the wines you will find at the chain grocery stores will be those of the bigger producers, wines that have a pretty wide distribution in the market. Nothing wrong with that.  In fact the grocery store is a great place to identify a “house wine” for your home, one that you love, is readily available and has a price point you are comfortable with for every day drinking.

Big Box Wine Store

If you are shopping for wine for a party, you might check out a warehouse wine or liquor store.

These stores, by virtue of their size, will have a larger selection of wines than your grocery store. They will generally have some higher-end wines, but usually concentrate on the mid to low price range.

Don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions; you might be pleasantly surprised. Last year, while shopping for our annual wine tasting party, Peter went to Binny’s Beverage Depot. Peter started chatting with one of the store clerks who clearly knew his stuff. He pointed Peter to a Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio from Italy (at about $12 per bottle) that was a big surprise hit.

Recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt, though.  Peter was able to tell that the clerk was very knowledgeable. You want to be sure that you are not being steered toward a particular bottle simply because the store is trying to unload some excess inventory.

Some wines have a little description or wine score noted on the shelf label. I’m not saying that scores should be your only guidepost, but they can be one of the factors that helps you select bottle A over bottle B.

Local Wine Store

Your local wine store can be a great place to get individualized advice and access to some small production wines. Plus it is good to support small, local businesses.

The goal here is to become a good enough customer that the owner becomes “your guy”.

(Please note, I am using the term “guy” in a generic way meaning person. Many of the best “wine guys” are women.)

Wine Shop

Bottle for bottle you might pay a tiny bit more at your local store than somewhere that benefits from a giant volume discount but smaller shops will absolutely have wines that you have never heard of and will end up loving!  Beware, that new favorite wine may not be on the shelves when you return next month so if you love it and want more, have “your guy” set a few bottles aside.

Once you have developed a relationship with the shop owner, they will get to know your preferences and will be able to recommend the perfect selections for your dinner party.

Part Two: Online Shopping

Next time we will talk about online wine shopping. We will express our condolences to those whose states do not allow incoming wine shipments and I will tell you about the day I got a judgemental smackdown from the UPS guy.

In the meantime, what is your favorite place to buy wine? Want to give a shout out to your local wine store? Share your sources!

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Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Great post, Mo. When I get back from taking my #2 to college, I will be in need of some good wine! Have a great week.

  2. Awwww Mo, you’re singing my song here. I love wine! I usually buy my wine at the grocery store, but there is one local wine shop that I love to go to because they make fruit wine (think strawberry wine, mango wine, coconut wine) and they’re all so sweet and so good. Then, there’s a store called Total Wine. I kid you not, I walked in the first time and I thought I heard angels singing. It was a-ma-zing. Just row after row of every possible wine you could ever think of.

    • Kristen, I’ve been to the Total Wine store in Clearwater near where my folks live. They swear by Total Wine and say that the staff is super helpful with suggestions. Mango wine you say??? I’m intrigued…

  3. Here in Boston, we call the liquor store the package store 🙂 Although I miss being able to buy my wine in the grocery store- have to admit having it so convenient made for more frequent purchases!

    • Hahaha! I am at the grocery store at least 4 days a week so that’s a lot of opportunities to pick up some extra vino! Massachusetts really gets the double whammy: no liquor at the grocery store and no direct wine shipments from out of state! It’s like someone thinks that Bostonians don’t drink!

  4. We buy wine from Trader Joe’s, Safeway, anywhere we grocery shop.
    Since we’re such winos, we also buy a lot from the wineries. We “happened upon” Chateau St. Jean, Deerfield, and Pangloss while road-tripping this weekend. We spent almost $300 wine tasting and on wine. Yes, we have a problem.
    Have you heard about K&L? Amazing!
    I am looking forward to your next post because I need to ship wine to NYC.

  5. I tend to stick to the grocery store, just because I am too lazy to drive anywhere else! Plus, they have a fairly large selection…and the boxes fit so nicely in my car! ;)-Ashley

    • Hahaha! Good one, Ashley! But those commercials for Black Box Wine (with the shattering wine bottle) have sparked my curiosity. I just might have to do a “Mo Wine Please” piece on box wine. Hmmm…. Brilliant or sacrilege?


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