These days there is no shortage of places to buy wine. There is wine at the supermarket, there are huge chain package liquor stores, there are specialty shops, wine clubs, and Internet shopping available to almost all of us.
Personally, I use all of the above. There are plenty of good wines at reasonable prices in your local supermarket and at the big package store. However, they do require that you have an idea of what you want; otherwise, it is a crapshoot. Drawbacks to these sort of places are that the choices can overwhelm, the staff tends to be less knowledgeable, and you run the risk of getting a suggestion based upon whatever is overstocked and not selling well.
I also have a friend who owns a specialty shop, as well as a few others who work in or manage one. These can be one of your best resources for wine because a good merchant can recommend a wine based upon your budget and how you plan to serve it. The only drawback to buying from a small retailer is that their selection may be slim and prices may be a bit higher due to not being able to sell in volume. Keep in mind, however, that you are also paying for the expertise of the owner and the staff, and that can be a very valuable commodity. I really need to frequent these type of shops more.
One of my favorite ways to purchase wine is through wine clubs. These are available from merchants and straight from wineries, as well. On a recent trip to Sonoma my wife and I signed up for quite a few clubs, too many, in fact, the result of getting the sales pitch after the tastings, I’m sure, and have had a steady stream of good wines delivered right to our doorstep. While we have had to cut down on the amount of clubs we belong to, we have two that we consider invaluable: Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant and MayoFamily Winery. Ferry Plaza sends us wonderful and affordable wines each month and the selections are always unusual and surprising. Mayo only sends us wines twice a year, but there are always excellent and of a variety that aren’t available in the stores. One caveat to wine clubs, some are not quite as good as others. Some will send you more expensive wine than you agreed to, and some wineries may have a higher opinion of the value of their wines than you do.
So, how do you purchase your wine?