ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

When Wine Spectator reviews a wine, there is always a price listed. However, I find that the price that I typically have to pay for a given wine is as much as 20 percent higher than the one that Wine Spectator listed. What gives? Am I being gouged by my retailer? By the distributor?

—Steve, Birmingham, Ala.

Dear Steve,

We get a wine's suggested retail price information directly from the producer or importer. If you find that the wine costs more than the price we list, there are two main reasons.

The first is simply supply and demand. Distributors and retailers are out there to make a profit, and if there's high demand for a wine, they may indeed charge more for it.

The second reason has to do with Prohibition. The Constitutional amendment that repealed Prohibition gave control of alcohol distribution to the individual states. Some states enforce fixed markups and no discounting on wines (teetotalers hope that if alcohol is never on sale, you won't buy any). This means that some retailers cannot negotiate with wholesalers for volume discounts.

However, we also hear from readers that they can buy many wines at prices lower than we list in the magazine. So it works both ways. Next time you're in a wine shop in Atlanta, Miami, or New York, compare prices with your hometown stores. You may be surprised at the variations.

—Dr. Vinny


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