To find out more about readers’ wine-buying practices, we posted a survey on WineSpectator.com; nearly 1,500 people responded. Although our poll was not conducted according to scientific protocols, it resulted in a diverse group of respondents in terms of gender, age and location. About two-thirds of respondents are male. Nearly half are middle-aged (40 to 64), with a quarter older and another quarter younger. Respondents are fairly evenly distributed across the U.S., with the largest group from the West (29%). About 9% live outside the U.S.
They are, not surprisingly, serious wine lovers. About two-thirds are Wine Spectator subscribers (to print and/or digital publications). More than half currently possess more than 100 bottles; 9% have more than 1,000 bottles. And they are enthusiastic consumers, with nearly 90% spending more than $1,000 per year on wine, including 11% who spend more than $10,000. Still, they look for value. More than 40% spend between $25 and $49 per bottle on average, and 28% spend less than $25. Only 4% spend more than $100. Nearly one-fourth purchase more than 250 bottles per year, with almost half purchasing 100 to 249 bottles annually.
These wine lovers are taking advantage of all the ways wine is sold today. Whether they buy their wine at a brick-and-mortar retailer, via the Internet, directly from wineries or, more rarely, at auctions, they are exploring the wine world’s growing diversity by taking advantage of the expanding avenues for wine buying.
My wine-buying process is like filling in a 3-D puzzle involving the dimensions of time, space and money. My daily drinkers, all less than $25, are purchased by the mixed six-pack at the local grocery store while shopping for food. The next tier comes directly from wineries, some of which we have visited over the years in regions including Willamette and Walla Walla.
Lastly, there is the informal wine exchange between friends that tends to occur around the holidays each year, in which I buy and distribute wines I think they will love and in return get bottles they consider special. This often opens my eyes to new wineries or varietals, fleshing out the spectrum of my cellar.
Eau Claire, Wis.
As a millennial and eager connoisseur of wine, much of my spend goes towards experiences, including memberships at local urban wineries or quarterly trips to Northern California. I am not shy of pulling out my wallet for great quality wine.
For weekly drinkers, I do partake in grocery store wine, though I have a few favorite AVAs that I hunt out for inexpensive, mass-produced bottles: Santa Lucia Highlands and Arroyo Seco are my current go-tos; the quality-to-price ratio is phenomenal. I scour online sites for wine resale, but also enjoy the thrill of sales sites (firstbottle.com and lastbottle.com).
A few times a year, I order directly from wineries, generally three to six bottles, though case-shipping deals really can move the needle.
AN ENOPHILE'S JOURNEY
I moved to NYC in the early 1980s and started tasting and collecting Bordeaux and California Cabs. My wine-buying apex came with the introduction of auctions in NYC. I tasted a gamut of old and rare vintages through auction subscriptions at houses such as Christie's, Sotheby's, Morrell and Zachys, where I was able to snatch secondary and tertiary wines that were overlooked and undervalued. After about five years of having a club of 15 wine-loving friends and four yearly tastings at home, the market was invaded by big money. We had our run.
I turned to online auctions and searching for end-of-bin sales throughout the U.S., getting decent buys. However, prices continued to spiral out of reach. I have turned in recent years to wine travel, discovering new labels and projects, from Sonoma to Piedmont.
Daniel G. Ruzo
Mostly I buy from small independent wineshops with knowledgeable and passionate owners who can offer interesting wines from small producers from a variety of countries. We are blessed in Naples to have several excellent independent wineshops, and I've never left a tasting at any of them without buying several bottles of wine, not infrequently wines I hadn't experienced before.
We also attend wine dinners at several of our better Naples restaurants (Bleu Provence, Osteria Tulia, the French), often with the winery owner, winemaker or rep in attendance. The restaurants generally make arrangements with their suppliers to make the wines available to dinner attendees through one of the local wineshops.
BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY
I focus my purchases on small, limited-production boutique wineries that I can't find at a store. I am a member of several wineries in the Napa area including Caldwell, Amizetta, Aonair and Fortunati and receive regular shipments directly from them. I also like Vivino for tracking down hard-to-find bottles I've had in Europe or my travels around the country. Finally, if I'm looking for something different, I have a couple of small bottle shops in Denver that always have unique selections available that challenge my palate.
My introduction to wine was when I moved to California from Indiana to work as an enologist. I love visiting local wineries and talking to the employees about their winery and the wines they make, and I will almost always take home a bottle or two.
I also love going to bottle shops that carry a large selection of both international and local wines. Often, I go into the store with a wine in mind, usually a wine that I've heard or read about but have never tasted. There is something to learn in every bottle.
Russian River Valley, Calif.
NOTHING BUT NET
Out of necessity, I purchase at least 80% of our wine online. It is a lesson in frustration living so far north in an isolated small town right on the Canadian border that has virtually no local wine culture or tradition. I fill our need for wines from Barolo, Sauternes, Gigondas, Alsace, Bierzo and Sicily by ordering online from places like Last Bottle, Wine.com and Total Wine & More.
International Falls, Minn.
With 17 years in the wine business, 12 of which were in retail, I now find myself using a variety of methods to obtain wine, but my first choice is local wine shops. I prefer to keep my spending dollars within my city or state, as both probably need the revenue. This method also keeps me in the shops' good graces, which can be beneficial, as they keep me apprised of new wines that I may like. Spending 40-plus years in business, I know the value of developing and having personal relationships.