Good wines, cheaper prices at discount stores: a comparison of costs

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 19, 2013 - 7:00 PM

How much did you pay for your wine? Here’s a look at how the bargain-focused national chains stack up.

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Photo: Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

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As the sign at the Metrodome declared, “We like it here.” And that affection applies to shopping, as Twin Citians tend to be quite loyal to locally owned businesses.

But over the past two decades, three national discount outlets — Sam’s Club, Costco and Trader Joe’s — have planted roots here and gained avid followings for their value-priced groceries and other items.

Including wine.

For some of us, especially wine.

The three chains, which have several locations in the metro area, differ greatly in inventory and approach, but they all permit us either to do some Champagne living on a swill budget, or just to save some serious dollars on favorite brands.

Costco, for example, cuts great deals on national and state levels and stays well below the usual retail markup. Trader Joe’s has a slew of exclusive brands at low-low prices, making exploring cheap and easy. Sam’s Club focuses almost entirely on familiar brands that fit its big-box image — though most come in bottles, not boxes.

Small wonder, then, that Costco and Trader Joe’s are No. 1 and No. 2 in U.S. retail wine sales, with Whole Foods, which will sell wine at stores opening this year in Maple Grove and downtown Minneapolis, ranking fourth.

How do they do it? We visited branches of all three in the western suburbs to find out. For a closer look at the service and selection, the quantity and quality, turn to Page T4.

 

Costco

 

The space: Just like the rest of the store: nice, wide aisles

The service: Preoccupied but professional when engaged

The selection: A constantly changing array of wines at all price points, including a lot of acclaimed $20-plus wines from all over the world; easily the best high-end outlet

Target customer: People looking for value at all prices and for the occasional gem

Other libations: A good bit of beer and spirits, standard brands and some higher-end

House brands/exclusives: The Kirkland wines usually are good-to-stellar but often not around for long.

The actual wines: The Kirkland Signature Champagne ($20) and Columbia Red Blend ($19) were solid efforts, the Kirkland Pinot Grigio ($7) a screamin’ bargain. If and when the Old Vine Zin or Cava are around, grab them. Costco often has limited amounts of highly rated surprises (half-bottles of Chateau d’Yquem for $99) that make it a potential gold mine for wine geeks.

 

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