A few weeks ago, CNBC ran a special on Costco (it’s worth sitting through the advertisement to catch the video) which included a segment on the lead wine buyer, Annette Alvarez-Peters. If you’ve been to one of these warehouse stores, you know they’re chockablock full of gallon-sized bottles of ketchup, car tires, and, of course, toilet paper. There are a few, however, that also sell wine. In the case of Costco, a LOT of wine. As in, over a billion dollars per year.
I don’t know if I was more shocked to learn that Costco sells that much wine yearly, or that the person responsible for choosing which bottles grace the shelves has such a bourgeois attitude toward wine itself, likening it to any other commodity. Like toilet paper. Maybe she should tell that to the guy who bought this bottle of wine. The more I thought about it, the more mixed my feeling were. I realized she was right when she said, “…at the end of the day, it’s a beverage.” I mean, of course it is. But it’s also elevated to something far more meaningful than that by the context in which it’s enjoyed. You won’t see someone celebrating his daughter’s college graduation by telling his guests, “Hey, today is very special. I’m talking Quilted Northern kind of special.” At least I hope not.
I don’t think most people are shopping for wine at Costco looking for the elusive bottle of ’82 Chateau Petrus. And besides, does the lead wine buyer’s attitude really change what’s in the bottle?
How about you? Are you more in the Who cares as long as it’s cheap camp? Or does your blood boil with the idea of your precious wine being thought of as just another 30-pack of Charmin?