Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Franchise Wine Stores and Two Bottles a Month

I stopped by a couple new wine shops lately and discovered a new (to me) concept—the franchise wine shop.

Chain wine stores are not unfamiliar. Total Wine & More opened up a location here a couple years ago, and Green’s, a local chain, has been around for many years. But franchises? That’s a new one.

When I think about wine shops, I think about quirky places run by wine fanatics, stacked floor to ceiling with wine racks and case displays with little room to move. These shops bore no resemblance to such ventures.

The first store I visited was Wine Styles. It bills itself as the “new and easy way to shop for wines.”

If limiting customers’ selection to around 75 wines makes things easier, than I suppose it is. The main premise is that their wines are arranged by “style” of wine, rather than by type. You know, “smooth and fruity” and “big and bold.” That sort of thing.

The selection was actually interesting, with some wines I didn’t recognize and interesting choices. The prices were high, but I suppose with franchise fees and a limited selection, you have to make a few extra points on every bottle.

My favorite was the tagline for the wine club: “If you drink two bottles of wine a month, then our wine club is for you!”

I won’t discuss my monthly wine consumption…but let’s just say it’s a tad higher than two bottles. But maybe that’s how their customers can afford the prices.

The other store was Vino 100. It’s the same concept with better décor. They do offer six sample wines every day, which I think is a nice touch. They tout themselves as “100 great wines for $25 or less.” Once again, the prices are on the high side, even for a “boutique” wine shop.

In the spirit of full disclosure, both stores were staffed by friendly, knowledgeable gentlemen, and as previously stated, I am for anything that encourages people to learn more about wine. If places like this make for a better shopping experience for novice wine drinkers, then it’s a good thing.

As for me, I’d stack those places floor-to-ceiling.

I also think they are missing the boat on lower-priced wines. Under $10 wines are essential for anyone who isn’t wealthy, and who intends to drink wine on any sort of regular basis. I don’t know, like…more than two bottles a month.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one.

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