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The 7 types of Wine Shoppers

March 27, 2014 Brian Gurnham Chief Cork Officer

Spending time at one of the largest wine stores in the United States, and being retired from the world of people management, it was only logical that I developed a sort of Myers-Briggs for wine shoppers.  While in no way supported by actual scientific data, I do find that consumers fall into one of seven categories, and I derive a perverse sense of fun trying to correctly categorize them at a distance of 20 paces.  So with a bit of tongue and cheek, and at the risk of sounding snobbish (not intended) here are my seven most common types of wine shoppers.

Errand Runner – A category reserved almost exclusively for men, the errand runner is executing a very specific task – buy this many bottles of this exact wine - no substitutions!  The Errand Runner subscribes to the premise “happy wife, happy life”.  The Errand Runner seldom drinks wine, and his cart is prepopulated with a case or more of beer and his favorite scotch.  Errand Runner is always in a hurry, and if you ever want to see a look of complete despair, watch the expression on his face when the wine scribbled on that little piece of paper is out of stock.

Repeat Offender – Usually a retired individual or couple, the Repeat Offender is closely related to the Errand Runner.  Stayed in their way, they have a defined volume of wine – usually two or three cases - of very specific, value priced wines.  Judging from their ability to locate the wines with laser precision from among thousands available on the shelves, the last time a Repeat Offender tried a different wine is probably measured in decades.

The Ratings Buyer – It's not until the first interaction that this stealth consumer is recognized.  The first and soon to be learned only, element of their search criteria is ratings.  “What do you have that is a 90 point or higher rated Chardonnay for under $10?” is a typical opening line.  Quickly you learn, that creamy, buttery, oaky or unoaked, fresh or aromatic, have no place in this discussion – only ratings.  Doesn't matter who rates the wine but they don't want to buy any wine unless it has been rated 90 points or better by someone.  No, I have nothing against ratings per se, but let's remember that thousands of high quality wines are never submitted to any ratings publications, and some ratings organizations may be less than objective.  Having ratings as a part of your decision making, particularly if it's a publication whose ratings mesh with your style, is a good idea.  Having it as your only criteria, well, not so much.

The Couponers

Couponers are driven by sales and coupons.  Depending on your wine shop, this can be a smart way to shop.  Buying a featured wine on sale can be a good way to try a new varietal or a new producer, or if it's already on your repurchase list, simply save some hard earned cash.  Couponers however, can become a bit extreme, buying only wine that is on sale, regardless of what the wine tastes like.  Good to save money but it's important to ask yourself why the wine is on sale.  Is it a new release, a loss leader to get people in the store, or an inferior quality wine with cases sitting in inventory?  Also make sure to check vintages.  In at least one state I'm familiar with it is not an uncommon practice to put wines that are either close to or even past their prime on the sale rack.

Big Bucks Buyer – What do I need to say, this well-dressed man, woman or couple, asks for recommendations across a range of varietals and will accept any recommendation as long as it is an expensive bottle.  Don't get me wrong, I'm often jealous of the Big Bucks Buyer's ability to drop as much on wine as I would spend on a car, but I still can't help but wonder if they realize there are amazing, highly rated, quality wines available for less than $20 a bottle.  Oh well, it helps business.

The Bulk Buyer – The mission of the Bulk Buyer is simple - quantity.  Usually a wine drinker for decades, the Bulk Buyer has either by design, or necessity, learned that Carlo Rossi, Franzia, Vendange or Riunite still produce a quaffable wine at very, and I do mean very low prices.  The Bulk Buyer is easy to spot - always heading right to the big bottle section of the store.

Experimenter – Of course loving wine, I have a soft spot for the Experimenter.  The Experimenter wants to learn about wine, and appreciates the diversity of grape varieties, and wine regions the world has to offer.  They keep careful records of their purchases and will often come into the store with their last several receipts, their iPad or phone ap with tasting notes, or even a shopping list prepared on the store's web site.  The Experimenter is anxious to hear recommendations from fellow wine enthusiasts, and eager to branch out in as many directions as their wallet will allow.

Do you recognize yourself here?  Well as with all things wine – there is no right or wrong in your wine shopping style.  As a died in the wool Experimenter, I encourage you to at least introduce some level of experimentation in your wine shop visits, but then again, if you are reading this article, there's a good chance you are already there!


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