You can get a lot of things accomplished during a Costco trip. Groceries, a lifelong supply of toilet paper, clothing, toys, household items, $1 hot dogs, really good rotisserie chicken, and most importantly, so much good wine. I normally think of Costco as buying for the mass, that is, until recently chatting about grocery store wine with a few sommelier and wine friends.
“There are great brands that Costco carries and they all are at an outstanding value to the customer,” says Doug Banks, National Sales Director of Vin Fraîche Portfolio. “Costco works off of a lower margin than most wine retailers so the value goes to the customer. Most people don't know this but Costco is the largest wine retailer in the U.S. '' Simply put this means you can score great bottles at even better prices. Costco is a solid plan of attack for parties and shindigs as you can stock up on basically everything you need at once.
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“Over the past several years Costco has really put together a solid wine selection,” says Adam Sweders, a level II sommelier and Wine Director at DineAmic Hospitality, in Chicago. “What separates them is that they offer not your typical grocery store selections but will more so give you iconic wines and high quality as well as off the beaten path labels at some pretty amazing pricing,” he adds. And don’t forget about Costco Wine Blog, a blog dedicated to solely Costco wine.
Denise Yamaguchi, Founder and CEO of Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, started an under $9.99 grocery store wine account, @goddessofwine808, that entails frequent Costco picks. While not an expert, she notes, she loves wine. “I always see others posting about expensive wines that are unaffordable or unattainable, which made me think it would be helpful for wine lovers like me to have an Instagram about affordable, inexpensive wines—the wines you can find in your neighborhood grocery store for day-to-day consumption.” A step further, Yamaguchi created an honest, real talk “Goddess” rating system for her wine reviews on a scale of 1 to 10.
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Things to Know Before You Go
Don’t Sleep on the Kirkland Juice
Kirkand, Costco’s signature brand, is not to be overlooked. “Costco works with wineries all over the world to produce wine for their private label,” notes Banks. The best part? Most of these wines fall into the under $10 a bottle price point—and most recently have started to produce even more quality lines under the label due to wine demand. “They now have a Brunello Montalcino, Cabernet from Stags Leap, Côtes Du Rhône Villages, and a Champagne,” Banks says. “Not only does Costco work off of smaller margins, but the margin is even lower on the Kirkland brand because there isn’t a third party involved—thus the savings go to the customer.”
Avoid Loud Labels
Rule of thumb when seeking a quality producer? Steer clear from the bottles with loud, overcatchy labels. “Many producers of bulk wine spend more on packaging than on product,” says Justin Moore, a Master Sommelier and wine director at Vetri Cucina, atop the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. “If it's shiny on the outside it's probably dull on the inside,” he notes. This isn’t always the case but mostly labels can be used for marketing trickery to the consumer.
Seek Wines from Classic Wine Regions
“Trust the classic regions because they have strict regulations on quality and production methods,” Moore says, noting that Chianti Classico, Rioja, Cotes du Rhone, Beaujolais, and Gruner Veltliner (from Austria) are “reliably consistent and offer tremendous value for the dollar.” Also turn to red wines from Chile and Washington State. “Both regions have something to prove in the fine wine world and can really hold their own when up next to a Napa cabernet three of four times the price,” he adds.
Think About What You Actually Like in a Wine
We’ll get to this more in depth very soon but understanding personal palate preferences will help you pick a wine that you actually love. “When you taste a wine you enjoy take a picture of the label and look it up later to see how it was made,” adds Moore. “It may be from a cool climate and have no oak at all or be aged extended periods in large neutral oak.” Even scoping out the alcohol content can help narrow the process down.
A Perfect 10 for $10 Red
Yamaguchi rates Kirkland Carneros Pinot Noir ($10) a 10 on her “Goddess” scale. “The wine is easy to drink and will go with most types of foods and dishes, including Asian dishes, etc.,” she adds. As we’ve mentioned before, pinot noir is a solid bet when seeking a great food wine and for $10 a pop you can’t beat the price of this vino.
A Rosé for Apps
For starters, appetizers, canapes, tapas—whatever you want to call small bites prior to dinner—Gerard Bertrand Cote des Roses Rosé ($13.99) is a beautiful, trustworthy wine to set out on the table. “It is easy to drink, has a nice color and will go well with most appetizers,” Yamaguchi notes, who gives it an 8/10 on the Goddess scale. Think easy to drink and light with hints of floral notes.
Cheap Bubbles for Brunch Mimosas
“I know a gaggle of moms that maintain apocalyptic stores of Costco Prosecco,” my friend, Scott Eren, tells me. And you know why? Prosecco is very drinkable and at Costco, only costs around $7 a bottle for Kirkland Signature Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG. As Yamaguchi notes, it’s “an awesome double-date with orange juice for mimosas but not a bottle to take on a serious date”—meaning buy it in large quantities for brunch and party bubbles.
A Fruity, Delicious Rosé
With a Goddess rating of 7/10, Yamaguchi notes Rodney Strong Rosé of Pinot Noir ($14) is “a wine worth asking out for a second date.” Going back to our motto of rosé being a great wine all year long, it’s one to reach for if you can’t quite decide on red or white. “It’s a great light wine with fruity notes—strawberry and peaches,” she adds.
A Really Epic French Chardonnay
Specifically speaking, Chablis, a minerally Chardonnay wine from France that I just can’t get enough of. Even if you’re not familiar, just trust me that it’s worth picking up if you haven’t experienced it before. “One of the best values someone is able to get there is the Kirkland Signature Chablis Premier Cru,” says Sweders. “This wine includes top-notch Chardonnay grapes for $17.99—you just can't beat this anywhere else."
A Sweet Wine (That’s Kosher Too)
Nicole Pomije, owner of The Cookie Cups, turns to Bartenura Moscato ($15), in a beautiful blue bottle, as a go-to when seeking a sweet (but not too sweet) wine. “It's a sweet wine you can enjoy anytime—happy hour, ladies night, date night or on special occasions like Christmas and New Year’s,” says Pomije. “It's perfect with appetizers or desserts so it's a great go-to if you need something you can use for a variety of situations.” Pomije also notes that it’s like “drinking candy” alongside sweets such as an apple crisp or poached pears but notes it’s also tasty with a cheese board or crudite spread.
A High Scoring Italian Red for $12.99
Villa Antinori Toscana, Banks notes, is a standout at Costco. “It’s a great Italian red for the money,” he adds. “It’s only $12.99 and this wine typically scores in the 90s from most critics.” Whether you care about points and critical reviews or not, this medium-bodied red wine from Tuscany is a must if you’re into Italian wine.
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