By now you’ve probably heard the provocative remarks that has caused a stir in Wine Country, but if you haven’t here’s the back story:
Annette Alvarez-Peters, Costco’s principal wine buyer, was recently interviewed in a CNBC special, “The Costco Craze: Inside the Warehouse Giant,” and here’s the exchange that has wine-lovers fired up:
Alvarez-Peters: “Is (wine) more special than clothing, is it more special than televisions? I don’t think so.”
CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla: “Certainly it’s different than toilet paper? Or different that tin foil?”
Quintanilla: “Because it’s personal.”
Alvarez-Peters: “People can look at it that way. But at the end of the day, it’s just a beverage.”
This is from the woman who buys more wine than anyone in the world. The principal buyer helps Costco sell more than $1billion worth of wine every year in 337 of its stores in 34 states. Costco is the seventh largest retailer in the world and sixth in the US.
But here’s the twist. Alvarez-Peters may say wine is just a beverage, but Costco is now the largest American importer of French wines, and it carries some pretty high-end bottlings such as Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Petrus.
For the record, I think wine is more than a beverage. At its best, wine is a place. It’s geography in a bottle with winemakers endeavoring to let a piece of land express itself.
So at the end of the day, I don’t think wine is just a beverage. Not even close. But what do you think?