Wine Talk

Snooth User: dirkwdeyoung

A Visit to "Total Wine"

Posted by dirkwdeyoung, Jul 10, 2010.

I stopped in at the Tucson "Total Wine" Store yesterday, since I was in Tucson for other reasons and wanted to pick up a bottle of George Dickel ( a nice Tennessee Whisky that I favor and for some reason, nobody in Sierra Vista carries it), Tucson is 1.5 hours from us, so I don't get over there every day. They were featuring a tasting of a nice variety of French Wines: Pinot Gris, Rose from Nimes, a Muscadet, a Bordeaux, a Vacqueyras and a sparkling white wine (not champagne), so a nice little selection.  Being summertime, we picked up a few bottles of the Muscadet sur Lie and the Rose, Costieres de Nimes for under $10 each. In conversation with the lady who was running the tasting, she offered me a complimentary copy of "Total Wine & More's" "Guide to Wine."  This is a 424 page softbound production, which of course in the end is a sales catalog for Total Wine's worldwide selection of wine (they are a corporation after all). But I must say, this is really a unique and fantastic effort on their part to provide a comprehensive look at what the world of wine has to offer. It is well written and has many attractive photographs of regions, properties, wine makers, maps with the wine regions and the characteristics of their wines explained.  The contents include sections on Wine Making, Enhancing Your Enjoyment, Grape Varietals, Food & Wine Pairing, Vintage Guide, then goes on to cover wine producing countries, even Uruguay and Israel! (yes, also Virginia). Even at the end a section on spirits and cigars (dont' smoke em, but somebody else might).

I also like the fact that they have included prices for major wines offered from each region, because that in itself is helpful to those who want to gain a concept of relation between quality and price, which I consider to be one of the most elusive aspects of knowledge to obtain for those beginning their adventures into the world of wine.

This is an enjoyable document to pick up and browse through and everybody can learn something from it. I strongly recommend that you stop over at your local Total Wine store and pick up a copy. Unfortunately, they are only located in the following states: Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Arizona and California, but perhaps you can request a copy on line at

Just so you are sure, I don't own shares in Total Wine and nobody I know is an employee, I have just never seen anyone in the trade make such an brilliant effort to put together something this complete and it is free of charge.

cheers, Dirk




Reply by bropaul, Jul 10, 2010.

Thanks, Dirk. I'm from New Jersey and stop at Total Wines from time to time. I'll have to see if I can get a copy.

Reply by ChipDWood, Jul 11, 2010.

I'll just say this: You nailed it when you mentioned that indeed it was a catalog of what Total has in stock- but does not represent the inventory of every store.  More over, the catalog- while I agree- VERY nicely put together, will not include items that are not classified by the company as "Winery Direct".

"Winery Direct" is TW's way of beating distribution laws and (cleverly, might I add) shrinking their costs for certain vineyards who they sign exclusivity contracts with.

Many of these "Winery Direct" Items- and you'll see them first as they are specifically placed at eye level, where as more known, national brands are kept on the bottom shelves- are either seperate bottlings by well known estates, or sometimes just bulk wine that can be bottled and packaged specifically for Total Wine.  SOME are quite good and come from good stock, some not so much.

Just know, there is a business model at work whenever you walk into a TW, whenever you 'paruse' that catalog and whenever you see "Winery Direct"- THAT is going to be the first thing recommended to you by the wine associate that you speak with.  No matter what you ask for.  It's how they're trained, and part of a regimentation.

It's a catalog, and while well done (I agree)- it's important to remember that it is just that.

Reply by lingprof, Jul 11, 2010.

I have a TW&M fairly close by, and a new one opening even closer.  Their selection is good, and their everyday prices are competitive.  But what really made me swoon is the coupon they emailed me.  It offers $5 off ANY wine over $20, and $2 off ANY wine under that price, (down to about 7.99).  Also $2 off any six pack of beer or large beer over a certain price.

They had that coupon around father's day, and then again around fourth of july.  Do they do it once a month??  Anyway, we went out there and I went positively nuts, and saved $48!!!  On stuff I was going to stock anyway!!!  I would've happily written out their "wine guide" for them by hand at that point!

One of my auxiliary favorite parts of wine enjoyment is price shopping.  And this gave me such a license to indulge!!!

I <3 TW & M.  (And as OP said, I don't work for them in any way)

Reply by dirkwdeyoung, Jul 13, 2010.

Hi ChipDWood, thanks for your comments, that is interesting information about the Winery Direct strategy, I have no illusions about TW's intention is to make lots of money, but "having said that" do you remember the famous "Wish Book" that was the Sears Christmas Catalog. As a child I used to spent a lot of time perusing that catalog, TW's wine guide is kind of an adult version of that. As I am extremely parsimonious with my wine buying budget, I do think is is nice to have such a guide which provides a broad range of "benchmark" prices for certain interesting wines.

lingprof, I am with you about the pleasure of achieving good deals for wines, when I can score a great Barolo or CndP for $20, it only doubles my enjoyment:)

Reply by StevenBabb, Jul 13, 2010.

@chip... interesting point of view... i started working for a retailer about 2 months ago here on the west coast (that shall remain nameless in this thread, but i'm sure i mentioned it elsewhere) and i think they are of the same "winery direct" strategy, although they call it something else....they do offer great bargains and good sales, but i've been finding that a lot of the product may be lacking in quality....

i started working for this employer to learn a different side of the wine biz, and maybe get some training out of it.... but their training is geared toward selling certain labels and not necessarily about wine education per se.....

but it sounds like this book that Total Wine has to offer may have some good and usefull info... smart of them to hand it out, even if it IS tailored to them...

Reply by ChipDWood, Jul 13, 2010.

"but their training is geared toward selling certain labels and not necessarily about wine education per se....."

Bingo.  Same experience here.  They PREACH that they go to the "ends of the earth" to make sure their wine associates are the best educated in the world- but do bupkiss in reality unless you kisss the right pair of cheeks, or make some other sort of arrangement.  I've ever heard of cases of employees lured into work at such establicjments FOR such perks- only to receive absolutely no education (let alone exotic trips to central Tusany) or formal training that can be used outside of the parent company.

So, who advances in such situations?  Those genuinely curious about wine, or those who just want a better job and are willing to rip off the diction, descriptions, and dialogue from others in order to place themselves at the front of the line.

Me bitter?  We haven't even begun to discuss the matter.

Chip D. Wood

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