Why and How I Buy Wine at Costco

I’m sure most wine fans looking at the why part of the title think – this is too obvious. Price!!! While this is true, there is more to it than simply low prices.

Costco has an amazing selection of wines and not all of them are low cost. There are many expensive wines at Costco, even going into the thousands of dollars. So, breadth of selection is also part of the answer. With the amazing purchasing power of Costco, they offer a truly astonishing selection of wines from around the world.

Like the top private wine stores, Costco develops relationships with wine makers both for purchasing their wines, and, in some cases, for creating private label versions which are sold under the Kirkland label. There have been many articles published about the wines at Costco sold as Kirkland including in the fun to read Costco Wine Blog.

The “endcap” displays show featured wines. Here is a selection of wines in the $45 – $90 dollar range.
Photos by George Plosker

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are many fantastic private wine shops, and even the supermarkets offer good selection and price, especially on California wines. I have to give a shout out to K&L Wine Merchants. It is always a fabulous experience to go to K&L and get input from their extremely knowledgeable staff about their global selection of fine wines.

Screenshot from WS Top 100 for 2018 showing Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel at #40.

Because I like to browse wine and wine lists, I found myself looking over the wide choices of wines at Costco. I’m also a fan of the annual Wine Spectator (WS) Top 100 lists and enjoy looking at both the Top 100 and the 100 Top Value Wines (wines less than $20) each year.

Despite the visibility of being on these lists, it is typically difficult to find the listed wines, even if you are willing to spend the often-high prices.

WS Top 100 discoveries at Costco

In the Spring of 2017, I was browsing wine at Costco and came across two WS Top 100 choices at remarkably reasonable prices. These wines included the 2014 Quinta de Cabriz Dao, a Portuguese red, which was the #46 wine in the WS Top 100 for $6.99. I considered this a total steal. The second wine was the 2013 Familia Zuccardi Cabernet Sauvignon Uco Valley Q from Argentina and #53 in the Top 100 for $14.59.

Box labeling for Landmark Vineyards Overlook Chardonnay. 91 points and #78 in WS Top 100 for 2018.

Since that time, I have found one key to shopping for wine at Costco is reviewing the signage and price labels. It is common for wine retailers to reference wine rankings in their in-store labeling, but Costco takes it to another level. In their different types of signage, from featured wine bargains to small price and description labels for the wines, Costco will cite a large number of wine reviewers including WS, Wine Enthusiast, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, and many more known authorities.

According to an overview article on Wine Ratings in Wikipedia, Parker is given “credit for popularizing the use of numerical wine ratings.” This is the commonly seen scheme where an 85 means an above average or good wine, and a 90 (or higher) means outstanding.

While these wine ratings have many critics because wine tasting is so subjective, it is a useful baseline metric. Other critics blame the very high prices on what is now called “cult wines” on the assignment of top ratings (95-100) by Parker and others. While still others suggest that these ratings are based on wine profiles rather than subtlety or uniqueness based on terroir.

Nevertheless, when you are scanning wines while shopping, having easy access to these ratings is a good addition to your existing knowledge. Use these tips, along with your impressions of wines you have enjoyed, regions you like, prior tastings, and other accumulated information and your wine buying will be much more fun.

Having confidence in selecting wine will be appreciated by your friends, family, and colleagues. Whether you are out for dinner, planning an organizational event, or enjoying dinner with friends, picking wines that offer both quality and value will add to the party. Soon you will find yourself being asked – how did you learn about wine?

6 thoughts on “Why and How I Buy Wine at Costco

  1. Thanks, George! I rarely buy wine these days; almost always from Costco, and in a hurry. Knowing what to look for will please my guests, I’m sure!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Everything you said is true. And the one thing going in Costco’s dominance is that they are the number one seller of wine in the USA and maybe the world? Even their box wines are great value since they dictate the quality they expect.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I know nothing about wine, mostly because I’m not a fan. i admire your knowledge and passion and the effort that went into that. How about doing your next Post on Hamburgers!


  4. Gee…time to re-up that Costco membership! Next time I’m up your way can I follow you around that airplane hanger of a box store? Love love love K&L! My favorite “go to” when I’m all tangled up in “what Bourbon/spirit/reds” make the best gift!

    Liked by 1 person

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