Costco comment horrifies wine snobs

The retailer's top buyer has the nerve to say that it's just 'a beverage.'

By Kim Peterson May 10, 2012 3:47PM
Costco (COST) is one of the largest wine retailers in the world, selling more than $1 billion worth each year.

And that gives its top buyer, Annette Alvarez-Peters, a lot of power within the wine industry. But instead of waxing poetic about terroir and tannins, Alvarez-Peters is all business when it comes to wine. And that's giving some wine lovers heartburn.

Post continues below.
The controversy centers around a recent CNBC special on Costco. Alvarez-Peters was interviewed by Carl Quintanilla and told him she doesn't think wine is any more special than clothing or televisions.

Quintanilla suggested that wine is more personal than tinfoil or toilet paper. Alvarez-Peters disagreed.

"People can look at it that way," she said. "But at the end of the day, it's a beverage. It's a beverage. I think you either like it or you don't like it."

Cue the exploding heads. The Eater site called the CNBC special "a six-minute segment on wine ignorance" and said Alvarez-Peters doesn't understand why wine is any different from toilet paper. "Very sad," said a commenter on the site. "Show some respect, Costco."

The Bubble Brothers wine blog said Alvarez-Peters "secured her place in wine infamy" with her response, noting that Alvarez-Peters first worked for Costco as a car-parts buyer and came to the job with no knowledge of wine. But maybe that's a good thing. "I think everyone can agree that if you put the world's most passionate wine lover in charge of Costco's wine buying that that person would make a shocking mess of the business before long if he or she wasn’t first skilled in the often unsexy craft of trade buying," the blog noted.

But another viewer appreciated the sentiment. "I think far too often we lose sight of wine, beer or liquor as simply being a beverage, albeit a fun and tasty one most of the time," wrote the Bangers and Mash blog.

Alvarez-Peters clearly has knowledge of wine, although she was caught in the video writing "delicious" as a tasting note. She wouldn't be where she is today without having a thorough knowledge of the industry. The bigger question is whether she has to be outrageously and obnoxiously passionate about the "beverage." I think the answer is no.


May 10, 2012 4:47PM
Personally, I think she hit the nail on the head.
May 10, 2012 4:16PM

People need to get over themselves.  While I'm not a wine enthusiast, I am a bit of a single-malt scotch and craft beer geek.  That said, all alcoholic treats ARE beverages.  What should make wine, beer, or fine whiskey special is how we as individuals enjoy them.  If we let our opinions be influenced by anything other than the intrinsic quality of the spirits, we are cheating ourselves and are probably not as deeply in love with the hobby as we thought.  It is also important to not judge other's opinions based on the norm of the subculture.  Sure, I'll cringe when a house guest  pours a dram of my Highland Park 18yr into a tumbler filled with ice. But, if they are truely enjoying it, they are drinking it right.  


Wine folks... who freakin' cares?  Having a skilled purchasing agent in charge at Costco will likely lead to greater availability of popular varietals and vintages, and probably greater discounts too.

May 10, 2012 4:50PM
I'm grateful that Costco puts the Wine Spectator scores on the shelf tags, because I'm like 99.9% of wine drinkers that wouldn't know the difference between a $20 bottle and $800 bottle. Keep up the good work Costco. By the way, their 2008 Vina Robles Cab is 'delicious', perhaps even 'yummy'
May 10, 2012 5:14PM
Wine Snobs are LAUGHABLE. Easily offended, but easily duped by 2 buc chuck. They are arrogant Blowhards,full of BS.

They are jealous and in the end , its just rotten grapes

May 10, 2012 6:35PM
LMAO, the wine sophisticados are up in arms becuase the common folk are mass consuming cheap wines and making a mockery of their passion. Hey guys, get real when was the last time you saw a Wall Street guy or gal drop a grand on wine at Costco! Go figure, she kicks butt at selling wines the rest of us poor slobs can afford, good for her, she gets a Mercedes too!
May 10, 2012 4:35PM
Of course it is just a beverage.  Wine snobs are such pain in the rear. 

At least toilet paper is truly useful.

May 10, 2012 4:42PM
srsbuizz - Actually a glass of red wine a day is great for you. Don't overdo the cancer thing...

But yeah, she's right, it IS just a beverage...

May 10, 2012 6:32PM
If people dont like the way businesses do business they should stop shopping there and/or stop complaining.  Does Costco have great wine at good prices? Yes. So who cares what the buyer thinks about the producr personally  as long as the end result is quality and value. 
May 10, 2012 6:29PM

Why is it that some fans (wine or anything else) feel so entitled to their opinion that they can't respect anyone else's? Just because the woman in question calls wine a beverage doesn't take anything away from your opinion - its just different. Unless you're so insecure about your beliefs, you should be able to simply agree that the world is made of up of lots of different poeple, and therefore, lots of different opinions.


Here's the bottom line: If MSN had never run this story do you think anyone would even care? Probably not. So whether you're a Wine Connosieur, Whiner or Wino - just relax and enjoy life - its too short to waste time on bickering about who's right and wrong about things like this.

May 10, 2012 6:56PM
I grew up on Ripple, Thunderbird, and Boones Farm apple wine. I especially like the 1969 vintage. They all go well with a bologna sandwich.
May 10, 2012 6:44PM
I bet those same wine snobs also look down on the beer craft, which is in art in itself. 
May 10, 2012 6:43PM

Americans are too stupid to realize that good wine does NOT equal a huge price tag.

The fact that you can get a fantastic house wine or a local vineyard just outside town or village in Europe for a few euro is unheard of.  Costco is making wine ..good wines from around the world more available to the average American who couldnt afford wines here jacked up in price.  Is she being a bit oversimplistic..yes... but laughing all the way to the bank


May 10, 2012 4:35PM
She is correct. A volkswagon and a rolls are also the smae thing. Both get you where you want to go. Some like more (what they call) luxury than others but like wine and kool aid they both quench your thirst. Mine ( the Kool aid) costs be about a buuck a pitcher and a bottle of laffiete costs some maybe a grand or more. When we both take a leak they are the same again....
May 10, 2012 6:21PM
May 10, 2012 5:29PM
I agree with the majority;it is at the end of the day a BEVERAGE that quinches your thirst & w/enough of it get a buzz too! Gone are the days of snobbery so relax "wine snootzz" she is doing her job(apparaently very good at it) so Costco let her keep doing her thing because apparently it equates to great sales & customer satisfaction! In evertthing we have to keep our ultimate goal in mind when conducting business with the intention to continue upward. You Go Girl run dat wine line!!!
May 10, 2012 6:16PM
I know a wine snob. She talks a good game, but never complains about wine, when it is FREE. 
May 10, 2012 6:11PM
What everyone fails to realize is that COSTCO is trying to appeal to the average wine consumer.  Many of the so called wine experts go ga-ga over wine that is off the scale in one aspect or another.  It is like the music expert that loves atonal music which is not to the taste of most classical music affectionados. Ms Peters is the everyman (or woman) and represents their taste- which is perfect for COSTCO's customers. (Including me!)
May 10, 2012 4:52PM

Some people make such a big deal over getting their drink on. Let's be blunt here: How much beer, wine, and distilled product would be sold and consumed if they were identical to what is sold today but did NOT contain ethyl alcohol?


Some snobs go on and on about the taste, but without the buzz they don't go on at all.



May 10, 2012 5:29PM
What a big deal about the wine... They are all the same. It all on the person's taste preference.  I tasted may different type of wines, from cheap to expensive, but at the end of the day I like the $12 bottle wine than any other else.  Somebody gave me a $160 bottle wine and it taste like a crap. I ends up throwing it.
May 10, 2012 6:07PM

Some people do not have the physiology to taste certain features. Don't bother them about it; if you like classier wine, then enjoy. Not everyone tastes it the same as you.

I grew up tasting fine wines, and can tell the difference fairly well... But I still go for nano-brews. To each their own, stop whining, and enjoy your beverage. Life is too short to snob out on beverages.

Appreciate what you have and what you experience; share the same with others. Enjoy.

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