Top 10 Wine Shops in 2011

It’s that time of year again!  Where everybody and anybody throws out their top 10 , top 100, or top whatever lists. You either love them or hate them apparently.  We, well, we just think they’re a good way to categorize your thoughts, and, yes, they are fun too.

One of the popular advice given to people who gets into wine, is:  find your wine store, and become friends with them.  Ask them for advice, discuss wine with them, consult them for wine pairings, and, hey, they’re often a good way to “store” your wine before drinking it (if you do not have your “cellar”).

Over the years we have found many.  And as we travel a bit, we’ve found our friends in different parts of the world.  With different perspectives, stock, and philosophies.

Spirit Haus, Amherst, Massachusetts

At the top of our list?  A liquor store (really) in Amherst, Massachusetts. That supplies the students of Amherst College and UMass with their party liquids.  In between all the discounted beer kegs, cans, and bottles, you’ll find Gary.  Gary is a wine guy, through and through.  He’ll love for you to stop by, and talk vino.  And if you graduate from the wine racks in the actual store, he’ll take you down to the basement where you’ll find treasures from Burgundy, Piemonte, and Tuscany. The place to go for everyday wines? Spirit Haus.  For vintage Barolos and burgundies? Spirit Haus.  For new, up and coming winemakers and their (soon to be renowned) great wines? Spirit Haus.

At number two, Systembolaget just edged out Vinmonopolet.  What made the difference was the Swedish retail monopoly’s knack for finding high value everyday wines (price/quality), as well as the fact that the Norwegian trade monopoly’s monthly “releases” of rare wines have not been up to their normal standards.

1) Spirit Haus (Amherst, MA).  Hard to find a better wine buddy, than Spirit Haus’ Gary.

2) Systembolaget (Sweden). I know being a monopoly makes life easier, but they’re not resting on their laurels

3) Vinmonopolet (Norway).  Strong portfolio from most regions around the world. You can find real steals if you look hard enough.

4) Spec’s (Houston, TX).  Whichever wine you cannot find, ask if you can go “upstairs” and have a look, or ask them what they can do if it’s not even there.

5) Enoteca Fracchia & Berchialla (Alba, Piemonte, Italy). Will get you most of the wines from the region.  Even the really sought after wines that fly out of the winemakers’ cellars, just be quick to order.

6) Lea & Sandeman (London, UK).  Berry Bros gets most of the press, but L&S have quietly built a list of wines that can compete with the best of them. Especially on Burgundy, but also a few “value finds” from Italy.

7) Caveau de Puligny Montrachet (Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy). Not only do they carry most of the P-M wines, and not only can you taste them here, but the owner will taste with you!

8 ) Bottega del vino Dolcetto di Dogliani (Dogliano, Piemonte, Italy). Simply gets the nod, because here you almost every single wine from the best unknown wine region in world right now.

9) Enoteca Cava Turacciolo (Bellagio, Lake Como),  A wonderful, wonderful wine shop that doubles as a wine bar with some grub to accompany the wines. And, a wonderful host there is too!

10) Cave Croisette (Cannes, France). Expensive, but here they’ll have more Bordeaux and Burgundy than your wallet can handle, and if they do not have it, call it advance, and they’ll bend backwards to get it for you.


A comprehensive list?  By no means.  A personal list? You betcha. But hopefully it will inspire to find good wine friends in wine stores around the world.

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