Recently I got back from our family vacation in South Carolina, and the last night we spent at a family members house as a half way resting point. It was a welcome stop to regroup (they had a pool so the kids could burn up some energy swimming), and we could relax, eat, and of course drink some wine! Being that this was the end of our trip we had run out of the wine we had brought with us and our only options in the area were Target or Walmart. To be super honest I haven't bought wine in either of those places simply because we have the shop..... but also because whenever we are out of town we love to frequent other local wine shops to see what they can get in and what they are loving at the moment. But as they say, when in Rome! So off we went to pick up what was seriously some of the best sushi I have ever had, and then to Target to check out their selection!
I will always recommend to anyone I know that they find a locally owned wine shop to buy wine when they can. You will get the most personalized attention and wine expertise there hands down! Or to head to Whole Foods or even Trader Joes for a wider selection. But Target has a LOT of wine so why would I think they have more to chose from in these places? I guess first and foremost its about the wide span of the selection and what all it encompasses.
Sure there are a ton of big brand California wines on the shelves almost anywhere. But what I like to look for when I am watching my wallet are wines from areas like Portugal or Spain, where I can get more bang for my buck (meaning more of a serious wine for an equivalent price point or lower). Grocery stores tend to have a few off beat selections when it comes to wine but you wont see those stacked to the high heavens. You may see a whole shelf of California Cab from one particular winery - but only one little bottle placement of a dry French rosé. Those are always the wines that I gravitate towards. There may be less marketing behind the wine but you may find a better wine in flavor.
Lots of places dont have specialty retail shops or small local wine shops. If I am in Charleston, one of my first stops is always Goat. Sheep. Cow. This small cheese and wine retail shop always has a unique selection and while I tend to chose the wines myself based on what I have not had before, I also love getting the suggestions of their knowledgable staff.
Don't have a little wine shop near by? I would head to a specialty grocer like Whole Foods or Trader Joes. Whole Foods will typically have someone who is very well versed in wine working in that department that can offer some great assistance. We love Trader Joes but keep in mind there is a whole world of wine in there besides there ever famous Charles Shaw (aka Two Buck Chuck) They tend to have some more unique selections from various countries that give you more value. Look for South American, Portuguese or Italian wines and ask an associate for help.
No such places around? I had some options at Target....but I veered away from the wines that seemed to take up the most space with their "brand" and went to grab some of the lone soldiers on the shelves. We saw Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc /Viognier - an easy drinking, fruit forward white blend (there was only one slot on the shelves dedicated to this wine) as well as a Rosé from Chapoutier and Alamos Malbec (from Catena winery in Argentina).
There are options everywhere - we just want to make sure that if you can't find a great shop in your area that will answer your questions and assist you in choosing wines that best fit your palate and your budget that you are able to seek out the best options amongst the crowded shelves. And always when in doubt - check out whats local? Maybe there are some great small breweries near by or maybe the area you are visiting is know for its local cider. Enjoying some of "what they do best" is almost always a great way go.