Sommelier, wine expert, and educator Derrick Westbrook just recently partnered with friend Cody Berek to upgrade a Chicago wine shop formerly known as Madison Vine Red Wines. They desired the brand-new iteration of the Shop, now called 1340 BWS, to attract as many people as possible without losing the essence of its neighborhood.

” The existing layout of the Shop is in the design of a slashy,” Westbrook discusses. “Here in Chicago, ‘slashies’ are liquor Shops that likewise function as a bar. We have a wall of wine on dark iron racks with exposed brick as the background. On the opposite wall is our recovered wood wine bar shaped similar to a hockey stick to emphasize the flow of the area. Next to the bar, there are about 20 feet of fridges to house wine, sake, cider, and beers that we sell in songs.”

Westbrook is among numerous wine specialists rethinking retail. By combining local influences with instinctive design, they want to remove the uncertainty and grandeur from the experience. After all, walking into a wine shop can be frustrating for some drinkers, thanks to numerous varietals, mystical designs, and an overarching fear of saying or doing the incorrect thing. Fortunately, by understanding the methods most wine shops arrange their wares, any shopper can browse and purchase with self-confidence.
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Wine Shops with tasting licenses, like the one that permits 1340 BWS to pour alcohol on-site, are ideal for uncertain shoppers, states Larissa Dubose, a sommelier, wine sales manager, and founder of The Lotus & The Vines. It gives customers the opportunity to attempt things prior to they purchase, and promotes natural conversations among staff and guests.

Whether you’re sipping at an in-Shop bar or walking through the aisles, that interaction is key. “The best method you can discover your method around your local wine shop is by engaging with the staff,” Dubose says. “Many people are frightened to ask concerns because they do not wish to feel ashamed, however the personnel is particularly there to help you discover what you’re searching for.”

When it pertains to the plan of wine bottles in the shop, Westbrook prefers geographic company. “At 1340, we have actually organized the shop by area due to the fact that we want people to venture away from thinking of varietals, however rather concentrate on designs and regions,” he states. “We utilize the wine wall to empower our consumers to become more confident in choosing and exploring the world of wine.”

Dubose agrees, noting she has stumbled across white wines that she may not have otherwise attempted, like a Falanghina from Italy, while perusing geographically organized racks.

While geographical organization does require some entry-level wine understanding to browse– if you’re searching for a Douro Valley red, for instance, you’ll need to understand to search in Portugal– it’s considerably more instinctive than shopping by varietal. After all, not everybody at the wine Shop will instantly identify Sancerre as part of France, however fewer still are likely to understand offhand it’s the same thing as Sauvignon Blanc.

Additionally, arranging white wines by region can help shoppers hosting or attending supper celebrations create pairing concepts, following the “what grows together fits” adage.

Other shops are set out according to sensory understandings, such as sweetness or design. Dubose discusses the Urban Grape in Boston, which uses progressive shelving. “In this technique, they order their white wines by body rather than varietal or region,” she explains.

Cathy Huyghe describes this shopping experience as similar to “checking out a book” in a short article in Food52. “Left wing are lighter-bodied gewurztraminers such as Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc,” Huyghe composes. “Next, even more to the right, are fuller-bodied and fruitier whites, such as Chardonnay and Riesling. Gradually you move into lighter red wines such as Pinot Noir. And ultimately, furthest to the right, you concern the heavier, fuller-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon.”

This is definitely useful to those with a working understanding of wine and food, but it is likewise subjective. Palates are highly individualized, and so one person’s medium-bodied wine might appear heavy to another person.

The one area that never ever leaves room for interpretation is rate. Excellent wine shops stock bottles at a selection of cost points, and make those numbers easy to discover.

” Program the price on the shelf. The eye goes to a cool label, then it goes down to the rate,” states Chrishon Lampley, Wine Shop and developer and owner of Love Cork Screw. “If a bottle remains in a range that’s affordable for you, you’ll be most likely to grab the one you’re drawn in to the most.”

One-stop shopping is not a priority on Paris’ delightful Rue Cler. My favorite neighborhood in Paris is essentially a traffic-free market street where locals enjoy the inconvenience of “many-stop shopping” when putting together their evening meals. It’s just a different way of living here in France. Pop with me into a Rue Cler wine shop for a peek at the scene and to meet “le wine chiller.”

This is Day 34 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at

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Wine retail is changing. Gone are the days when a journey to the bottle store included the danger of being guilted into spending more than you planned, thanks to judgemental and challenging staffers who favor mystical shelving systems.

Rather, welcoming sales groups with a “we studied so you don’t need to” mantra are helping us discover brand-new and fascinating designs, and check out different areas.

The wine shop experience, too, is evolving. In many parts of the country, trips to the wine store consist of an opportunity to sample quality spirits, beers, or a selection of wines by the glass. Locally sourced food menus finish the experience– simply do not forget to entrust to the bottle you went there to purchase.

To assemble Vine’s annual list of the country’s top 10 wine shops, we spoke to staff members, industry specialists, and Vine readers. To be considered for this list, shops had to be open on a regular basis, provide a wide range of bottles, and, most importantly, be a cornerstone of the local wine-drinking community.

Friendly service and educational tastings ensure independent shops can compete with large-scale chains and online retail. Each of the stores on this year’s list delivers both with conviction.