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What is a Wine Merchant?

By Allison Richard
Updated May 16, 2024
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A wine merchant is someone who sells wine. Also known as a wine retailer, a wine merchant often sells his product at a physical location, such as a wine store or other market. He may can also sell virtually through mail order or a website.

A wine merchant generally buys his products from vineyards or buys wholesale from distributors. He often purchases in bulk, which allows him to sell the wine at a discounted price. Furthermore, he is often able to procure hard to find or vintage wines. Often, a wine merchant will travel from country to country visiting different vineyards to taste the wines they produce. He can then make an informed decision about which products he likes and thinks will sell best to his customers.

There are several benefits to purchasing wine from a merchant instead of a general grocery store. The biggest benefit is that the wine merchant has specialized knowledge about wines, particularly the bottles he carries. This knowledge allows him to help a buyer select a bottle of wine based on the buyer's likes and dislikes. He can explain the differences between wines made from various grapes, wines that come from different countries, or even wines that were produced in different years. Wine merchants can also help explain which wines pair well with different types of foods.

After time, a wine merchant will become well versed in a particular buyer's preferences and can recommend new wines, helping the buyer to expand his knowledge and taste. In addition, wine merchants often have wine tastings to allow buyers to sample products. Many times, these tastings will focus on wines from a particular region or from a specific vineyard.

The steps for becoming a wine merchant differ from place to place. There are no educational requirements for working in the wine business. Much of the education takes place on the job, and many wine merchants start out as sales assistants. They may then work their way up to branch manager, possibly within a few years.

A wine merchant may choose to work in a store, focusing on the day-to-day responsibilities of selling the wine and managing the stock. An independent merchant should have extensive knowledge of his product and also some experience running a business. In addition, he will likely need to obtain a license to sell alcohol. If a wine merchant prefers to travel, he could take a position as a buyer or importer for a store. In that case, he would be responsible for visiting the vineyards, negotiating prices, and maintaining a relationship with his suppliers.

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Discussion Comments
By summing — On Apr 14, 2012
I have found some amazing deals by buying from an online wine merchant. You can get some great deals, especially if you are willing to buy a case or more. There are bottles I have seen on the site that normally retail for more than twice the price.

You have to be careful with buying unknown brands though. There are a lot of shady wine makers that will put a terrible wine in a pretty looking bottle and then make up all kinds of fake awards and accolades for it. Go with what you know.

By gravois — On Apr 13, 2012

I like to buy from wine merchants because of the customer service aspect. I am not an expert in wine by any means but I like a good glass and am willing to spend a little money. I can go into a wine merchant and ask questions and make requests and they will find exactly the wine I want.

That level of knowledge and customer service is not something you will get in your average liquor store. And I like knowing that I have a relationship with the person selling me my wine. They are trying to satisfy my tastes rather than just pushing expensive wines on to me.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Apr 13, 2012
Here in St. Louis we have several fantastic wine merchants. They have amazing selections of wine but most also sell quality beers and exotic liquors.

I used to have a girlfriend that was crazy about this French liquor called pastis. It was licorice flavored and was meant to drank room temperature with a splash of water. The whole concoction was pretty gross but she loved it.

The only place in town to buy it was at this one wine merchant called Stars. I would buy a bottle once every two weeks. I became know as the pastis guy.

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