Wine drinkers can cheer big store competition

Price check of Spec's, Twin Liquors, Gabriel's, HEB reveals savings


SAN ANTONIO – Consumers looking for more wine selection and competitive prices can raise a glass, as the retail industry gets its legs here.

Wine and spirits retailers are opening bigger stores  and more locations, giving wine drinkers more options.

Houston-based Spec's now has four stores while Austin-based Twin Liquors has nine locations. Homegrown Gabriel's Wine and Spirits has a new mega-sized superstore on the north side.

And, grocery leader HEB continues to expand its wine departments while touting low prices.

"The category is growing," said HEB's Wine Director David Duran. "People area drinking more wine. People are going to be looking for choices."

Shoppers like choices. They also like the save money. 

Comparing prices is a considerable challenge, because selections, vineyards and vintages vary a lot. 

But a  price check of ten moderately-priced red and white wines found at all four retailers revealed some significant differences. 

Spec's and Gabriel's offer discounts if cash or debit cards are used. The cash price was used in the price check.

For example, a 2010  Avalon cabernet sauvignon that was  $13 at HEB was $18 at Twin Liquors. A 14 Hands  2010 merlot that was $9 at HEB was $15 at Gabriel's.

The cash price was used for Gabriel's and  Spec's as they offer discounts when you pay with cash or debit card.

HEB did have the lowest price most often, on five of the 10 wines. Spec's was competitive, falling in the middle while Gabriel's and Twin Liquors were generally the more expensive stores.

However, Gabriel's was the bargain on a pricier Caymus Vineyard 2011 cabernet sauvignon. Gabriel's price was $62 compared to $67 at Spec's, $70 at HEB and $79 at Twin Liquors.

Gabriel's also had the lowest price on a Caymus Conundrum white blend. Twin Liquors had the lowest price on Toad Hollow chardonnay.  Spec's  won the price battle on Hogue 2001 Late Harvest Reisling and a 2012 Meiomi pinot noir.   

HEB also had the lowest price on a Clos Du Bois 2011 chardonnay,  A-Z 2001 pinot noir and a Texas wine, Llano red meritage.

While the grocery offers convenience of picking up wine while buying food, the big wine stores offer big -- make that magnum-sized -- selection.

Matt Woodward, a casual wine buyer, likes the expertise of the employees at Twin Liquors.

"They have really intelligent staff," he said.

Pat Wood, who was buying wine for a party she was hosting, said she saves money by buying in "bulk."

"If a wine that I know is a good wine, and it's well-priced I'm going to take advantage of their buy-six and get 10 percent off," she said.

HEB offers a 10 percent discount on any six. Twin Liquors offers 15 percent off a mix-and-match half dozen, while offering other discounts on some "twin" buys. 

While you can buy a bottle of wine for $200 and up at all of the stores, Duran says a good bottle doesn't have to cost a lot.

"I could go now and pick up a good $7 bottle of wine and enjoy it tonight because that's how good it is," he said. "That's how good values are today."

Bottom line, the retail wine competition is swirling, and consumers can drink to that.

For a list of recent stories Marilyn Moritz has done, click here.

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