I enjoy shopping for wine. I find it to be one of the more pleasurable forms of buying retail. Consumed as I am by wine labels and packaging, I love taking slow jaunts around local stores and soaking in all I can. It's like visiting an art gallery where I can afford much of what's on display.
It is to my consternation that a relatively new development in wine merchandising has come into being. It is new, hip, and irksome. What I'm referring to is horizontal bottle display.
(note that most bottle labels aren't printed horizontally as in the above photo, hence the point of this diatribe)
For examples of retailers who use these displays check out Crush Wine and Spirits and De-vino . Both these stores have varied, interesting selections and knowledgeable staff, which only frustrates me further since the only thing that mars my shopping experience is the fact that I have to cock my head sideways every time I want to read a label. To be fair, Crush has attempted to remedy this by hanging shelf talkers under every bottle that display all pertinent information. However, this doesn't address the fact that customers can't actually see the wine the way it was meant to be seen. Lots of money and thought gets poured into wine packaging whose primarily function it is to make the product attractive, or intriguing, enough to buy. Why would you fight this by marginalizing the label?
The two arguments I have heard are as follows:
1) It is what's inside the bottle that counts and therefore it shouldn’t matter how it's displayed
2) It is necessary to keep the bottles horizontally since that's the proper way wine should be stored.
The first argument is really absurd. The package is paramount. Books should not be judged by their covers, but they are; the same is true for wine. The label (and name) might not rank high on the list of attributes that are important to U.S. wine consumers (or so they say), but when faced with the decision between which $10 bottle of California Merlot you should buy, I put my money on the one that you find more aesthetically pleasing. As for the second argument, give me a break! As a retail operation, you should be turning over an adequate portion of your inventory quickly enough for this issue not to matter, which is why it has never been a problem for retailers who display their bottles vertically. Unless, you plan on storing a wine for more than six months, which most retailers don't, there's no reason why wine has to be stored on its side.
As whole, a "wall" of wine is visually appealing or, at least, attention-getting, but when you want to get a good look at the one bottle you're considering, more traditional methods of display are preferable.
Then again, you can always shop online where I have yet to see photos of labels rotated 90 degrees. Problem solved-- for now.
Scott Rosenbaum is director of operations for the International Wine Center and wine buyer for the retailer DrinkUpNY .
- Reply by Mark Angelillo, Nov 9, 2007.
Good thoughts, Scott, thanks! I like the way Astor Wines does it -- and other stores that have the wine in bins where they are stored correctly *and* can be read correctly!
- Blog comment by Erika, Nov 11, 2007.
That IS aggravating! I too love slowly trapsing through a wine store and having to constantly cock my head would certainly mar the experience. I'm with you, Scott.