Wine is the Same as Toilet Paper According to Costco’s Lead Wine Buyer.

News article taken from
Annette Alvarez-Peters from Costco 

The lead wine buyer for Costco, Annette Alvarez-Peters seemed to have a little trouble discerning the difference between wine and toilet paper, on the CNBC show “The Costco Craze: Inside The Warehouse Giant,” which aired a couple of nights ago.

Here’s what she had to say:

Alvarez-Peters: “Is it more special than clothing, is it more special than televisions? I don’t think so.”
CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla: “Certainly it’s different than toilet paper? Or different that tin foil?”
Alvarez-Peters: “Why?”
Quintanilla: “Because it’s personal.”
Alvarez-Peters: “People can look at it that way. But at the end of the day, it’s a beverage.

NB: Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly greeted too warmly by the wine industry! As Talia Baiocchi writes:

That’s who is charge of over one billion dollars in wine sales per year, selling “more wine than almost any retailer in the world.” She is also in charge of setting prices on wines that affect most of the country’s small wine retailers, as well as heading a team of seventeen international and domestic buyers. But what’s the big deal? Wine is, like, the same as selling a bunch of TVs.

The saddest part about all of this is that Costco’s former buyer, David Andrew, was a real wine lover. He left in 2003. In an America with more wine professionals than ever before, Costco didn’t see a reason to replace him with a wine buyer and wine educator that actually knew anything about wine. In fact, before Alvarez-Peters landed the job, she worked as a buyer in Costco’s auto parts division. But what’s the difference, right?

Click here for the full article.

My Thoughts…

This news article comes from the always excellent Talia Baiocchi over at I do have to say though, I’m surprised she’s so surprised!  I wasn’t.
This is Costco we’re dealing with! Did Talia really expect their lead wine buyer to start waxing poetic about how she’s super-passionate about French garagistes, how she longs for more wineries to convert to biodynamic viticulture and how she thoroughly backs the
“natural wine movement”?

I wouldn’t expect anything less from Costco! Am I condoning her statement? No, but Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, and Total Wine can all be lumped together as far as I’m concerned. They’re just slinging grape juice.


  • April 28, 2012

    Tracy Cervellone

    This editorial is so wrong on so many levels. I called on Annette for years as a supplier, and joined her in the MW and WSET advanced program(s). She is studying for the WSET diploma at last report, and may very well have passed. She’s as tough a buyer as they come, but no wine knowlege? Come on. Wrong. She’s gone out of her way to stay at the top of this game. And, like it or not, she’s making some hugely important business decisions,that happen to be related to wine, for Costco. And yes, it is a beverage. And needs to be treated more as such, not less. Enough of the geekery and self righteous hogwash about fermented grape juice in a bottle. Just to tick everyone off: I’m a CWE, advanced MW student, WSET AC w/Distinction, and published author. Annette rocks, and has done more to get more regular, everyday consumers (gasp!)  to buy wine than a list of a dozen “fine wine retailers” whose newsletters read like Decanter magazine. I got the distinct feeling that Annette read this interviewer like an open book. Enough Costco wine biz bashing. If you are a skilled, efficient fine wine retailer you have nothing to fear but fear itself. 

  • April 28, 2012

    Kris Chislett

    Cheers for the comments, Tracy.

    I can quite easily take both sides on this debate, not in an effort to try and keep people happy, but because I really do share concerns on both sides.

    I don’t know Annette, my only knowledge of her is based off of the CNBC show. She had to know that “sound bite” was going to make its way onto the program. It just makes for good TV. That was always the angle they were going to pursue.

    I don’t agree on the “Costco bashing” though. Maybe I’m missing something, but I’ve can’t see what they’ve “brought to the table” for wine consumers, except low prices.But given the chance, I’m sure every small “mom and pop” wine store would kill to be the size of Costco, although they’ll never admit it.

    No matter how good of a small retailer you are, if you end up with a big box store within 1 mile of you, beating you on price and that’s churning out what is “essentially” the same product, you can expect to see your doors closing shortly thereafter. It’s just down to the prioritizing that the mass market gives to price over quality.

  • April 29, 2012

    Bob Rossi

    I’m of two minds on this.  On the one hand, I love wines from obscure French and Italian regions and those made with obscure grapes, and wines made in small quantities by passionate, committed vignerons.  On the other hand, I drink wine with dinner every night, and I’m always looking for good, affordable “beverage” wines.

  • April 30, 2012

    Joanne Saliby

    Thanks for saving me all the writing I was about to do. What a bunch of baloney has been written and said about this, and in poor use of the language. The selling of wine might be compared to the selling of other products, but that is not what was written above.  “Wine is, like, the same as selling a bunch of TVs…” Wrong comparison here. I think Talia is off the mark.

  • May 1, 2012


    As is all clearly stated, wines at Costco is in bad hands. I’m afraid, as I walk into a Costco store, I might find bottles of wine placed in the personal hygiene section. If I was a winery that sells wine to Costco, I would make sure that wouldn’t happen.
    Based on the naive paradox, should I stop drinking wine or using toilet paper?

  • May 2, 2012

    Kris Chislett

    Business is business.   Talia Baiocchi couldn’t do the job of Annette Alvarez-Peters, and vice-versa.

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