One of the most powerful wine buyers in the world, Annette Alvarez-Peters of Costco, has slammed wine as “just a beverage” and “no different than toilet paper.” As reported on thedrinksbusiness.com, speaking in a CNBC news report this week, the director of wine buying for the world’s largest wine retailer said: "Is wine more special than clothing? Is it more special than televisions? I don't think so."
When CNBC presenter Carl Quintanilla offered that wine was different to toilet paper because it’s personal, Alvarez-Peters replied: “People can look at it that way, but at the end of the day it's just a beverage, you either like it or you don’t.” Alvarez-Peters is in charge of over US$1bn in wine sales per year, including fine wines like Château Mouton Rothshild and Château Pétrus.
She is also in charge of setting prices on wines that affect most of America’s small wine retailers, as well as heading a team of 17 international and domestic wine buyers. Before taking on the role of director of wine buying, Alvarez-Peters worked as a buyer in Costco's electronics division. She had no wine and spirits knowledge.
“I’m an employee of Costco that happens to oversee the wine category,” she told Quintanilla. Last year, Alvarez-Peters was voted the sixth most powerful person in the wine world in Decanter magazines biennial power list. Costco is the largest US importer of French fine wines, none of which are marked up more than 15%. Alvarez-Peters keeps the Costco wine selection down to just 200 lines at any one time.
Costco is the largest membership warehouse club chain in the US, the sixth largest retailer in the US, and the seventh largest retailer in the world. This week, the retail giant will be jostling with Woolworths and Coles in Australia to offer the lowest price for Penfolds Grange 2007, set to go on sale on Thursday. One of the most anticipated launches of the year in Australia, the RRP for Grange 2007 is AU$625, but it is thought that the big three will offer it for significantly less.