Best of Charleston 2007 » Shops & Wares

Best Wine & Liquor Store

Total Wine & More

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Total Wine & More

West Ashley. 1820 Ashley River Road. 763-7034

To find palpable evidence of the rising popularity of fine wine, one need only take a trip to the Total Wine superstore at the intersection of Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and Ashley River Road. The aisles glisten with the sparkle of innumerable bottles, where a veritable emporium of wine featuring every style and price, from the finest Bordeaux to large format quaffers of questionable quality, sits very, very close to one of the best-stocked liquor stores in town -- all for prices that approach that of the wholesale market.

They achieve this incredible selection and price by utilizing the same volume purchasing strategies as other big-box retailers, and just as this has created incredible buys for the average consumer, small shops have predictably complained of loss leaders and aggressive marketing tactics. Arguments over the competitiveness of small wine shops aside, the scene at Total Wine represents the future of an increasingly crowded field of fine wine purveyors and consumers interested in obtaining them. What it lacks in personal attention and service, Total Wine makes up for in sheer selection and price. There is no better place in Charleston to begin an exploration of wine, to browse shelves without intimidation, and to move up from ice-cubed white Zinfandel to the intellectual pleasures available in the world of the grape. From the looks of the parking lot, plenty of people are taking advantage.

This is really the revolutionary character of Total Wine. In a world where wine drinking is personified with the caricatures of stuffiness, snobbery, and elitism, they represent a democratic platform, sharing the savings inherent to attracting the masses, just as those prices provide a compelling draw for people new to the world of wine. The stalwarts of the old-school shop scene may disagree, but more wine drinkers can only be a good thing -- for the little guy forced to innovate, the 900-pound gorilla pushing them around, and the lucky consumers who reap the benefits.

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