The Philly-Style Wine Buying Hack

Posted by Keith Wallace

How To Beat a State-Run Wine Monopoly To Great Wine Deals

Pennsylvania is notorious for its iron fist over alcohol sales: it doesn’t matter if you are a sommelier or a wine consumer, you are going to pay the man. The state runs 99% of the wine shops in state. Even if you find a small boutique shop, you will have a steep tax to pay: the Johnstown PA Flood Tax adds 18% to the list price, plus the 6-8% sales tax.

Wines in Pennsylvania are often more expensive than in the surrounding. However, if you know how to play the system, you can get amazing values. It’s a skill we have honed over twenty years running a wine school in Philadelphia. One of the greatest hacks we use is the quarterly close-out sales run by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB).

The Wine Buying Hack

Only in a state-run monopoly will top-rated and cellar-aged wines be discounted. The state systematically discontinues poor-selling wines from its inventory. This makes sense if your selling mass-produced wines like yellowtail and barefoot cellars. It makes less sense when we are talking about boutique wines. Here are a few examples of a few well-priced gems currently on close-out.

The wines we are featuring are limited in availability and will probably be sold out within a week of our wine newsletter release.

Robert Oatley 2016 "Signature Series" Cabernet Sauvignon,  Margaret River

Robert Oatley 2016 “Signature Series” Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River (AU)

Lush black plum with the tannin structure and heft of Cab styled after a left-bank Bordeaux. Graphite-accented fruit with a pretty cranberry lift.

We rate this bottle at 91 points. It is currently priced at $19.99 in the PA Wine & Spirits stores.

Bodegas Ponce 2017 "Buena Pinta" Red, Manchuela

Bodegas Ponce 2017 “Buena Pinta” Red, Manchuela

Sourced from a single vineyard of Morovia Agria, an extremely rare varietal from central Spain. Blended with 20% Grenache for another local vineyard.

A light-bodied red with a floral bouquet of lilac and violet. Crunchy red fruit and fresh tarragon on the palate with a mineral-driven finish.

We rate this bottle at 92 points. It is currently priced at $15.19 in the PA Wine & Spirits stores.

chilean wine review

Montes 2017 “Alpha” Syrah, Colchagua Valley

There is a narrow band of high-quality wines we use for our Certified Sommelier classes. To quality, the wines have to put varietal correctness over winemaking tricks. This is one of those wines. It has the perfect combination of smoked game, florals, and kirsch to train a new sommelier on the finer points.

We rate this bottle at 92 points. It is currently priced at $15.19 in the PA Wine & Spirits stores.

Wine Buying Hack

Jose Antonio Garcia 2017 “Unculin” Bierzo

A smoked-driven Mencia from Northern Spain. This bottle is balanced between extremes. It offers candied date and almond notes and lush textures, a decadent tannic structure that would appeal to any Napa Cab drinker. But it is punched up with floral and bright cherry and a light-bodied structure that appeals to the Pinot Noir drinker.

We rate this bottle at 93 points. It is currently priced at $15.19 in the PA Wine & Spirits stores.

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