AAFES starts wine of the month program
Stars and Stripes August 15, 2006
Is it grassy? Chocolatey, blackberry-ish or plummy? Austere or rich? Too much tannin, unbalanced, or, heaven forbid, corked?
What’s the vintage, varietal and region? Will it pair better with spaghetti, salmon or steak?
So much to know about wine. So little time to drink it.
That’s where a small Army of experts come in, and, one of them, AAFES Europe wine buyer Debbra King, has added a new feature to help U.S. consumers. King, assigned to Germany eight months ago, has instituted a wine of the month program — for the first time in the European heart of wine country.
“It was a CONUS program; it’s been around for a good 10 years. The main idea was to bring premium wines that are highly rated at a substantial savings. So I expanded on that here,” King said.
Each month, four wines selected by King — based on ratings, rankings and “taste profiles” — will be featured at base Class 6 stores, on mark-down and with tasting events. The idea, she said, is to help educate Americans on the bounty of wines produced in Europe.
“We have so many producers over here,” King said. “We want to give them an idea of what’s out there — the different varietals and different flavors. We want them to feel they’ve learned a little bit more about Europe, and about what they’re drinking. It’s an item of interest, an experience and an education — at a substantial savings.”
Don’t expect any Australian chardonnays or California pinot noirs; King is focusing on the European wines at hand. And for a wine to be selected into the program, the producer must reduce the regular price by at least 15 percent, “or I won’t even look at it,” King said.
For August, four wines from the Santa Margherita company are being featured. It’s based in the Eastern Veneto region of Italy, according to an AAFES press release, and has more than 50 years’ experience “producing ultra-modern wines …”
And their pinot grigio — which “just happens to be the No. 1 imported wine in the United States (where it sells for more than $20),” King said — is $8.75.
“I’m trying to keep these under $10,” King said. “This is the place to do it. I can make it happen over here because I can purchase directly from the winery.”
Brenda Hollander’s husband was in Iraq, and she said she’s “not much of a wine drinker.” But she bought the merlot featured this month “in case I have company.”
Some 60 percent of wine is bought by women nationally and at AFEES stores, according to King. “The dependent wives — they’re the primary ones that do the purchasing,” King said. “Women love to purchase beautiful bottles with beautiful labels.”
In fact, Heidelberg Class 6 store manager Terral Johnson said he sells more wine than beer — “Two to one. The lower enlisted — they buy wine, too.”
Some people have noted that good, inexpensive wine is available at German stores. King said she tries to ensure that her prices are lower still, item for item.
But Kelly Rapin, who works for the Nevada-based brokers of the Italian wines featured this month at AAFES, and who was pouring the wines at a Thursday’s tasting in Heidelberg, said there may be less-expensive wines in German markets.
“I do get a lot of people saying, ‘I just shop at the German store,’” she said. “A novice probably couldn’t pick out a decent wine at the German store. In German stores, you’re blindly picking out a wine. We have them open for tasting.”