Walmart goes upscale again with wines at bargain prices

Ben Tobin
Shopping carts sit outside of a Walmart store in Chicago.
Getty Images

With the clink of a wine glass, Walmart is going to bring a touch of Napa Valley to its bargain-thirsty shoppers.

In its newly-launched Winemakers Selection, the retail giant is offering 10 "distinctive labels" of wine sourced from California, France and Italy. They sell for about $11 per bottle, yet will be high quality, according to Nichole Simpson, Walmart's senior wine buyer.

They "drink like a $30 to $40 bottle of wine," Simpson said.

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It's the latest example of how Walmart, which grew into the nation's largest retailer by appealing to middle-class families, is increasing trying to appeal to more upscale tastes. Earlier this year, it unveiled new home goods options that included styles like "glam" and "farmhouse." In March, it said it would offer its own line of home meal kits, which have become popular among urban professional couples and singles.

The move to upscale wine also aligns Walmart better against Costco, which has succeeded in convincing shoppers that its private-label offerings are as good as premium brands.

Walmart began selling its private wine label in about 1,100 stores nationwide last month. Before the launch, Simpson spent several months visiting both domestic and international winemakers, getting to know the producers of each bottle. Simpson said the labels help enhance the wine experience: Not only can customers get it cheap, but also they can understand the story behind every bottle.

"We have made sure (the labels are) easy to read and 'clean' for the customer because they don't have a lot of time," Simpson said.

The decision comes amidst a historic year for the company. In late January, Walmart's stock reached an all-time high of $109.55 per share. Though the Bentonville, Ark.-based company's stock has slid by over $20 in the past two months, Fortune 500 ranked Walmart at the top of its list for the sixth-consecutive year this past May.

Walmart hopes to continue producing a greater variety of distinctive labels, Simpson said.