Your Thursday wine book: Jon Thorsen's 'Reverse Wine Snob'

Reverse-Wine-Snob-Book-Cover1[1]GET THE INSIDE story on buying wine in Jon Thorsen’s “Reverse Wine Snob: How to Buy and Drink Wine Without Breaking the Bank” (Skyhorse Publishing, $17.99).

It’s a quick-read — a paperback, 273 pages — based on the premise you can buy a terrific bottle of wine for $20 or less.

This guy speaks directly to my credit card. He hits every button about the reality of buying wine: what the hype on labels means; how the three-tier system rips you off (or helps you); how wine judgings can be inconsistent; how buying online opens up a vast world of wine to you; plus he pulls back the curtain on why Costco and Trader Joe’s sell so much wine.

Thorsen writes that Costco is the largest retailer of wine in the U.S. because of their low profit margins — the amount of money Costco makes. They pass the savings on to us and make money through volume. Thorsen tells an anecdote about a local restaurant (he lives in Shakopee, Minn.) advertising a wine for $12 a glass or $46 per bottle. “At the time my local Costco was selling this wine for $9.99.”

Trader Joe’s has a different business model: The majority of their wines are private label, which means they deal directly with the winery to make a wine to their specifications. Those wines may have a Trader Joe’s label or made-up name, but not the name of the producer. Trader Joe’s keeps costs low because of buying power, cutting out middlemen and barely doing any marketing (advertising), Thorsen says.

Oh, they sell regular familiar labels too, but at a higher markup than their private labels, which makes the familiar guys look bad.

Thorsen writes with a clear voice about things that perhaps always made you a little suspicious about wine. Like what about those fancy heavy bottles that denote a wine of exceptional quality at a really high price? Thorsen says: “In my mind, I’m thinking about how much of the money I paid for this wine must go to the shipping cost for this extra heavy bottle.

The meat of the book touts great buys around the world with authoritative information on the grape varieties — especially lesser-known ones — and what you need to know about some of these producers. For example, in Cali, he likes the Pedroncelli family, Dry Creek Vineyard and Fritz Underground Winery — me, too. In Washington state, he likes 14 Hands Winery and McKinley Springs (ditto).

But who is this Thorsen guy? Just an ordinary wine lover whose curiosity and quest for value got the best of him. He writes one of the top Web sites in the wine industry:

Oh, did I mention Father’s Day is coming up?

You can reach Sandra Silfven at