Best Of 2002

Best Wine Shop: The first ten square feet of the Wine Merchant

Yes, to the uneducated, the sheer mass of bottles inside the Wine Merchant is overwhelming, all of them staring at you, giggling at your ignorance, mocking. You don't know much about wine, and they know it. They can tell by the way you're pursing your lips, the way your eyes are darting helplessly. You've got two solutions: the first is to trust the help, because that's what they are; they seem to be kind and gentle people. They'll lead you, and you should follow. But if you're grumpy, or you don't feel like thinking, or if you just don't care right now and just want a goddamn bottle of red, all you have to do is walk in and look to your right. There's a row of maybe a dozen varieties, all on sale, all better than a similarly priced wine at Schnucks. These specials, which change weekly, range from rich cabs and merlots to lighter pinots noirs and chiantis and zinfandels. In whites, same deal -- a nice range, from dense to pillowy (but because we know nothing about whites, we defer to the help). And because at the Merchant wine is more than just a product, it's a passion, when a staffer gets excited about a bottle (when was the last time you saw an excited Schnucks employee?), you can see it on his face. Yes, you can walk in and head to the racks, browse and examine labels, furrow your brow just so, but you're not fooling anyone; you don't know jack about wine, because if you did, you would have stopped at the front and grabbed at least one bottle of the bargains. Every true connoisseur does.

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