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Generation gap: App-using Millennial wine drinkers battle middle-aged packie customers in the South End

Packed hearing for Wine Riot at Boston Licensing Board

First listens as Balliet explains concept and supporters wait to speak.

The Boston Licensing Board could decide tomorrow whether to grant a liquor license to Wine Riot, which wants to open an app- and database-driven wine store at 519 Tremont St. in the South End.

At an unusually packed hearing today, a line of mostly Millennial residents and restaurant owners strongly backed plans by Tyler Balliet and Morgan First to turn their Wine Riot series of wine talks and podcasts into an actual store, where the inventory would feature New England products and be driven by a database of customer choices and reviews made on a Wine Riot mobile app - many after consuming the wine videos and podcasts Balliet has been busy making.

Their attorney, Karen Simao, said the store would cater to people who really want to learn about the wines they're about to consume and so would serve a fundamentally different market than the neighborhood's existing liquor stores.

The idea is just the sort of innovation Boston is known for and wants to encourage, she and supporters said. And it harkens back to the days when an earlier generation of innovators turned the once gritty South End into the happening place it is today, backers said.

"We can't get in the way of people like this, especially in the South End," Louis DiBiccari, owner of Tavern Road on the other side of Fort Point Channel, told the board. He noted the rapid expansion of residential development in the South End and said the neighborhood can more than support another liquor store.

"I'm a Millennial, I value education and innovation and, like most of us here, a nice glass of wine," said another one of the supporters, who queued up along a wall at the morning hearing.

But long-time residents, some of whom have lived in the neighborhood for decades, said they worry the store would help turn the clock back even further, to the days when there was a liquor store on every South End corner, prostitutes paraded up and down Washington Street, children ducked at the frequent sound of gunfire and people from the rest of the city tried to avoid the neighborhood at all costs.

"We really do not want to bring the South End back to that," 45-year resident Jane Siegel said.

They were joined by the owners of several South End liquor stores, who said enough, already, the South End is well served by packies - including one in the recently opened Whole Foods - and that no matter how innovative Wine Riot is, it better belongs in a less liquored-up area, such as Fort Point, the Fenway or Newbury Street. A couple of nearby liquor-store owners also said Wine Riot is not all that because they've been doing wine education for a long time.

Attorney Neil Mooney, who represented opponents, questioned the outlet's very name, saying it evoked 20-somethings loudly and boisterously consuming wine at tastings. One resident said a condo building with young children is no place for the "inebriated 20-somethings wandering around at night shouting" she predicted would be the result of wine tastings at the store. She added she would be worried the young fun-seekers would even try to cross into Roxbury and stir up actual riots, of the racial kind.

Among the opponents: Mayor Walsh. One of his aides told the board that while the mayor supports innovation, the specific location was just the wrong place for the store. City Councilor Bill Linehan, whose district includes the South End, supported the proposal, as did Councilor Tito Jackson, whose district is nearby.

Mooney handed the board petitions signed by 200 residents opposed to the proposal. Simao countered with petitions signed by more than 400 residents in favor.

Although the battle lines were mostly generational, there were exceptions. One 40-year South End resident said he appreciated the effort and money going into the proposed store, that competition is good and "who am I to interfere with that?" A mother of a 10-year-old opposed the store, saying she wants the South End to stay "the hip, yet very quiet and safe neighborhood" it is today.

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Its surprising to hear that in some people's minds, too many expensive, high-end liquor stores leads to inflated crime rates and the demise of civilization as we know it.

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when our government officials even consider such arguments without requiring actual and substantive proof that they might happen.

Suppose this was how our justice system worked. We've decided to arrest you because we think you might commit a crime. See how long that would last.

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What, you don't want politicians supporting bat shit crazy ideas like this one?

She added she would be worried the young fun-seekers would even try to cross into Roxbury and stir up actual riots, of the racial kind.

I bet the data on high end wine drinkers who start riots of the racial kind is pretty interesting, and I'd love to see how close to null it is!

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You just *know* that the relationship between of drinkers of pouilly montrachet and violent anarchists has got to be strong and significant. Who needs data? /s

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You assume there's any sort of honesty in these arguments. As the story said, a number of opponents were simply other liquor stores - the competition - trying to use the force of government to keep competition out. (All licensing regimes eventually turn into this kind of rent-seeking. Look at the taxi cartels and Uber.) Most likely many of the "opponents" at the hearing presenting other arguments were just liquor store plants and shills.

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The pearl clutching is over bearing in this article.. really? a high end wine shop?

Best quote

A mother of a 10-year-old opposed the store, saying she wants the South End to stay "the hip, yet very quiet and safe neighborhood" it is today.

Really? Move to Waltham if you want that.. Obviously this lady has never been south of Mass Ave...

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On the bright side, if things really do go terribly wrong because the South End opened one too many high-end wine shops, we'll finally be able to pick up a $100 bottle of Chateaneuf du Pape and solicit a prostitute all in the same trip.

If nothing else, it'll be efficient.

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...that the South End old timers said the very same thing before this person moved in. It did used to be pretty hip. a veritable tempest in a wine cask.

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How about you wait until someone complains first, instead being snarky from the start?

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Um, did you comment on the wrong post? This whole meeting was held for community members to complain and air grievances.

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It was meant to say wait until someone posts a complaint here in the comment section.

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Please tell me that someone just cut through the BS. The liquor store owners don't want competition (and funny thing I would be able to respect that being no one store owner want to fight more competitors). The rest are idiots - or to explain that with more substance - what logic kind of did you produced makes you think a high end wine store would bring the crime and stuff that is typically associated with the crummy-type hard liquor store?

The only half-sensical argument is slippery slope. That it will allow tons of low-end liquor store to flood the street as it apparently one did. But that a false presumption that a wine store would provide any proximity attraction to any of those stores.

The thing that rustle my jimmies the most? The article noted age of the quoted speaker 45 years old. That's a one generation difference at most. I thought the usual people doing this is the aging 60-something, 70-something baby boomer cohort. I thought people in the 40-something age were the people also shared the same grips. That the liquor laws and limits of Massachusetts are dumb. Perhaps that's another bubble of reading comments on websites like this.

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Sorry for being not real clear on that. These are people who have lived in the neighborhood for at least 45 years (well, one guy had been there for 40 years). So they remember the South End in, as one of them put it, 1967.

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Oh okay then. I still wish the old generation pull back on their anti-fun-everything (weren't they the permissive hippie generation - I don't get that), but at least it's not a battle of 20-somethings versus 40-somethings with find my impression of 40-something Bostonians all wrong.

By the way, I should then mention that the article title also says "middle-aged packie customers". My understanding of middle aged is 40's. Just to noting that observation. I mean the crowd against it is long time residents mostly in their 60's - and that's not middle age, right?

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Or so I've heard :-)

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and not anti-fun. I resent that. Please do stereotype. I know plenty of 20 somethings that act like my grand mother.

(PS: Middle aged = 50s)

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and not rubies, emeralds, or amethysts?

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Maybe the dumbest comment I've ever heard;

She added she would be worried the young fun-seekers would even try to cross into Roxbury and stir up actual riots, of the racial kind.

Most of the 'anti' arguments seem silly to me, but that's the worst by far.

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Forget Waltham, this lady needs a one way ticket to Harvard (the town, not the university) so she can live out her bucolic dreams. I'd suggest Milton but it's probably a little too close to Dorchester for her liking.

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They actually have a high end wine shop, of sorts, in the form of a refurbished general store. They even have live music, from time to time, at night. Far too edgy for this lady.

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Sounds like a race riot waiting to happen!

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"I'm a Millennial, I value education and innovation and, like most of us here, a nice glass of wine.."

Note to said Millennial: You do not have the ownership on valuing education and innovation, dude. And your comment is insulting. And meh on the wine - beer rules.

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"cross into Roxbury and stir up actual riots, of the racial kind"

bahahahahaha you couldn't make this crap up if you tried

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I spit out my beverage all over the screen reading that. NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY.. its the delusional Bostonian way!

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Best part of the article! Seriously!!! "cross into Roxbury and stir up actual riots, of the racial kind"

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While the two (!) Wine Emporiums are nice, and the South End has lots of packies selling bulk booze, and the Whole Foods has a great selection, who's to argue with more high end stores?

I don't think one fancy pants wine shop, on an already fancy block, is going to do much to change the nature of the neighborhood.

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Didn't realize that procreating gave you the right to deny someone the ability to make a living.Way to go, Helen Lovejoy, I bet you have quite the reputations amongst your neighbors. Way to whine over a little wine.

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them whippersnappers an thur drinkin on th internets

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Is she worried about her kids growing up to be one of the underage brats from Kimmy Schmidt? "I have a note from my parents saying it's educational if it's over $60 a bottle" as she guzzles merlot from a plastic solo cup...

I like a nice bottle of wine but hate the MA liquor stores. It feels like being hovered over by vultures instead of being assisted by fellow enthusiasts. Imagine if lingerie and adult toys were so highly regulated you couldn't even order from out of state. Just because an activity is not for kids doesn't mean all the adult participants need to be treated like criminals.

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You guys... I live in Pennsylvania now, and there are 605 state-run, state-owned, state-stocked liquor and wine stores for the entire state. We can only buy what some dimwit in Harrisburg decides we can buy, they bust you if you bring it in from out of state, and the taxes are some of the highest in the country. Not to mention, the service from the Drone Army of clerks is abysmal. I'd LOVE to be having this kind of argument in PA, instead what we get is depressing crap like a fight over whether the ONE ALLOWED STORE in all of Lycoming County should be in downtown Lock Haven or in a strip mall on the edge of town.
Count your blessings.

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The people can source information from the web , and also from their own adventures at restaurants, to educate themselves about wine, There were just a few choices for wine back years ago, muscatel and port , so they have come a long way baby. So the people can go to the local package store and the wine merchant can get what they want. That is the infrastructure that exists, the stores are already in place to serve you , and to adapt to the changes in tastes, They no longer have to depend on Schlitz , nor do they , to stay in business. Secondly, I question the loyalty of the Millennial wine crowd to sustain such a venture over time.

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I agree with @kvn. People can learn about wine in many places, and existing package stores currently sell wine.

But, in a capitalist economy, we allow new competitors to try their best, then maybe both stores thrive (Note there is a Dunkin near every Starbucks, and often a local place nearby, too). Or one closes because their idea wasn't as good.

Why can't we let them try?

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Well its kinda protected industry with the cost of a Liquor license for one thing , which are used as collateral ect, so you have to understand that and not undermine the industry, because it takes a lot of dough to get involved, That is the structure of the industry and without structure you have chaos, Next thing you know people will be selling pouilly chardonnay from the trunk of a car. And at one time across the street was a package store, home of the perfect muscatel,That's gone, so it would be deja vu all over. There are enough outlets already for the fine polished οἶνος, , we don't want to end up with a bunch of abandoned store fronts now.

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If their business want to depend on Millennials as a customer base, that's their business and their risk to assume. It is not the government's place to deny because someone thinks a customer base they think they are basing as part of their business model is too disloyal.

There's also an implication saying this store cannot be allowed because their customer base is too disloyal. If getting 400 signatures, a large crowd, and people willing to vocally debate is not enough to - at least for the core customer base as a subset of a generation - to not be invalidated (sorry for all the double negatives) by questions of loyalty, then what would it take?

Beyond that you are making a strawman - let's not allow them because it will lead to people selling Chardonnay from the trunk of a car? I am not even sure you know what you saying. Also, just because liquor licenses are limited and thus making them into a costly commodity to acquire one does not mean existing owners are owed protectionism.

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Rhonin ? The industry is a protected one, that's the infrastructure. Licenses secure financing by being pledged as collateral . There are outlets already in place to get the fancy wine, distributorships, logistics , ect. There is a lot of money put up so we can have a society that has products available at reasonable prices, but basically you need a perfect storm of critical masses , economically speaking, Subsets of elitism so don't cut it. There are reasons why the industry is protected , taxes involved , ect. ect. Roll with it , at least you can get chardonnay today , instead of just muscatel and white port. but you need loyalty and consistency to build a brand, or it won't be available. And what the flux is this strawman that is the rage today , and where is the Wizard ? Carry on , be productive !

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I love a parade,
the feeting of tramps,
I love every stamp I hear of a heel.
I love a parade,
with pairs en flagrante
I just want to taunt and cheer as they come.
That rat-a tat-tat, the blare of a horn.
That rat-a tat-tat, a bright flash of porn;
The sight of a thigh will give me a high,
I thrill at the skill of everything meretricious.
I love a parade, a handful of hos,
A line of cocottes or any vice raid,
For I love a parade.

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While we do sometimes see this in Somerville Ward 6, I've never heard anyone blame it on the wine tastings at Downtown Wine & Spirts or Ball Square Fine Wines.

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I'll take the 20-somethings over drunken groups of teen somethings spilling out of the woods and city parks when it starts raining.

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Does granting a license here take one away from one of the other neighborhoods mentioned (Fort Point, Fenway, Newbury Street)? I thought the quota applied only to on-premises licenses -- bars and restaurants.

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But unlike with restaurant/bar licenses, I don't think the board has ever given all of them out - if they deny a license request, it's always for a specific reason, not because they have none left.

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Oh wait....it's the South End....I mean No More Liquor stores...

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And could not bring myself to patronize a business owned by someone named "Morgan" or "Tyler," why shouldn't a business like this be able to open where it wants?

Brik on Washington has a similar, upscale, let's-learn-about-wine vibe, complete with wine tastings, and it only improved the block its on. I can't see how this business will be any different from any other South End business which caters to the drinking millennial crowd, i.e., almost every single business in the South End?

For the nearby residents in the oh-so-exclusive Atelier 450 and the like, your 10 year old will just have to get used to seeing people - shocker! - buying wine! Even tasting wine! And if you or your kid somehow sees a prostitute, then too bad, that's life in the big city.

And since when is the South End considered a "quiet and safe" neighborhood? Not in my part of the South End. We have gunshots and gang members and noise and drunk people shouting "Tyler!" and "Morgan!" on the street all through the night. But that's all to be expected, except maybe not on that posh block of Tremont. But I can't imagine that this business will be any louder than Barcelona or Beehive.

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Saniqua and Hennessy too?

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Pick your generational trendy twee.

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and I was named by a dad born in 1948 and a mom born in 1951, when I was a newborn and therefore unable to consent to my name.

If you take issue with the Morgans and Tylers of the world, blame the Baby Boomers who inflicted them on their offspring.

(My name is actually quite traditional, for the record.)

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Guess naming children after Saints went out the door huh?

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And could not bring myself to patronize a business owned by someone named "Morgan" or "Tyler," why shouldn't a business like this be able to open where it wants?

Sure glad I don't have your attitude when it comes to bikes. Tyler Evans is one of the guys behind Firefly, a top-notch framebuilder right in Boston. One would be missing out on some gorgeous stuff if they had their head up their ass like you do.

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Yuppies gonna yuppy.

I wonder how many of these "millennials" showed up to the South End meetings on the gunfire plaguing the area.

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You had me at "Yuppies gonna yuppy."

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"Yuppies gonna yup"

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<3

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Route 44 in Taunton. Just look for the ex-MassDPW highway sign that's been relettered.

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And while there ,look down across the street and go to Benny's , a throwback department store like a Sherbos or a Zayres.

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(although not that one) when my brother moved to Naragansett, RI in the early 1980s. It's still there in Wakefield RI, and is just down the street from the original Ocean State Job Lot - wich is also still there.

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is part of a building complex full of theatres, art galleries, and artist studios. If that's not an appropriate place to put a high-end wine shop, what is?

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A MJ dispensary? Firearm shop? Erotic Bookshop & Accessories Emporium? Cigar & Snuff Supplier or traditional Tobacconist?

Naw! Need another bank, cellphone store, nail salon, or authentic Irish pub.

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Now that you mention it: a corset shop would make a killing in the South End.

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Which is why there are two in the immediate area - across the street and down the street. Not just "high-end" but full service.

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My oh my, what a bunch of pansies. The same detractors there are the same who complain about affordable housing in the South End. I say, ditch the old school Puritanism and let Boston become the "world-class" city y'all bicker too much about...

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anywho, I doubt another wine emporium run by entitletards will do much to increase the "world-classness" of Boston.

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I was reading The Onion.

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my smart phone to avoid large gatherings of whiney, entitled douche bags. It has the hipster warning, millennial's on vibrate and traditional yuppies on ring. Trump supporters get the sos flash.

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this post is great. I almost spit out my soda when I began to read it. Kudos to you!

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The fact that people have to take time out of their day to line up at a meeting to SUPPORT a very reasonable proposal is what really irks me most about Boston. The naysayers are usually folks that don't work 9-5 and have time to be a thorn in everyone's side while the people who are reasonable and would patronize these new businesses are at work.

In terms of wine or liquor stores, I've been to many of them in the South End, and in general, the nicer the store, the fewer problems they seem to have. For example Urban Grape on Columbus Ave is an awesome store. I've never seen or heard of them them have issues with drunk or sketchy patrons. They have all kinds of tastings and a really helpful staff. I've never seen a drunk person wandering around after visiting there either. These pearl-clutchers need to get over themselves.

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If the real opposition here is competition, which we can all read between the lines and see clearly, then how is it that the same doesn't apply to other types of businesses? There are restaurants everywhere in the south end. Best ones wins my business. There are clothing shops everywhere! The one that meets my tastes wins my business. There are furniture shops EVERYWHERE. The ones that meet my needs get my business.

How is this any different than shops that sell wine? What makes them so special that they can lobby to block competition? That's not what this country is all about!!!

This is a trip back 20 years to hand shakes and pay offs where someone that's on the inside is blocking fair business practices and normal competition. And even more despicable, is the fact that the people of the south end voted 2:1 for Wine Riot. Case closed. Unless there is something nefarious at work...

Lawyers are not always the answer my friends, but in this case it might be worth it the Mayor doesn't change his mind today.

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Try not to look so goofy.

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The arguments from these people against Wine Riot are staggeringly absurd. You'd think they were opening a store called "Hookers & Blow." I'm sure hookers and anarchists spend a lot of time in wine shops with a focus on education, but that is no reason to think that they will start a riot.

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IMAGE(http://vintners.net/wawine/wa_cellars/wa_cellars_stalin_lbl.jpg)

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These hipsters think that they have cornered the market on wine tasting. Hey, let's name the umpteenth wine tasting establishment something "wow", like "Wine Riot", create yet another (yawn) app and podcast and shake the rafters. Honey, local package stores, supermarkets (heck, Roche's in Westwood has wine tastings from time to time), and the what not have been doing tastings for years.

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Bacco's near the Public Garden has weekly beer and wine tastings and the people who work are more than qualified to answer questions and tell people about wines. They often highlight local wines / beers, but not exclusively. Same thing with Bauer on Newbury Street. Shaw's supermarket near the Pru Mall carries local wines and has wine tastings from time to time. I'm not sure why the people behind Wine Riot haven't researched the market and figured this out yet. Granted both Bacco's, Bauer and Shaw's are in the Back Bay, however I find it surprsing that the South End doesn't have a wine shop with wine tastings or employees who know about wine. I suppose the concept of Wine Riot and the immature name itself appeals to 20-somethings who don't know anything about wine? Are there 20-somethings who can afford to live in the South End and buy nice wine? Regardless, hope they get the green light to open up and are successful.

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Brix on Washington and Urban Grape on Columbus are set up as high end wine and spirits shops, and do wine tastings. Wine Emporium on Tremont also does wine and spirits tastings. I imagine Whole Foods at the Ink Block does or will do some type of wine tasting/promotion. Georgiana's on Tremont (which is a convenience store selling high end wine and spirits) has done wine tastings. Foodies on Washington doesn't really have the space, but I seem to recall may have had wine promotions.

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Wine Riot has been around for several years, and they really were innovative when they started. They were the first to host a giant event where you can try hundreds of wines, and then they took it on the road to major cities across the country. I went to the first few of them and it was a fantastic experience. I stopped going because even though they had hundreds of wines, they didn't rotate them very much, so I eventually tried them all... it's probably time for me to give it another go.

Traditional liquor store wine tastings usually have weird hours, low attendance (to the point where usually I have to chase down a staff member at the appointed time and get them to give me my taste), and few wines. I suspect Wine Riot will do a much better job.

Not affiliated, just a long time happy customer.

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Bacco's wine tasting hours are typically 5-7pm and there is a table with an employee or wine rep pouring samples and discussing wines. It's quite popular. But, this is the city, not the 'burbs. Can't speak for other locations.
If what's popular is driving Wine Riot's inventory then I guess that's not for me... I go for quality not the appeal of mass consumption.

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