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5 Essential Costco Wine Shopping Tips

5 Essential Costco Wine Shopping Tips

Let’s take a quick break in the action for a little something different, our top five tips for buying wine at Costco.

We like to think we’re pretty good at this, having purchased and reviewed over 1000 bottles of wine from Costco over the last decade plus. So what are some of things we do when we hit our happy place among the Costco wine aisles?

Turns out there’s a bit of a routine, so hopefully you pick up something new here that will help you on your future trips to Costco.

1.       Grab a box

Don’t go with loose bottles in the cart. Those also become loose bottles in the car. Also be careful if you put them neck first in the top basket of the cart as sometimes they can roll out the opening where kids’ legs would go.  One tip for securing those, is to put the red flip seat up to block the opening.

But a wine box is the best way to go.  They are almost always sitting out in the aisle. Grab a sturdy one, and even if you’re only buying a couple of bottles, you can use the extra space in the box for additional items in your cart.

Also, pro tip: keep an eye out for empty (or near empty) wooden wine boxes as you can take those too.

2.       Check vintages

Costco is one of the few retailers that doesn’t charge different prices for different vintages of the same bottle.  So a crappy vintage and a perfect vintage sell for the same price.

Not the case elsewhere, especially big box stores like Total Wine where the premier vintages can be 10-20% higher than off vintages.

So at Costco, be sure to dig around the bin a bit and see if other vintages of the wine might be a layer or two down.  You never know.  We once found 3 vintages of the same wine in the same bin.

Also, pro tip: if you really want to scour for a vintage, check the wine boxes stored under the wood display cases.  We’ve found other vintages down there, as well as other wines that either sold out or haven’t been put in the wooden bins yet.

3.       Check the price

There’s a secret code at Costco and it’s all in the price.  You’re looking for prices that don’t end in $0.99.  Here’s the key for the code.

Wine ending in $.97 is below regular price, like a sale price.

Wine ending with an eight like $9.88, or 0’s ($9.00) indicate the store is trying to sell through it quickly so you might want to stock up. Kind of like a manager’s special.

Other wines ending with a 9 that isn’t $.99, for example $10.89, $15.79, is a special deal given just to Costco. This means you likely won’t beat that price at other stores; but the bottles ending in $0.97 might still be more heavily discounted.

4.       Look for the “Star of death”

When you see an asterisk in the corner of the Costco placard, it means the store is not stocking more of the wine once it sells out.   This applies to other items around Costco too.

Kirkland Signature Toscana

That’s why we call it the “star of death.”  If it’s on a wine you want, stock up right away.

5.       Look for Kirkland wines and limited time discounts

This one sounds pretty obvious, but it’s part of our Costco wine shopping ritual.  Always look for Kirkland wines, and check the vintage to be sure they’re not sneaking a new one in off cycle.

Kirkland Rioja

And remember, the Kirkland wine portfolio is pretty remarkable (for the most part); you can almost rest assured the wine inside will be a fair, and high-quality representation of the origin of the grapes.  Try new wines, don’t be afraid to explore, and the Kirkland curated wines are a great way to do that.

And lastly, look for the limited time discount signs. Sometimes these indicate price savings of 40-50% off the already great Costco standard price.

2020 Vinha da Coutada Velha Red Blend

And sometimes, but not always, the sale price actually morphs into the new standard price following the limited time discount period. Amazing when that works out.

There you go. A quick hit of five shopping tips.

If anyone has other tips, pop them in the comments below.



Saturday 4th of November 2023

I bought two bottles of Olarra Clasico Reserva 2018 which Wine Enthusiast rated at 93 pts. Many sites list it as a $50 wine although it was listed as $14.99 with $5 discount. Sadly, the first bottle I opened had a funky smell and taste--it even gave me an upset stomach later. I am reluctant to try the second bottle. Do you think vineyards sell Costco "bad" batches sometimes? I am not accusing Costco of wrongdoing but just wonder if sometimes they get a bad lot.


Sunday 5th of November 2023

Hi, we’ve never heard anything like that and seriously doubt that would ever be the case. Did you try the other bottle? Sounds like maybe a bad bottle which does happen.

Kevin Mahon

Saturday 23rd of September 2023

Costco operates from a cost plus pricing model. They take the cost and add a maximum of 14% to cover operating costs. If Costco receives a discount from the supplier they pass on 100% of the discount they receive. Costco Membership fees cover the profit; the mark-up covers the operating costs.

Costco does not play games like BOGO’s by establishing artificial everyday high prices and then “reduce” the cost by 50%.

If Costco has an item that is slow moving, the manager will mark the item down to replace it with a higher turnover item. Unlike other retailers, Costco does not take millions of dollars in back-end rebates from the National Producers and Distributors to buy prime shelf space.

Costco takes all of the funds to the cost of goods in the club to deliver an honest transparent member value everyday.


Wednesday 13th of September 2023

As a Costco liquor store employee, we prefer that members/customers dont pull boxes of wine from underneath the wood display boxes for safety reasons.

Duke Rosedahl

Wednesday 13th of September 2023

Can we persuade Costco to carry Poppy wife's favorite ?


Sunday 10th of September 2023

Just got back from a "Costco run" today - KS 2018 Brunello was in stock (along with a lingering supply of the 2019 Barolo). Was making a Pinot Noir run but not much to choose from, but am noticing an uptick in Pouilly-Fuisse selections.

Regarding the box, I don't always find them in the store but usually "BMOB". Saw a couple with what looked like a case in the cart sans box (you could hear them coming up the aisle :-) ).

Have to commit the "Star of death" to memory - you have mentioned this in the past. Thanks for consolidating these tips into a single post!