Local Liquid Assets - Spirits Wine Cellar

March 28, 2023

Spirits Wine Cellar in Tuscaloosa, Alabama is THE wine shop in this small university townthat loves football and whiskey more than anything else. Matthew and Jennifer Bologna (and their Havanese) are the driving force behind Tuscaloosa’s growing wine scene. From college kids looking to learn about wine on a budget to lawyers and doctors that buy by the case-load, Spirits’ commitment to carrying wines of character and balance has Tuscaloosans drinking really well.

There’s a LOT that goes into running a great wine shop, but for us, what Spirits does best is that Jennifer and Matthew really take the time and make the effort to engage each and every customer that walks through their door. The store’s floor plan is intimate and the incredible wall-to-wall built-in shelving means that everything is up at eye-level and off the floor. The store is organized by region and the big-ticket wines are towards the back. The back of the store also features a great tasting bar.

So much of wine drinking is about context and Jennifer and Matthew get that. We love that you can walk into Spirits and say any of the following and walk out confident in your purchase.

“I’m going to meet my girlfriend’s parents for the first time and her dad is big-time into wine. What can I bring and what can you tell me about it?”

“I’m hosting a baby shower for 30 people. I’ve got $50 to spend on wine and I want it to be good!”

“What wine goes well with Alligator sausage? Alabama is playing Florida this weekend and I need a tailgate wine!”

Spirits Wine Cellar

Name: Spirits Wine Cellar
Location(s): Tuscaloosa, Alabama & Northport, Alabama
Years in Business: Spirits was founded in early 90’s. Purchased by Matthew Bologna in 2001.
Owners: Matthew and Jennifer Bologna

How did you first get interested in wine / What was your wine A-Ha! moment?

My parents were wine drinkers. Although they did not drink particularly “sohpisitcated” wine
(when I was a child anyway), it always piqued my interest. We traveled regularly to Napa and
Sonoma when I was a teenager. My Dad worked in San Fransisco one week of each month for
three years and he visited several wineries. I was hooked!

What made you want to open or work in a wine shop?

I met Matthew while he was working at Spirits as a college student. He purchased Spirits in
September of 2001 and we started dating in June of 2002. I would spend several hours each
week at the stores “helping”, quizzing him about wine, and drinking wine. I started working at
Spirits in May of 2005.

If you could give wine buyers advice what would it be?

*Support family owned and operated retailers and establish a relationship with the employees- generally “we” have a hands-on approach and get to know our customers on an individual basis so that we may tailor our selection to their palates.

*Read “The Wine Bible” by Karen MacNeil

*Attend wine tastings (if they are offered) or sample “flights” at restaurants.

What question(s) do customers most often ask?

- What’s new?
- Why do some wines cost more than others?

How comfortable are most customers with a suggestion outside of their comfort zone?

Because we know our customers and have a very hands-on approach, they are generally very
comfortable with our recommendations.

What wine(s) or region(s) are you drinking right now?

My “favorite” region is Piedmont and my “favorite” importer is Rosenthal Wine Merchant. I’m constantly seeking-out new and “different” wines, but always those that are varietally correct and speak of their origins.

What is your go-to region for value right now?

At our stores, Argentine, Chilean, and Spanish wines are currently some of the best regions for
value, although we sell plenty of great values from France, Italy, and America.

What is flying out the door right now?

Wines of value (generally under $10); such as Malbec, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Spanish reds,
Vinho Verde, Sauvignon Blanc, and sparkling wines.

What price-point has the most activity?

$15.99/bottle and below

Do you host regular in-store tastings?

Yes, we host tastings every Thursday night. On average, we pour six wines each week.

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