Buying wine can be stressful – but it should be. Here are a few wine buying tips that may help you stock up without worry so you can sip, swirl, and smile to your heart’s content.
Trust Your Wine Pro
You can’t always shop at a wine or liquor store (sometimes the grocery store is just plain easier) but when you do have the opportunity to take advantage of specialty retail, mine the owner or sales assistant for their own tips. Point out a bottle you recently enjoyed or a few varietals that appeal to you and see what they have that’s similar. Don’t be afraid to throw out a price point, either – anyone who balks at your budget isn’t worth your hard-earned bucks anyway.
Become a Regular
When you visit a restaurant often, you start to understand the menu on a different level. You know what dishes you like and what you don’t, your server gets a feel for your preferences and starts recommending specials, and you know to ask what the chef got from the farmer’s market on Tuesdays because you know that the chef goes every single Tuesday. Being a regular at wine shop is no different. There are perks to developing a relationship with your wine pro – they’ll be thrilled to share their latest weird and wonderful finds and even if you go it alone, you’ll know exactly where they keep the random bottles the average joe never even looks for.
See an unknown wine at the store and wonder whether it’s worth buying? There’s an easy way (or five) to find out. Turn to your smartphone and fire up a wine app like Vivino or Wine-Searcher. You can also look up the wine on a site like Wine.com. Any of those sources will give you a mish mash of ratings from both critics and consumers as well as data relating to vintages, growing techniques, tasting notes, and more. There’s nothing wrong with being a savvy buyer and comparison shopping and anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something – probably literally.
Keep an Open Mind
Screwcaps aren’t bad, Napa isn’t the only place that turns out a decent Cabernet, and there’s nothing wrong with rose (it can actually be ridiculously delicious). To discover great wine, you have to be willing to go outside your comfort zone.
- Pay attention to tasting notes and producers, not closures.
- Look to value regions and interesting bottles from well-known spots. We like whites from Rueda, reds from Chile, and blends from Rhone, and Chenin Blanc and sparkling wines from South Africa, just for starters.
- Try out varietals you may not immediately recognize, like Verdejo, Cortese, Primitivo, Assyrtiko, Grenache, Carmenere, and Gamay.
Go to Wine Tastings. A Lot of Wine Tastings.
The more you taste, the more you learn what you do and don’t like. Plus, tastings offer an opportunity to interact with wine reps, distributors, and even winemakers – all people who really want to talk about the wines they’re pouring. Places like Total Wine, retail wine stores, and even grocery stores often hold weekly or monthly tastings to push their stock so keep an eye out for flyers. Restaurants often hold events, too, either as a special event or as part of a paired wine dinner. Don’t afraid to ask questions and take notes but be sure to enjoy yourself – the memories you tie to the wines you taste can often influence your preferences every bit as much as a “hint of smoke” or “buckets of juicy raspberries”.
Invest in Great Storage and Glasses
We’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention what you should do with these fabulous bottles once you buy them. Wine can quickly turn if it’s exposed to too much light or heat. A small wine fridge (or a snug place in your regular fridge) is essential unless you’re lucky enough to have a cellar or basement that’s both temperature- and humidity-controlled. You also want to serve your wine in the proper glassware. Buying just a few different glasses will help the wine show its truest colors.
Have a wine buying tip you’d love to share? We’d love to hear it! Shout it out in the comments below.