With the holidays quickly approaching, it seems there are endless parties to attend and guests to host. A nice bottle of wine can be a great addition to a potluck or a great gift for your boss. But, do you ever feel overwhelmed when needing to buy wine? So many choices: where to go, who to ask for advice, how much to spend, what to ultimately buy, etc.
Don’t be intimidated by the vast selection. Everyone has different taste, and there is no “perfect” wine for any occasion. Hopefully with a few basic tips, you will enjoy the process and look forward to discovering new wines in the future!
Where to go:
You can find great wine in many places, even at the grocery store. If picking up wine with your weekly groceries is most convenient for you, buy wine there! If you are looking for a wider selection, a brand with small production, or guidance on selecting wine for food pairings, I suggest you drop into a store that specializes in wine. BevMo is great, and with many locations, are often easily accessible, but I would really encourage you to seek out a local wine shop. Typically, the employees are passionate about the product and can provide you with several options across a wide price range to find the perfect fit!
[If only selecting a wine were this easy!]
If only selecting a wine was this easy!
How much to spend:
5 cent sales are tempting… but I find that these are usually full of wines that a particular store is trying to get rid of. Does that California Chardonnay look good? Take a closer look. If you have never heard of the producer before (so you aren’t sure if they make age worthy wines), and it is from 2005 – pass. Trust me. Spend a little more and get a nice, Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast region from a recent vintage (2011, 2012). It will be money well spent!
With that being said, don’t feel like you have to overspend for a big name to insure you get a palatable wine either! There are so many wonderful red wines coming out of Paso Robles right now that you can get for less than $50, that there is no reason to spend double for a well-known Napa brand. You may impress your guests by serving a respected brand that has been around for decades, and there is nothing wrong with that (I wouldn’t turn it down!) But imagine their surprise when you blow them away with a delicious wine from a boutique winery that you just discovered!
Deciphering a label:
When considering wine for purchase, I like to get an idea of where the grapes are sourced from. This can usually give you an indication of the quality of the wine, no matter how cute the label. As in my previous example, I look for a more specific region (Sonoma Coast v. California). It is not always evident by the front (or back!) of a label who is behind the production of wine. What may seem like a boutique winery may in fact be produced by one of the largest wineries in the world. It may taste great, but if you are looking to support a smaller winery, take a closer look.
If a broad region is listed (California, Central Coast, North Coast) the grapes can come from a much larger area. When you see a more specific region (Rutherford, Santa Ynez Valley, Paso Robles) the grapes must come from that defined area. A general rule of thumb is that the more specific a region, the smaller production (and in many cases, higher quality) the wine will be. This is not ALWAYS the case, but one I consider when I am feeling overwhelmed with my choices!
For example, I am going to look for a Sauvignon Blanc coming from Marlborough or Napa before I purchase one just listing New Zealand or California on the label. I am going to choose a Pinot Noir from Edna Valley instead of Central Coast. And don’t be fooled by the brands that use regions in their name…
[Don't fall for cute critter labels!]
Don’t fall for cute critter labels!
Once you decide on a wine, it can be exciting to open it with family and friends to see if you chose well! While there may be other things that you consider when purchasing wine, these basic tips are just meant to ease the anxiety shoppers may associate with the task. There are so many wonderful wines out there, if you use these tips, I’m confident you will find a delicious wine that will impress your most discerning guests!
Now it’s your turn! What do you look for when shopping for wine?