How To Be A Better Wine Buyer
- Start to shape up your sense of what types and styles of wine you like and why you like them
- Define basic wine terminology
- Go to local wine shops and ask for help with no fear and open mind
Start with what you know you like. Talk to someone who works at the shop or store you like. Ask questions with no concern for being embarrassed or judged. No good Sommelier or wine shop attendant should ever speak down to you. They exist in their entirety to help all levels of wine buyers and if they act snotty remind them not be!
- Find two or three regions you know that you enjoy the wine from. If you loved a wine from a specific area, chances are you will love other wines from there too. Regions dominate flavor profiles because grapes are all grown very similarly in connected geographic areas. It really is the climatic conditions and topography of region that determine the core flavors and characteristics of what the wine will taste like.
- Find grape varietals that are similar to the ones you know you like (but might be more expensive) and try those. For example, despite it’s completely unfair reputation Merlot is amazing and used to make some of the very best wines in the world! Try a Napa Valley Merlot instead of the more expensive Cabernet to save a few dollars and be prepared to be amazed. Some other great examples are Pinot Noir being not too different in body and weight than Gamay or Barbera. Another one is Sauvignon Blanc and Vermentino or Gavi di Gavi for white wines. Vermentino & Gavi are very close in profile to Sauvignon Blanc but often times less expensive.
Think about the style of wine you like, is it light, medium or full body? Is it sweet, dry, robust, fruit forward? Use these terms to describe what you like.
Think about the how oak effects wine and what your preferences are in regards to how those flavor profiles influence the wine.
Most wine is aged in various types of Oak Barrels although some trends are moving away from Oak ageing like Stainless Steel Fermented Chardonnay. Oak adds vanilla notes to white wines and wood and tobacco notes to red wines. Oak softens the acidity of wine but when a certain type of oak (i.e. New American Oak) is used it is a very powerful flavor contributor. Often times you’ll hear “Neutral French Oak” which still imparts softness and roundness to both whites and reds but with less Vanilla, butter and smoke & tobacco characteristics.
How to Save Money Buying Wine:
Think about not necessarily spending the least amount possible but really about knowing that you are getting the most value and bang for your buck with your wine selections. It’s all about the value of what you bought and how satisfying that wine was to you and your personal palate! A good range to think about for everyday wine purchases is $15-$20 for whites and $25-$30 for reds. Good wine is a few more dollars usually but well, well worth it. Consider investing in a tool that helps preserve the wine after it is open, like one that removes excess air from the bottle. You can find one at Target for $10 and it makes your bottle last longer so you won’t feel so worried about it going to waste.
- Look for “satellite regions”. These are areas that are right next to very famous wine regions that make very similar tasting and quality wine but for fraction of the price! Examples are Anderson Valley in CA, very close to Napa & Sonoma, the area makes excellent wine but typically for less than its more famous neighbors. If you like French wines look for wines from the Rhone region in the south of France or Jura & Beaujolais, which neighbor Burgundy and make similar wines for much less.
Get to know a few star winemakers and follow the brands that they make. Many famous winemakers consult for several brands of varying costs and impart their style and quality levels of all of their brands. They often make very expensive wine but also love to make hidden gems and steals, they even sometimes use a little of the same grapes that go into a very expensive bottle to blend into some of their other wines. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone I told you, this is my favorite trick of the trade! Some great ones to follow are Kirk Venge, Martin Reyes, Anna Monticelli and newcomer Ashley Leon. Between just those four there are probably 50 wines produced of all price ranges, but similar quality and style.
- Buy wine from better sources than regular grocery stores. A grocery store is fine in a pinch but you get exponentially more value when you join a great wine club, buy directly from the winery or local wine shop. Ordering direct or doing a wine club is great because it cuts out many middle man and distributors and those savings are often passed directly to you, the consumer. You also know your wine is being hand selected and meticulously cared for, packaged, and shipped immediately to you in temperature controlled environments. Grocery store shipping and loading docks are not so carefully regulated often times and wine can be left in dangerous temperatures which can destroy the taste of the bottle that you spent your hard-earned money on. Some grocery stores also play games with pricing and discounting whereas wine clubs and small wine shops rarely ever do. Some large grocery chains mark wines up, then offer what seems like a huge discount that really isn’t. Be an enlightened consumer.
Please email me to learn more or to book your next wine tasting, thank you!
Owner – Veritas Consultants
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“In Vino Veritas – In Wine There is Truth!”