Let's face it... wine is intimidating and feeling the pressure of potentially buying a bad wine can leave consumers feeling defeated. People get wary of purchasing wines outside of their comfort zones, resulting in repetitive wine purchasing.
Wine buying should be fun and when time allows - should take adequate planning. While I cannot promise that you will love every wine bottle you purchase, I hope to assist you in finding great wines.
With these 9 Wine Buying Tips, you will feel a relief of pressure when it comes to picking out the perfect bottles to take home.
1. Know Your Drinkers.
You must identify who will be consuming the wine - your Drinkers. Will you be bringing wine to a party where no one cares what it is, as long as it contains alcohol? Get a cheap wine you have had before, so you at least you know you like it. Will you be sharing the bottle with a few friends that enjoy the intricacies of adult grape juice? Try something interesting or something you would not normally buy that will spark conversation. It is important to know your audience so you do not splurge or purchase a unique wine that your Drinkers may not appreciate.
Also consider if your Drinkers have strong willed wine preferences. Try as you might, converting a white wine drinker to a red wine drinker and vice versa is not a task you will be able complete at a dinner party. Don't try it. If you prefer one over the other, just bring two bottles. No one said you could only bring one.
2. Set Your Budget.
It is a very common myth that "good" wine is expensive. You can find amazing wines that are under $15.00. They are truly ubiquitous, hence my Frugal Feature Fridays on Instagram/Facebook. Knowing your budget will also help you narrow your search. If you do not want to spend over $30.00 you likely won't be taking home a Barbaresco or a Grand Cru Bordeaux.
It is important that you share your budget expectations with the staff assisting you at the wine shop. Do not be embarrassed if your budget is under $10.00, they know their stock and will find you the best wine for your price range. They should respect your budget and should not try to up-sell you on a more expensive wine. If the wine turns out to be simply delicious, you know your wine shop knows their stuff.
3. Avoid PPP.
Don't disappoint your father or your guests with Piss Pour Planning. See what I did there...You should have some semblance of when the wine is going to be opened. If you are going to go on a hike and plan to open the bottle at the summit, get a wine that does not need decanting.
If you are swinging by the store on the way home and will have 30 minutes at your leisure to decant the wine before the intended guzzling, it does not matter which wine you choose. Except when you intend to pair the wine with food or are giving the wine as a gift, in which case you should KNOW THE PLAN.
4. The Veruca Salt Rule.
This rule is for the "But, Hunty I want it now!" situations, when you need a wine that is ready to go. White and Rosé are great for this, as long as they are coming out of the refrigerated section of the store. If you want to stick with reds, grab a lighter more fruit forward varietal like Pinot Noir, Gamay (Beaujolais), or a Grenache. These wines do not need to be decanted and can be sipped on right away.
Pro-tip: Decant every red wine over $25.00. They are typically higher quality wines and the nuances of the wine are better detected with the opportunity for the wine's surface area to interact with oxygen. ALWAYS decant Petit Verdot! It is a very tannic wine that needs some space to mellow out.
5. There Will Always Be Snacks.
Wine was meant to be paired with food. Finding the perfect pairing will elevate your taste buds to a whole new level. The most important thing to remember is to pair like with like. If you are having an Italian style tomato based dish, go for a Sangiovese or a Barbera. This applies to the taste type as well. For example, pair your Port with chocolate (sweet with sweet). Do not pair your Cab Sauv with chocolate. What are we fools!
If you are still struggling to find something to pair with your dinner, ask for help from the wine shop employee, reach out to me, or you can Google it. As you get more practice with pairing, the more of an intuition you will gain for choosing a wine for dinner.
My Go-To Pairings:
Any Bold Red and Pizza (Bold/Heavy)
Carménère and Chili (Peppery/Spicy)
Chardonnay and Bacon Mac+Cheese (Buttery/Cheesy)
Grüner Veltliner and Reuben Sandwiches or Bratwurst (Sharp/Acidic)
Petit Verdot and Gourmet Burgers (Bold/Heavy)
Pinot Noir and Grilled Cheese + Tomato Soup (Fruit forward/Acidic)
Sangiovese and Spaghetti (Italian Style/Acidic)
Viognier and Mushroom Risotto (Bold/Earthy)
Zinfandel and Chicken Tortilla Soup (Spicy/Heavy)
6. Vintage is not just for Hipsters.
Pay attention to the vintage of the wine. Nuances from environmental influences on terrior differ from year to year, which will inadvertently change or add characteristics to the wine that cannot be controlled. Unless you are a giant yellow kangaroo or foot...
It is best to ask your wine shop employee or do a little research on the best years for a wine from a particular region, before you pick out a bottle.
You should also know your wines that do not age well and those that do. A wine that does not age well is Rosé . It's 2020, you should not be drinking Rosé from 2018 because the flavors will have become stagnant. I also think it is best to purchase New World red wines that are at least two years old. These wines have had time to settle into the bottle and develop into savory sippers.
7. Be Open.
If an employee recommends a wine after you give them the details of what you are looking for, buy it. You gave them your budget, you went over the plan, they know what you need. It is like dipping your fries in ranch for the first time, abandoning the ketchup you knew all too well. It is just as, if not more delicious. You just had to take that leap of faith to try something new.
Wine shops can help you take that leap. Recommending a superb pairing or a show stopping wine, is a thrill they love to hear about on your next visit. The most important thing is to try something new and avoid reverting back to the same bottle you buy over and over again.
8. When in Doubt, Bring the Bubbles Out.
If you are in a situation where you are tasked with bringing wine to an event where you do not know what will be served, the Drinker's wine preference, or lacked planning - stick with the bubbles. Whether it be Cava, Prosecco or Champagne, these neutral wines can pair with almost anything. Bubbly is great because you can open it to start the evening or to close it. It is a celebration wine for nearly every occasion.
9. Bring Backup
If you feel like the wine you are picking up is risky, get a backup. No one is going to complain if you bring two bottles of wine. You do not have to drink them both, but you have the option there if it is needed. So buy that bottle that has the super cute label AND buy the bottle that the wine shop recommends. Worst case scenario: if you hate one of the wines, you have extra!
At some point, you are going to purchase a wine you do not like. That is Oll Korrect, it happens. When this happens, I save my disappointing wine purchases for cooking. This way I do not have to waste quality wine on my Mushroom Risotto or Roasted Red Wine Tomatoes.
I hope these tips will help you in your future wine buying endeavors. If you have tips that you would like to share, leave a comment below. If you have questions or would like recommendations for wine, leave a comment here, post on The Wine Tails Facebook Page, or DM on Instagram.
I can't wait to hear about your wine purchases. Cheers!