A Beginner's Guide to Buying Wine
Learn to purchase like a pro
Everyone has an opinion about wine, and everyone has a massive amount of information available at their fingertips – so how on earth are we supposed process all of the information out there about our favorite fermented grape juice? How do we figure out which bottle to buy? As someone that imports and distributes wine across the USofA, I’ll point you in the right direction. Keep reading...
Keep your smartphone handy and Listen Up:
Don’t peruse the isles of a grocery store and pick pretty labels. Actually, stop buying wine from grocery stores, period. It's all gross and manipulated into a hot mess with high sugars to please the masses because people say they like dry wine, but they don’t, not really.
Try well known grapes from well known regions, we've listed a few below. See what you like, see what you don’t like, then go back and try again in a year, things will taste different the more you taste.
Cabernet from Napa
Pinot Noir from Oregon or Washington
Cabernet & Merlot Blends from Bordeaux
Pinot Noir or Chardonnay from Burgundy
Etc... Find more varietals and regions here
Ask for help! At a restaurant, do not ask the waiter, ask to speak to the Somm (Sommelier) or beverage director – they made the list, after all, and they love helping people pick wine...that's why they got into this business in the first place! At a retailer (again, do not buy from grocery stores) ask the wine specialists. In Dallas, Pogo’s and Grailey’s have the best staff. They love wine and helping people find wine... and they know more about wine than you could possibly imagine. If you ask for their help, they will enjoy helping and you will have a bottle that suits you. Pogo's has everything from $6 bottles all the way up to rare and excellent juice. Grailey's starts at about $60, but goes way higher. Trust us, neither one will steer you wrong.
Spend money on a nice bottle every once in a while! Spending $50 bucks blindly on a bottle is stupid, but spending $50 bucks on a wine that is known for delivering the goods is money well spent. If you don’t have at least that amount, stay away from Napa Cabs, they MOSTLY all suck for less than that (and never buy Silver Oak or Jordan…just don’t) ... also, don’t buy natural wines, they never taste good, and know that with any great wine, a fair amount of manipulation WILL take place, and without it the wine would not taste good.
Ask us! We love helping people find wine, so if you need more help than you can find on our site, just shoot us a note at email@example.com and we’ll answer anything we can.
Want to dive deeper?
There is great information available from the following sources:
Cellar Tracker - These are fellow wine lovers rating and sharing tasting notes. The aggregate score can tell you a lot about how well a wine is generally liked. Anything above a 90 points typically means its pretty delicious – but it won’t mean its your favorite style, so look for things like ‘rich, big, sweet tannin’ if you like wines that don’t have any bitter attributes; and look for things like ‘structured, acidic, tannic’ if you like your wines a little more old school or ‘food friendly’.
Wine Berserkers boards – Where the people that are truly fanatic about wine (most of them dropping hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands on bottles) discuss every subject and attribute of wine, the industry, winemaking, etc. Not all are professionals, but often I would take the word of a serious collector over someone in the business.
The Wine Enthusiast's free ratings section - The wines here are professionally rated and give concise tasting notes. I’m not a huge fan of their raters... but for a free guide, it can work in a pinch. You can find a lot of grocery store wines on there.
Check Wine Searcher and make sure you aren’t being ripped off. This site has everything from the current pricing of your desired bottle, to charts showing it's price progression since it was bottled. Use it to make sure you aren't paying too much... before you hit the register.
If you really want to start collecting, you need to get subscriptions at eRobertParker and Vinous. These are the two big names that dictate wine quality and the broader market pricing of wine. Say what you want about Robert Parker, but when he gives a wine 100 Points, it moves the entire market. Enough said.
Alright we're done...
Well, hopefully this quick guide has helped you on your journey towards buying excellent wine. Remember, you don't have to break the bank... most people are surprised at how little they'll need to spend if they employ just a few simple tactics. Thanks for reading, more articles to come!
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