Spoiler Alert - The best way to buy wine is to leverage your local wine shop staff. The knowledge they have of each wine, the winemakers, styles and varietals is far beyond what us mere mortals can retain.
While this requires an additional stop on the commute home, it is totally worth it. However, we realize this is not always possible.
The reality is, if you’re like most of us, you are busy and making an additional stop just exhausts you. So you find yourself in the grocery store or (gasp!) convenience store trying to pick out wine. And it is often after a day where you really just need to open a bottle and sit on the couch and just relax...
Most of us try to be conscious of what we put in our bodies and select foods we feel are as minimally processed as possible. However when it comes to wine, it can be overwhelming to decode this information.
Wines in most grocery or liquor stores are mass-produced, cheap, highly intervened wine that we go to because it’s convenient. Buying great wine isn’t always convenient (but we’re trying to solve that!).
#1 Flip the bottle over
Front labels are pretty. They depict the chateau, the landscape, or some esoteric design that draws your attention. The purpose of the front label is to capture your interest so that it stands a chance of being selected on the shelf. That’s it. It provides little value to helping you understand what’s in the bottle.
Flipping the bottle over and reviewing the back label is where all the good details are. Does it tell you the grape varietal? Are there tasting notes? From what county or region is it? These are the things that help you decipher what might be in the bottle – and more importantly, how it might taste.
#2 Be open to new things
Ever tried a Pedro Ximénez? Or a Cava? How about a Czech wine? :-) Most people gravitate toward California or French wines. But putting aside your assumptions lesser-known varietals and regions to you will open your horizons to discovery. Are there great California wines? Yes. Are there also bad ones? Oh hell yes.
#3 Get yourself an app
“There’s an app for that” doesn’t exclude wine. There are various wine apps to help you quickly get information on a wine you might be considering. My favorites are the ones where you can quickly take a picture of a label, and get all the details you need as well as others’ reviews and tasting notes. My personal favorite is Vivino. It’s not uncommon to see me with it open, scanning labels, deciding between bottles. Another great app for this is Delectable. Just search for “wine app” in your Google Play or Apple store and check out the options.
#4 Ignore the price
Life’s too short to drink bad wine. Am I saying always take home the $30 bottle? No, of course not. But buying wine on the principle of “I don’t buy wine over $10” is going to drastically limit you, and quite frankly increase the chance of poor-quality wine. Wine is like anything else we put in our body – we need to be conscious of what it is and what is in it. You pay for what you get, and if you can put aside the price tag, you’ll expand your palate and wine knowledge and taste the world!