By John ~ March 28th, 2008.
“A clue that you’re buying wine at the wrong store: The proprietor gives samples in a Big Gulp cup.” –Malcolm Kushner
First, look for a wine shop, not a supermarket or liquor store that sells primarily beer and hard liquor. Notice the temperature when you walk in the door. Make sure it almost feels a little cool to you. Also, notice whether the wine stock looks fresh, not dank and dusty.
Ideally the shop will organize its wines by country or region or varietal. Ask the wine steward what their system is for displaying wines. That will also give you a clue as to whether the staff really knows wine and can answer questions intelligently. Fortunately, many independent wine shops are owned and managed by bright wine enthusiasts who could be making a lot more money elsewhere but simply love working in the wine industry. (Photo by booleansplit)
Suggestion: Start with one section of the shop (Australian Shiraz, Washington Cabernet Sauvignon, California Zinfandel, or whatever interests you) and get comfortable with that one type of wine before moving on to a new section. Also, tell the wine steward the price-range that fits your budget and ask when they usually run specials.
Keep in mind that once a wine merchant has “put his money where his mouth is,” he will be tempted to “put his mouth where his money is,” as Andrew Sharp says in his excellent book, Winetaster’s Secrets. In other words, once a wine merchant has invested a lot of money in a particular wine for his inventory, he needs to sell it. Your best protection against being ripped off is experience. Start with some of our recommendations in this blog and then venture out by trying new wines your wine steward recommends as a comparison. Then keep good notes, keep tasting, and see how fast your wine confidence grows.
Also, give your wine steward feedback based on your notes. Don’t just say, “I didn’t like that last bottle you sold me.” Be more specific. Say something like, “That ABC Chardonnay was too oaky and had a buttery taste I really didn’t enjoy.” That way he can steer you in the direction of another wine that you may enjoy more.
Filed under: General Wine Information