Buying Wine In 8 Easy Steps

Posted By Don Sumner on Mar 24, 2015 |

In a perfect world, buying a bottle of wine should be an easy and pleasant thing to do, but sometimes it can seem both overwhelming and confusing. Choosing the cheapest red something-or-other sticking out of the box at the end of the aisle doesn’t quite cut it, either.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are eight insider’s tips to ease you into happy wine-buying:

1. Buy wine from a business that makes you feel comfortable 
Maybe that’s Costco (they’ve got some great wines and good prices), or maybe it’s a little local shop in your hometown, but it needs to feel comfortable and have some clerks that know a bit about wine that can help you in a friendly and relaxed way. One idea: places like Trader Joe’s have a newsletter that has juicy descriptions of their featured wines, so that you have an idea both what’s on sale and what sounds tasty. Painless and fun!

2. You don’t have to feel shy
Everyone started out knowing nothing. Everyone. Even that fancy sommelier with his nose up in the air! Think about all the things you know at this point in your life…it took awhile to learn, and then voila! You became knowledgeable. It’s the same with wine: poke around, try something new, taste and enjoy, maybe even write some notes. Soon enough, you’ll have a much-expanded knowledge of the grape.

3. Get organized
If you really want to dive in, you could create a year of wine exploration. Here’s a year’s overview with ideas for classic wines:

  • January: a new sparkling wine each week
    • California sparkling wine, French Champagne, German sekt, Italian prosecco
  • February: a new Chardonnay each week
    • Australia, California, France, Italy
  • March: a new Chenin Blanc each week
    • Australia, California/Washington, France, South Africa
  • April: a new Sauvignon Blanc each week
    • Australia, California, Chile, France
  • May: a new Riesling each week
    • Australia, France, Germany, Washington
  • June: a new rosé wine every week
  • July: a new Pinot Noir each week
  • August: a new Merlot each week
    • California/Washington, France, Italy, Spain
  • September:  a new Syrah each week
    • Argentina, California, France, Italy
  • October: a new Cabernet Sauvignon each week
    • Australia, California, France, Italy
  • November: a new dessert wine each week
    • Late harvest, Madeira, Port, Sherry
  • December: a new brandy (distilled wine) each week
    • California brandy, French Armagnac, French Cognac, Italian Stravecchio/Grappa

4. Expensive doesn’t necessarily mean “best”
Expensive wines are generally priced because of rarity, outstanding flavors, and/or the reputation of the winemaker. But is a $100 bottle of wine actually four times better than a $25 bottle of wine? Possibly not…especially with meatloaf! Explore wines within your budget and there’s every reason to believe you’ll find gems.

5. On the other hand, expensive wines can be fun!
Sometimes, splurging for a wine that’s somewhat out of your budget can lead to some outstanding occasions…just make sure to have an outstanding meal too!

6. Explore the world, one glass at a time
If you try out a year of wine tasting (item #3, above), you’ll travel to Australia, Argentina, California, Chile, France, Italy, Germany, Oregon, South Africa, Spain, and Washington…all without leaving your home.

7. Don’t know where to start?
Tell wine clerks what kind of foods you like; most of them will have a general idea of what wines pair well with those foods and you’ll be off on your adventure!

8. Have fun!
Exploring wine is about curiosity, a sense of adventure, having fun, and asking questions…skills you already have in abundance. Cheers!