November 19, 2014
Conquering the wine store - tips and tricks
Before joining Coravin, I worked at Chelsea Wine Vault for many years. During that time, I learned that conquering a wine store and selecting the perfect wines can be intimidating for people – but it doesn’t have to be. As the holidays are approaching, you’ll probably be making a few trips to a wine store for gifts and to stock up for parties. There’s things you can do at the store (and before you event walk in) to make the experience simple and enjoyable (you’re buying wine – it should be fun!).
BEFORE YOU VISIT THE WINE STORE
1.) Keep track of wines that you have tried and your impressions of them. It will be help you learn and track any changes in your tasting profile. The app Vivino is great for this. I really wish that I had this resource when I started in the wine industry.
2.) Do some research on stores near you. Try to find a small to medium sized store that specializes in wine or a large store with a strong wine department. Ask your friends where they shop and read reviews on Yelp. Your goal should be to find a place with a knowledgeable and friendly staff and a good selection. Many great wine stores will also have free tasting events and classes that will help you in the selection process.
AT THE STORE
1.) Find the most knowledgeable and helpful sales person and use them as your guide. Talk to them about what you like, who you’re buying for, what you’ll be serving the wine with, etc. Ask them for recommendations. Ask them what you should be looking for as you browse the aisles. Ask them what their favorite varietal is. Are you sensing a theme here? Don’t be afraid to ask tons of questions – remember, the staff probably shares your love for wine and will be thrilled to help guide your purchase.
Once you’ve found a store you love, keep going back and working with the same person. Over time they will get to know your palate and will be able to make really educated recommendations.
2.) Expensive doesn’t mean high quality. It is very possible to find amazing value wines, especially from developing wine countries.
3.) Buy what you like, but make an effort to try new things. It is easy to get stuck in a rut, buying the same wine every time and knowing you aren’t wasting money on something you don’t like. To increase the chances that you will love your purchase, pick a wine made from the same grape but from a different part of the world. Or try something with a similar body. Tasting events at wine stores are great ways to sample and learn.
4.) Look for value regions and 2nd labels. Spain, Australia, Argentina and Chile are wine regions known for wonderful wines at very reasonable price points. Common in Bordeaux, some established wineries sell wines under a 2nd label and it is possible to find some great quality wines at very reasonable prices.
5.) Don’t judge a book by its cover or a wine by its front label. Front labels can be enticing but it is important to flip the bottle over and read the back label. There are many great small importers that hand-pick wines in a style that they like. When you find one of these importers, you can feel safe in trying wines from different countries or regions that they represent. Some of my favorites are Neal Rosenthal, Kermit Lynch, and Louis/Dressner.