A Helpful Guide On How To Shop For Wine

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A Helpful Guide On How To Shop For Wine

Wine is a delightful treat to taste and enjoy, but can be difficult to shop for alone. If you are new to wine appreciation and are looking for the best methods to stock your new home wine cellar or wine refrigerator, read on. Smarter’s comprehensive guide will help you locate the best reds and whites for your palate and wallet.


1. Know General Types

White Wines: Made from white grapes or red grapes with their skin removed before fermentation, white wines are colorless or have a pale hue.

  • Chardonnay: Chardonnay is a popular and generally inexpensive dry white wine that offers a large range of tastes, such as semi-sweet, sour, light and heady; as well as flavors, including various fruits and oak overtones.
  • Riesling: Riesling is a versatile white wine offered in both sweet and dry varieties. Different Riesling wines mostly hold tinges of floral, fruity, honeyed and spiced flavors.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc is a respected white wine, made from green grapes with crisp and tangy traces of herbs and citrus.  
  • Muscat: Muscat is a sweeter white wine, usually meant for dessert. Musky versions of Muscat are also recognized by the title of Moscato. There are dryer versions available, too. 
  • Gewurztraminer: The Gewurztraminer white wine contains aromas of grapefruit, spices, rose petal, lychee and even smoked meat. This exotic combination makes for a medium-dry, full-bodied wine. 

Red Wines: Made from darker red or black grape selections, red wines are available in a multitude of colors, including ruby red, opaque purple and even close to black. Red wines often have a richer flavor than white wines and contain tannins, which are naturally occurring compounds that add to a more vibrant color and flavor.

  • Merlot: Merlot is a red wine that is considered the most popular and drinkable of its group. Like its presumed white wine counterpart Chardonnay, the stereotypically sweet tasting and fruity Merlot is an easy choice for novice wine drinkers.
  • Syrah: Also known as Shiraz, Syrah is a spicy and dark red wine. Palpable tannins in a Syrah wine permit a very full, robust taste and dry finish.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabernet Sauvignon is a favored red wine, esteemed for improving with age. These wines start off as lighter and fruitier but then become oakier, even giving off hints of leather, coffee, chocolate and tobacco in later years. Although they have a wide range of flavors, they are always full-bodied and firm.
  • Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir is another noble red wine, but unlike the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Pinot Noir has a fresh and mild taste and aromatics, including softer notes of berries and tea leaves. It is also lighter in color and sweeter.
  • Zinfandel: Zinfandel is a versatile red wine that can be found as a blush wine (called White Zinfandel), in addition to deeper red shades. In general, Zinfandel wines are easy to drink and range from fruity and light choices to ones more rich and flavorful.


2. Go Wine Tasting

Prior to shopping for wine on your own, take a scenic trip out to a winery to find out what you like and to build your wine tasting palate. A great spot in Northern California is Napa Valley, and there are several idyllic vineyards in Central California and Southern California. Relax and indulge in not only a weekend getaway, but also an opportunity to try a variety of wines. Because you will be drinking only small portions of different bottles, don’t be afraid to try something that seems unusual. This initial exposure to wine will serve as a strong base to wine shopping.


3. Pick A Store You Can Trust

Whether you choose to shop at your local grocery store or at a wine specialty shop, make sure the location is credible and correctly takes care of its wines. Good wine requires careful storage, including the right room temperature. If the store is unpleasantly cold or warm, chances are the wine has been affected and won’t be up to par either.


4. Have A Price Range

Wines can start at the very low price of $2 per bottle, like the “Two-Buck Chuck,” also known as Charles Shaw wine, and then escalate to hundreds of dollars. Decide two wine budgets: one for everyday wine and one for special occasion wine.

TIP: A heftier price tag does not necessarily indicate a better taste; the most expensive of wines may not meet your expectations. Lesser known brands from unfamiliar wine regions can produce cheaper wines just as high in quality as those from more popular winegrowers. Your satisfaction ultimately depends on your taste buds, not how much you spent.


5. Let The Salespeople Help

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t feel intimidated. Salespeople are there for a reason—to help with any inquiries or uncertainties and ultimately, help you make a purchase. Although salespeople at the grocery store may not be wholly informed of the ins and outs of wines, those who work at a specialty wine shop should be comprehensively educated in the field.

Some good questions to ask include:

  • "What Do You Recommend?" If you read about the general types of wine and went wine tasting, you probably know if you prefer a chardonnay or a Riesling. Although this may considerably narrow down your options, there will still be an overwhelming number of options to choose from at the store. The salesperson presumably has tasted plenty of wines and will gladly inform you of his or her favorites. 
  • "Do You Have Any Deals Going On?" It doesn’t hurt to see where you can save some cash. Many stores will hold sporadic sales and specials that give the best bang for your buck. For example, BevMo often holds 5-cent wine sales, where the price of the first bottle is sold at a regular, undiscounted price; while the second bottle will only set you back 5 cents. 
  • "Will This Wine Go Well With...?" If you are wine shopping for a particular occasion, make sure the wine will pair well with the food you are planning to serve or will be served elsewhere. A good wine and food match makes for a successful meal. 

Keep an open mind, as your palate may develop and change. After your preliminary wine shopping experience, try for something different when you return to the grocery store or wine specialty shop. There are numerous wine assortments, and you may even discover a new favorite.

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