We here at Winerabble are constantly on a journey of discovery. We seek out new wines to try, new AVAs to explore and how the harvest years differ from each other. We are always on the lookout for great deals on wine-for us there is nothing like discovering a hidden gem at a great price. Finding a “secret” wine is always fun for us because we are finding something perhaps over-looked or not well known and it’s our secret. A diamond in the rough if you will. But in order to find these mystery wines you need to know how to shop.
Wine shopping for me is an intellectually interesting experience. It tests my knowledge of wines and what areas I am familiar with and those I don’t. I know a bit about Italian wines but I am no sommelier. I know that I prefer Washington wines and the phrase “Horse Heaven Hills” is a sign of quality to me. So here are a few tips to use the next time you go to your grocery store or wine shop:
Your cell phone has a camera-use it!
You have tasted a wine and liked it quite a bit so you head to the local market to see if they carry it. Do you remember the name? What varietal it was? Red or white? Where was it from? If you take a picture of the label with your phone then you have a handy reference for the wine clerk to help you.
Take or keep notes
If you go wine tasting, either take notes yourself on a wine diary (wineries sell these) or take the printed tasting notes most wineries provide for you. If you don’t feel like carrying a pen and paper, use the note section on your cell phone. This way you have all the info you need to find this wine again in your town.
Whenever the Rabblers go tasting we ask the same question: “Where can we get your wines in (insert your city/town here)?” Many independent or smaller wineries may be far from the nearest metro area and may not have the resources to distribute their wines very far. So it may be a case of only being able to purchase their wine at their winery and nowhere else. Going into your local market and asking for a wine they can’t get you is frustrating to you because you don’t get your wine, but also for the merchant because they are losing a sale. If possible, find out in advance if you can get that wine in your town. If you can’t, stock up while you’re at the winery.
Ask more questions!
The wine steward at your store knows what they are selling so ask them for any tips or suggestions. The folks who do this job are knowledgeable but they also love wine and love to talk about it so tell them what you are looking for. But try to have as much information as possible if you are looking for a specific wine. It can be frustrating for a steward to flail about trying to find a wine that only exists in bits and pieces in your memory. They are there to help you and they can only help if you give them enough information to go on. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Be open minded
Be open-minded about different varietals. Try new things. If you “don’t drink whites,” talk to your steward and ask them for a good Pinot blanc to try out. Try wines from different parts of the world. Sure the Northwest/California/France/Spain/Italy are all well known for good wines but Australia, Chile, Lebanon, Germany, Argentina and Croatia (to name just a few) all make fine wines as well. Wine is made all over the world- do a little globe trekking.
Have a broad perspective on where to shop as well. You may have a wine shop that you like to shop at but try the local grocery store or perhaps a smaller local market. As I mentioned above, the Rabblers have had luck finding some screaming deals on great wine at stores we would not normally shop. Give the “other” guys a shot once in a while.
Do not be intimidated
Don’t let anyone tell you what YOU like. Don’t feel pressured to buy wine you can’t afford just so you don’t look “cheap.” Don’t buy wine you don’t want just because the steward or clerk suggested it. Wine is a complex yet interesting world and no one knows everything. There are no dumb questions. If you want information to make a good choice then ask for it. It’s all about learning and enjoying.
Keep these tips in mind the next time you go shopping. If you are looking for something specific, then have as much information about that wine handy so you can find it. If you are just shopping for whatever strikes your fancy, ask questions. But most importantly use the knowledge you’ve built up over time while tasting and shopping to help you have a more fruitful and pleasurable buying experience.