January 20, 2018

5 Tips for Buying Wine

Having studied wine more than most people, I know many of the little tricks used to get you to part with your dollar and pour the beverage down your throat.

Some of the choices I see customers make in their selections are head scratchers to me. I know to each his own, and that people have different tastes, but there are several general recommendations I would give people when making their selections so they get the best value for their money and aren’t stuck merely with something to drink, but rather a beverage to enjoy.

I’ve decided to pass along a few tips and tricks in making your wine selections as someone that knows the industry as a professional.


Tip #1 – DON’T buy cheap Pinot Noir. This is a finicky grape. It’s hard to grow, it’s temperamental, and it requires all sorts of attention in the winery. In short, this wine is a high maintenance woman that will let you know when she doesn’t get her way. Pinot Noir just does not lend itself to being done as large scale, inexpensive production and you’ll notice more quality difference here than any other wine. You may find a few gems here and there for around $7, but for the most part decent quality really starts about $12-$15 per bottle.

Also, buy from wineries that specialize in Pinot Noir. While your large scale commercial wineries do produce a fine bottle, the best Pinot really comes from those who obsess over it versus those who include it in their portfolio.

Tip #2 – DO buy cheap Chardonnay. I really don’t understand the people that cough up $50+ per bottle for what really is a ho-hum grape. Chardonnay is a weed that grows just about anywhere and produces what really is non-distinct fruit versus most other varieties. Most of the character of Chardonnay is a result of two things: was it grown somewhere warm or cold, and did the winemaker give it a heavy oak treatment with ML fermentation or not. If it’s cold climate it tends towards crisp apple and citrus fruit flavors. If it’s warm climate it tends towards ripe apple and tropical fruit flavors. If you give it full barrel treatment it gets buttery and woody, otherwise it stays light and fruity. In the exact opposite reality of Pinot Noir, there are extensive quality Chardonnay options available for not much money. Just experiment and find several you like.

Tip #3 – The furry little creatures are not the best value. Yes, they’re popular, but so was Vanilla Ice, and nobody accuses him of musical genius. While they may not be bad, most of these are average wines at best, and there are better value options out there. If you want bang for the buck, go with developing or renovating wine regions and less common grapes. South America has been the best value of late, but is starting to lose a little luster. Spanish, Portuguese, and Eastern European wines have been coming on strong meanwhile, and some excellent bargains can be found. Don’t be afraid to drink something other than Cab, Merlot, or Chard either. Malbec, Carménère, Tempranillo, and Touriga Nacional make great wines from Argentina, Chile, Spain, and Portugal, respectively. While the furry creatures may dominate Australian labels, even the Aussies put out many fine, inexpensive labels that I would recommend instead.

Tip #4 – You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get excellent wines. If you’re paying $20 for a bottle, you should expect a very good bottle. People’s sense of price is a little skewed, mostly because Napa controls the domestic market for premium wines, and they charge outrageous prices in many cases because land, showroom wineries, and taxes are all ridiculously high priced in Northern California.

Tip #5 – Understand that point scores are just the opinion of the person scoring the wine. Do you really think a wine scored 91 is that much better than one scored 89? When it comes to critics, you have to learn what they like and don’t like and adjust accordingly. Robert Parker likes big, fat, over-the-top wines. If you don’t like those, you won’t like Parker’s favorites. Satisfy your palate with your dollars, not some critic’s.

There are many more tips it would behoove the average consumer to know. These five are good bread and butter basics, though, that should bring many happy bottles your way. Just remember, whatever your choice, please enjoy responsibly.

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