Navigating The Wine Aisle

The wine aisle can be an overwhelming place, with rack upon rack of choices. You can turn wine-shopping into an enjoyable outing rather than an anxiety-inducing chore, if you put just a little bit of prep work into it by learning what you are and aren’t looking for in a wine – other than a pretty label.

How to Select the Best Wine for You

The most important place to start if you want to reduce the confusion surrounding buying wine is with learning what you really like. Unless you’re buying wine as a gift for someone you want to impress, nothing is as important as having some idea what you enjoy in a wine. Do you enjoy a dry wine? Are you a sucker for fruity notes? Or do you like a distinct oaky flavor? Although eating out presents some great opportunities to order and try new wines, there’s no need to spend a bundle at restaurants to widen your wine horizons. If you live in an urban area, you may be able to find a wine bar where you can experience a range of options. Better yet, stores that sell wine will often host tastings, offering samples as you shop. Take advantage of these opportunities to really think about what you like and why, and then make a note of it somewhere—perhaps in a notebook in your purse, or in a file on your smart phone.

It’s nice to have a short list of three or four wines that you know you really enjoy, but you may not always find your label on the shelves, or you might want to change things up occasionally. If you have been paying attention, not only to the names of wines you like, but also to the qualities that make them enjoyable, then you are in good shape to ask for some recommendations from friends or store employees. Some of the flavors you like may be associated with a particular varietal, and this will allow a wine specialist to recommend wines from other regions that use the same varietals. The goal is not to find identical wines – no two wines are identical anyhow – but to find related wines with their own characters.

Finding Purpose in Your Wine

If the wine aisle is staffed by someone who seems to know as little as you do, there are a few other things you can look for while browsing the wine aisle, which will at least keep you from spending your wine budget on something disagreeable. You can check the label on each bottle – not for fancy logos, but for awards. While a prize-winning wine is not guaranteed to be to your personal taste, it is at least likely to be palatable. It’s also good to keep in mind that older isn’t better, unless you’re dishing out big bucks for high-quality aged vintages. Modern wineries produce wines that are meant to be drunk within a couple of years—one to two years for whites, and two to three years for reds. With these tips, and a bit of wine tasting experience, you can enter the wine aisle with a bit more purpose and better success.

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