Authors Note: For the next few weeks I’ll be taking care of some health issues. I plan to continue the column during that period. Some columns, like this one below, will be a revisit to something I wrote in my first or second year. I’ll always label previously publish columns for my readers.
It’s time to get out of the supermarket and into the wine shop.
There are good wine shops near wherever you live. You have to get away from grocery store wine – that wine has soured many potential wine drinkers. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that for only a few dollars more, you can be drinking better wine.
I’ve been paying a lot of attention to wine prices at the local market and notice they’re creeping up. They are increasing because more people are buying value wine and often end up less than satisfied but don’t know any better. They’re not getting any help. But you can go to a wine shop and buy substantially better wine at an equal or minimally higher price because the market is so competitive once you get out of the grocery.
Smaller wineries cannot afford the marketing and often don’t have the product to supply major grocery chains so they work with smaller distributors and stock the shelves of wine shops.
So let’s go to the wine shop.
Start thinking more about wine when you drink it. What were the characteristics you enjoyed? Do you want something smooth and mild on the palate or do you want a big mouthful of flavor. Do like a little acid on the finish or do you like the tannins (that slight bitterness) which helps balance the strong flavors of big-tasting food?
The most important thing in finding a shop isn’t its inventory or how pretty the shop appears. You need to meet the wine shop proprietor or the shops sales people and have a nice long chat. The biggest wine novice mistake is the fear of asking a stupid question or worrying about their wine knowledge.
This is the way I buy wine. I have about four or five stores I buy wine from regularly. I trust my knowledge but almost always take home a bottle or two recommended by the shop owner.
And now a few words about labels and those nifty little tasting notes some shops put up beneath some or all bottles. For the most part, those can be helpful. But remember, the description on the bottle is part of the winery’s marketing.
The notes in the wine shops might come from one of the big wine review publications like Wine Spectator or Wine Advocate. Some shops do their own notes, those are the places I might be more inclined to trust.
Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes every other week about value wine for more than 20 Indiana newspapers.