A very common question I get is how to choose a wine when there are so many options. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the seemingly unending varietals, vintages, and difficult to pronounce names. Over the years, I’ve attempted to demystify wine culture with Wine Library TV (I think I did a pretty good job) and I will now offer some tips on how to make the process a little easier for you.
But first, let me state that there are two wine purchasing behaviors that crush my soul. The first is buying wine based on how pretty the label is. The second behavior that crushes my soul is buying wine just because the shelf talker (the little sign on the shelf that describes the wine) says “90 points” on it and then some wine expert’s name after it. I’ll admit, if you ever visit Wine Library, we put up these shelf talkers all the time. Why? Because it sells wine. But I’d be lying if I thought that was the best and only way to choose wine.
1. Create a Relationship With Your Local Wine Expert
The best way to become an informed wine consumer is to start forming a relationship with your local wine shop or wine person. Speaking to them about your tastes will help both of you understand what you’re looking for and which wines will best fit your palate. You’ll learn a lot about your personal tastes and preferences over time. This tactic is a no-brainer when it comes to shopping at your local wine shop because you’ll have someone you can rely on to help you find what suits your needs.
2. Be a Practitioner: Taste and Try Everything
Even if you don’t have a wine expert you can jam with, the next best move is to really learn your palate on your own by trying a different varietal each time you want to pick up a bottle. Trying new varietals, vintages, and styles is always a great way to go and will allow to you to build context around what may or may not work for you. Have you tried a Gerwurtztraminer, or a Marsanne, or a Roussanne, or a Gruner Veltliner, or a Lagrein, or Cornas yet? There is no substitute for actually experiencing the various options out there other than just pouring a glass and tasting it. Don’t rely on what a wine magazine or catalogue has to say, go out and develop your own palate.
Tasting wine doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. Here’s the thing, a higher price does not always equal a higher quality wine. Depending on where you live, there are often local wine tastings and events (Check out localwinevents.com). If you’re budget conscious, I can easily recommend great bottles of wine at $12–15 for every day of the year. Need some help? Tweet me (@garyvee).
If you’re worried you’re going to try something you don’t like, remember that this is really no different than the advice I give about social media platforms. Just like you have to be a practitioner to understand if a platform works for your brand, you have to try new wines to understand what works for your palate. Don’t be a headline or shelf-talker reader. There is massive value in trying something and creating context for yourself. So, build a relationship with your closest wine expert and try everything you can!