How to Shop for Wine (Without Sounding Like a Dick)
For previous posts in our "how-to wine" series, please click here.
Photo by Jeremy Parzen Shopping for wine can be a stressful experience. It doesn't have to be. And it shouldn't be.
Like so many women and men across America, hundreds of Houstonians will head to their neighborhood wine shop today to pick up a special bottle of wine for a Valentine's Day dinner.
For some of them, it will be an extremely stressful experience. Sadly, most Americans shop for wine only a few times a year, and when they do, they usually invest their entire focus on a single bottle for a single occasion.
There is a lot riding on that bottle: What if it doesn't go with the food I'm preparing? What if it's spoiled? What if I paid too much? What if I spent too little? What if my lover doesn't love it?
Even sadder is the fact that the stress of buying wine for Valentine's Day (or any holiday, for that matter) often brings out the "not my best day" in a lot of folks.
The following rules of thumb are by no means the Ten Commandments of wine shopping. But they can serve as some general guidelines for how to shop for wine (without sounding like a dick).
Remember that the word salesperson contains the word person.
Photo by Jeremy Parzen Wine salespersons are people, too. Antonio Gianola, buyer and retailer at the Houston Wine Merchant, is one of our city's leading wine professionals, and he's also a regular guy who happens to love wine.
I highly recommend this post by one of my favorite West Coast wine bloggers, Samantha Sans Dosage, who runs one of the best wine retail programs in Southern California. Her blog is smart, sassy and sexy, and this rant -- posted during the run-up to Christmas 2013 -- offers some hilarious insights into what it feels like to be on the other side of the counter.
When told flatly that "friends don't let friends drink White Zinfandel," Samantha counters, "Friends don't judge; let them drink what they want. Dammit."
Do your homework.
Ten years ago, there were only a handful of wine guide publications, like the Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate. You had to be a subscriber or pick one up at the newsstand if you wanted to take advantage of their editors' wine knowledge. Today, those pioneering mastheads have superb web portals that allow you to browse thousands of tasting notes at the tip of your fingers.
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