Most wine store carry hundreds, if not thousands, of different wines. It’s often difficult just figuring out which words on the labels are the place and which are the grapes. With no way of knowing, there are a few tried and true methods to make sure your chosen bottle is not very good.
Choosing the wine with the cutest/funniest/best looking label
This is the big one, the way an overwhelming number of people choose their wine. Here’s the catch: Those great labels are usually slapped on by giant wine companies after extensive consumer testing. It’s a great trick to keep anyone from focusing too much on the juice inside the bottle. Once they have that winning label, the wine is poured from towering tanks and sugar added, water taken away, and a cocktail of powders, syrups, and the other 62 permitted additives allowed in wine are mixed in. A wine perfectly acceptable to as many people as possible is born. These wines are guaranteed to make sure you never utter wow after taking a sip. They are processed, commodified, disfigured and spit out of the giant metal plant that makes up the winery. After all, why should wine be made and treated any differently than soda or vodka? Unless of course, you are looking for something real, for the authentic, for something to take your mind away from Alexa and Siri, from your wearables and push buttons. Here’s a neat trick that works about 75% of the time. If the wine’s name is the name of a family or estate, it’s usually made by those people. For those willing to go the extra mile, look for the words “estate” or “produced by” in the fine print. That’s it. One of the easiest tricks for eliminating 90% of the wine that all tastes pretty much the same.
Buy Napa Cabernet Sauvignon
Everyone’s heard of Napa Valley. That’s where they make wine. Cabernet Sauvignon to be specific. Now I don’t have anything personally against Napa Cab. Sure, the wines are really expensive, and I have to admit that most of them taste like a wine milkshake, but in a good way. There are thousands of wine regions and wine grapes out there, much less expensive and made with a wild variety of different grapes, but those wines do not say Napa on them. Napa wines are so expensive, they must be the best. Are they the best? Who’s to say? (No, they most definitely are not. I said it.) It might, occasionally, just for research purposes, be interesting to look for something from a lesser known region or pick a grape with a hard to pronounce name. It might be likely, that whoever brought that wine from Austria into the store did so because it’s a great bottle of wine. One could surmise that the only reason to stock that Frappato is because it’s so delicious. After all, the wines from Napa sell themselves! Here’s another quick tip for the overachievers. If you find that Furmint from Slovenia utterly amazing, look at the back label for the importer. They probably bring in other wines that are equally wonderful.
Do Not Talk to The Wine Salesperson Standing in the Corner With a Notepad in one Hand and a Bottle of Wine in the Other
Sure, the odds are that person knows a lot about the wines in the store. I get it, there’s a good bet that said salesperson spends an extraordinary amount of their time thinking about wine. That is a little weird. However, it’s likely that they would love to share some of the thousands of hours of useless knowledge about wine with you, namely in quickly finding a bottle based on what you like and how much you would like to spend. It can be a bit odd, conversing with someone who works inside a building selling goods inside that building, who is desperate to find something that you will really like so that you come back to the store again instead of telling your phone to choose something and have it delivered. I do not mean to suggest that there is any sort of rewarding nature in such an interaction.
Buying the Cheapest or Most Expensive Bottle
The cheapest bottles in the store are almost always made by that large company that wants to suck your soul away. The most expensive bottle is made by a really rich guy who wants to tell his really rich friends that he makes a really expensive wine. There are many wines in between these two points. At that $10 – $15 price point are lots of neat wines full of flavors and that fit any occasion. Hit that $20 price point, and things can get really interesting. Unfortunately, there is almost no correlation between price and quality in wine. However, as you play with different price points, searching for a bottle from an interesting place, from a quality importer, chosen with help from your new wine geek friend, the odds of wine success do increase exponentially. Then again, that bottle with the koala and the funny wine pun is so damn cute!