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Jan 15, 2011 10:16 PM

Tell the Truth... How Do You Choose A New Wine To Drink TONIGHT?

Let's say you're going to be buying a bottle or two of wine to serve at home this evening, with or without food. Let's say that your selection will be made at either a grocery store or wine shop. Let's say further that--if you're drinking with food--you're picking from among a number of wines of the same varietal(s) or blend(s) that will pair well, and that you will be choosing a wine you have not tried before. For purposes of this question, ignore red/white and the specific varietals.

Do you pick by:
(A) The label's eye pop or shelf placement;
(B) Your recognition of the maker;
(C) The pricepoint;
(D) The shelf tag's display of a critic's rating or sensory description;
(E) The country/state/AVA of origin;
(F) Asking the staff for a recommendation;
(G) Referring to a published review; or
(H) Something else?

Now, here's the tricky part.... After you answer for YOURSELF, how do you think YOUR answers differ from average American wine drinkers?

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  1. I wrote a long answer, and hit the back button and lost it all !!! ( not really... but I did hit the back button ...)

    AFAIK, most people will go in the store, ask for recomendation in the price range they have and will be happy with what they get; unless the wine is really bad, they will not change.

    Most people do not care about producers, ratings (ok, maybe a little bit), origin, reviews ...

    Personally, I tend to buy wine that fit what I like (wine style) and ask for suggestions to expend my horizons (either style-wise or country-wise).


    1. If I am not on a "mission" resulting from my own research for something particular...
      then I go by country first, then read the sensory descriptions that I think would suit my mood and food for the night.

      My daughter (in her mid 20's) grew up with wine collecting parents and family and has had world class wine. BUT, she loves all wine, is a poor college student and shops at Trader Joes. She shops by price point first, then country, then eye pop. If she sees $3.99 per bottle on a TJ end cap...her cart is hovering in front of it. I think she is typical of the young wino's.

      1. Since my regular price point is less than $20, I rely on eye pop and I am a sucker for clever names and or logos. Studious French labels with lots of info make me feel like I'm going to latin class and my eyes glaze over. Seven Deadly Zins will get me everytime. I don't advise this for others and I don't just buy silly names, But if I am free styling the purchase for a simple dinner at home, then it's Caberneighs.

        4 Replies
        1. re: budnball

          I do exactly the same thing, and you know what? Mommy's Time Out is a very decent, drinkable wine.

          1. re: budnball

            I avoid cutesy names, critters, and "interesting" bottles as a matter of principle. Life is too short to drink wine from silly bottles! Yeah, many of the wines inside are fine, but there is lots of great wine with inoffensive packaging.

            When faced with unfamiliar producers, I usually look for wines and regions that have more consistent quality and value--I don't mind have ordinary wine as long as I don't pay too much for it. But no $50 bottles of indifferent Burgundy, please.

            1. re: zamorski

              I dunno -- I guess I've never purchased a bottle of "indifferent Burgundy" -- any color, any price . . .

              1. re: zin1953

                zin: LOL, I wasn't planning on doing a PN in 2011, but if I do, you gave me the name!

          2. When I have a few bottles stored in the basement I pick one of those.

            If I go to a wine shop, the following apply. I'm not a strong devotee of pairing, as most of my cooking is vegetarian yet I prefer red wines usually. Many experts prefer whites with vegetarian food, but reds are what I like (I do like whites in hot weather or as a change of pace.)

            C. D (sorry to say it, but I do pay some attention to "ratings" and I'm trying to get away from that) and E. I do have to be concerned about price, especially for daily fare. Also my tastes are changing, and I'm picking up more OW style wines; my palate has gotten tired of the very fruity ones.

            1. It's not very often that I pick up a wine from a wine shop or grocery store, unless I suddenly realize I am out of Champagne, for example, or I am out of inexpensive wines and company is coming over soon.

              That said, following your instructions -- that I am choosing a wine for dinner tonight that will pair well with my meal, and it's a wine that I have never personally tried before . . .

              Typically I will be looking for an imported wine, and if I am completely unfamiliar with the specific wine, I will look to see who the importer is and make my selection based upon that. So I guess that's "H".

              If I am buying a domestic wine, it's usually from someone I know personally and/or used to work for. So I guess that is letter "B", though it's more than "recognition" and more friendship.

              Pricepoint? I do *not* set myself a price of (e.g.) $12 and will not go over that point. OTOH, I don't look at bottles that are $500, either, so -- sure -- price is ALWAYS involved to some degree or another. So that takes care of "C" -- I guess.

              The only time that "E" comes into play is that, I admit, there are times when I "feel" like having a bottle of __________ -- be that a Rhône, a Muscadet, a Gruner Veltliner, a Vinho Tinto Douro . . . .whatever. But if that's the case, and it's still a wine I am unfamiliar with, again -- I pick by importer, if I don't know the winemaker.

              As for "F", that only works in a very few stores. It certainly isn't something I do in the average store or market.

              That leaves "A", "D". and "G", and while I never want to say "never" -- it's too restrictive of an absolute -- I rarely if ever rely on "G", and *never* on "A" and "D".

              / / / / /

              >>> Now, here's the tricky part.... After you answer for YOURSELF, how do you think YOUR answers differ from average American wine drinkers? <<<

              I am certainly NOT the average American wine drinker -- not after spending 35 years in the wine trade. But the average American wine drinker is DEFINITELY influenced by "A", "C", and "D". More "serious" wine drinkers -- and these are people I would not describe as average -- are influenced, in some cases heavily, by "G".


              8 Replies
              1. re: zin1953

                zin1953: Thank you.

                I hadn't thought of discriminating by importers, but I can see the utility. Can you share the names of some importers you look for?

                1. re: kaleokahu

                  It depends upon the sort of wine I am looking for . . . certain importers focus on certain regions.

                  That said, in alphabetical order:
                  Broadbent Selections
                  Jorge Ordonez
                  Kermit Lynch Wine Imports
                  Kysela Pere et Fils
                  Louis/Dressner Selections
                  North Berkeley Imports
                  Robert Kacher Selections
                  Terry Theise Selections

                  . . . among others.


                    1. re: zin1953

                      Add Peter Weygandt and, often, Domaine Select, to your list :)

                      1. re: Shooley

                        It's not a question of "adding them to my list." I was asked what importers I look for, and I mentioned some. Peter Weygandt is a very good importer, yet many of his wines are very difficult to find in the California marketplace. The same with Eric Solomon or Neal Rosenthal. Their wines can be quite good, but are often difficult to find here -- ergo, I don't really look for them.

                        Nor, for example, do I want to imply -- and forgive me for not making this clear before -- that EVERY wine in __________'s portfolio is good. For example, when to comes to the Loire and to Beaujolais, I really like what Louis/Dressner brings in, but I'm not in love with his wines from Champagne, the Southwest, Provence, or (with a few notable exceptions) his Italians.

                        OTOH, I love Terry Theise's Champagne producers and Austrian wineries. Kysela? Mostly his Burgundies, Rhônes, and Languedocs -- not so much his Portuguese table wines (I prefer Diamond Wine Merchants and Broadbent Selections for those) ... and so on and so on and so on. EACH importer has his or her strengths.


                        1. re: zin1953

                          Nice reply zin1953! This is a useful and insightful information. Sort of like looking at the names of the producers or production companies for movies which I notice more and pay more attention to in recent past.

                          1. re: zin1953

                            Didn't mean to step on your toes... Naturally, you have to pick amongst the offerings of an importer, which I do everyday ordering wines for my shop. I agree with your comments re. Kysela, for the most part. I hosted a private Kysela tasting at my home and the wines they brought were amazing, many of which were not the same as what I carry in the shop. Recently I hosted another similar tasting with Weygandt wines, and my customers are still raving about Peter and the wines he brought to taste. As for how I choose what to drink on any given night, I go with B and E, usually, and consider importer when not at home. At home, I just walk down to our cellar and pick, also considering what's on the menu, of course.

                    2. re: zin1953

                      zin1953: I don't want to say "ditto," because there may be some variation in how I would choose, but you came mighty close/ As I read your comments, I kept thinking, "me, too!"

                      But I'm also not the "average American wine drinker." And I agree with your assessment of the AAWD.

                      A word of thought for some of the posters here who are just geting into wine. I find it extremely helpful to buy what I call "everyday" wines by the case. That almost always saves me from having to go through the "picking up a quick bottle" for an impromptu dinner.