Before you buy wine at a winery, wine shop or restaurant, consider the following pointers from the the experts.
Many wine distributors and retailers fail to handle and store wines properly. Sometimes the only way to buy wine that tastes the way the winemaker made it is to purchase it at the winery.
Small wineries have limited distribution and their wines may not be available in retail wine shops. The only way you can puchase these wines is at the winery or online through its website. Many wineries will only sell reserve or special wines at the winery or through their wine club.
Where will you store the wine before you get it home? In the summer a car trunk gets hot and stays hot, reaching temperatures that could be harmful to the wine. An insulated picnic cooler will keep it safe.
Occasionally, wineries will have special sales. This is particularly true of small wineries. If the winery has a mailing list or newsletter, sign up. It's an easy way to buy wine at the best price. Sometimes wineries with excess inventory (rare outside of California) will discount certain wines to make room for the next release. It pays to ask.
“Hand-crafted” wines are those made in small wineries where the winemaker takes a “hands-on” approach and creates a wine to his own taste, often from grapes grown and harvested under his personal supervision.
Vintages can be important, but not as often as we are lead to believe. It’s a European thing, and even then, for a relatively small number of releases. Most quality wines have the year of the harvest on the bottle wherever they were produced. On the other hand, if you buy wine for your cellar, the date gains in importance.
Dessert wines like Sauterne, Port and Muscat are expensive because they have been aged a long time. Sherry comes sweet or dry, so it is often served as a cocktail. With these wines, a little goes a long way.
Really expensive wines of any kind do not develop by chance. They are expensive to make and are made to be expensive. The winemaker takes the best of a lot and crafts it to be aged for years to bring out the very best the grape has to offer. Aging wine is hard on cash flow. The best wines from the best winemakers develop a loyal following of those who can afford such things.
Winemakers also give their wine unique names that reflect neither geographic origin nor the type of grape in the bottle. Wines with such names are called “proprietary wines”.
When you buy wine don't ignore "blends." Wines blended from several grapes can be more complex and taste better than single-grape or varietal wines, and they are usually less expensive.
“Reserve” usually means that the winemaker considers this wine to be better than the winery’s regular offerings. Or it may mean nothing at all.
The reason you buy wine is because it tastes good. It has flavor. Well-made wine has layers of flavors, and you have a wide choice of wines with different layers of flavors.
Look, Swirl. Smell. Taste. There’s a bit more to it than that. For a different approach to getting more taste for your money, click on How to Really Taste Wine
Why does a Beaujolais from California bear little resemblance to the taste of a Beaujolais from France? Well, in the first place, California and France have different laws about what can be printed on the label.
When you are standing in a wine shop trying to remember the name or label design of that wine you really enjoyed last week. you don't need to know international wine law, but you can benefit from understanding how wine labeling works. Get the label low-down at Reading Labels
What about wine clubs? For a complete run down on the pros and cons of joining one, see Wine Club.
If you enjoy wine with your meal, you are doubtless painfully aware of the prices of wine in restaurants. While restaurant food is usually marked up 250 percent in a good restaurant, wine is usually marked up 100 percent. If you are going to have only one glass of wine with your meal, order a premium wine. It’s usually a better deal.
You can insist on your wine being served at the proper temperature in sparkling clean appropriate glassware.
If you are brought a wine that has gone bad (doesn't smell or taste good), any restaurant should gladly take it back. If the fruit aroma and flavor is gone and the color fades in a red wine, it’s too old. Brown color or vinegary taste suggests improper storage. A white wine that is brownish or tastes burnt is too old.
In a good restaurant, wine as good as the food will cost about twice the price of the average entrée. Tip as a percentage of the whole bill, with perhaps an extra $5 to the wine steward or server for a great recommendation.
Most wineries in Colorado produce fewer than 2,000 cases a year, not enough for a distributor to bother with. The tasting room is a way for these wineries to provide samples of their products for you to taste, hoping you will like something well enough to buy a bottle, or two. For more information on this wine hunter’s ritual, see Tasting Room Etiquette
All the Best Wines offers more useful information for those with a limited knowledge of wine, plus links to other interesting and informative wine web sites.