When you don’t know a lot about wine going into the wine store can be daunting. Maybe you don’t want to ask for help because you think “What if they ask me questions I can’t answer and they discover I don’t know anything about wine!” So, you think “I’ll just pick the cheapest bottle of red or one with a pretty label, and be on my way.” We’re here to help you with your wine buying woes! Discovering what wines you like and what your options are can be made fairly simple with these wine buying tips.

 

Wine Buying Tip #1: Find a Wine Shop with Great Customer Service

Great Wine Shops are knowledgeable and have staff available who can guide your wine buying process with good recommendations.

We know you might be tempted to hit a grocery store or a cheap big chain in the hopes that nobody will talk to you or ask you questions so you don’t feel dumb. Don’t do it! You might not find your new favourite wine if you don’t actually talk to someone who works there. Start with your small local wine shop. We know that these small shops are the most daunting of all, but they are actually your best bet because they really care! They are dedicated to wine and the staff has the most vested interest in you loving the bottle you bought and coming back for more. Now, not all these shops are created equal, so find one where the staff is friendly, patient and makes you feel comfortable. Trust us, they do exist.

Questions to ask your wine store professional to help you find the right wine:

  • I’m having roasted chicken with a rosemary glaze for dinner what pairs best with that?
  • I’m ordering in Sushi tonight from Skip the Dishes. What wine should I be drinking?
  • It’s my bestie’s 25th Birthday — what should I bring over to celebrate?
  • I’m going to a dinner party and I need a wine that will impress them without having to take out another mortgage on my house. What do you suggest?
  • I need a gift for my boss and I have no idea if she likes wine or not. Is there something sorta normal that everyone likes?

Asking honest questions is the best way to go. Don’t be something you’re not — if you know a little about wine, be direct. If you’re completely clueless, that’s okay too, but you want to make sure the person helping you has as much info as you can give. If they take the time show you, give you several options and offer explanations for your choices then you’ve made the right choice in wine store.

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Bin 905 in Calgary, Alberta offers great customer service and expertise. Image Source: Bin905

 

Wine Buying Tip #2: Ask Questions About Wine to Expand your Knowledge and Palate

As you continue going back to the same store, you will get to know them and they will get to know you. Once you’ve created a bond of trust and loyalty, you are almost guaranteed a great bottle every time. Becoming a loyal customer also helps the staff learn your preferences. As you get more comfortable at the store and with your preferences.

Here are a few sample questions you can ask your wine store professional in order to dig a little deeper and gain some knowledge:

  • I wanna try something new that I’ve never heard of before! I usually drink Malbec — is there something similar that will get me out of my comfort zone?
  • What’s new in the store that people are talking about?
  • What kind of wine do you like to drink?
  • What’s trending in the wine industry that might be fun to try?
  • Do you have a wine for around $20 that tastes like it costs twice as much?
  • What wine region is hot right now?

Wine store professionals who are passionate about wine, really do love to answer your questions. The more you engage with them, the more they get to talk about their expertise. This way, not only will you make great wine buying choices, but you’ll get to learn something, too.

 

Wine Buying Tip #3: Be Honest About Your Wine Budget

Nobody likes to talk about money, but you don’t want to spend more than you can afford and you also don’t want to waste your time or anyone else’s time looking at wines that you either can’t afford or just don’t feel like spending the money on. The opposite is also true. Maybe you’re looking for something special and you don’t want bargain basement, mass produced cheap wine shown to you as an option.

Here are some budget-friendly questions you can ask in order to narrow down your wine choices:

  • I like bold reds, and I’d like to keep the price between $20-25
  • I want as much bang for my buck as possible tonight. Is there a wine that you’d suggest for under $15 that will still be a hit?
  • This weekend is a special occasion. I’m looking for a sparkling wine that has a nice looking bottle and tastes like Champagne but I’m on a budget, so I’m hoping you can show me something under $40.
  • I’m looking more for a value wine, not a premium brand.Wine professionals should be able to answer all of these questions and more for you without judgement. There are plenty of fantastic wines that won’t bust your budget. Just because a wine is in your budget doesn’t mean it’s cheap or bad. There are some absolutely fabulous, affordable wines out there because, like us at Just Wine, a lot of wineries believe that wine should be accessible for all to enjoy. Many of the great wineries make several lines of varying price points for exactly this reason.

 

Wine Buying Tip #4: Buy Local Wine

Find the right wine for you by sticking close to home and supporting local business.

If you are lucky enough to have a local winery, then please go check them out. They are a wealth of knowledge and take pride if what they create. Not sure if there’s a winery near you? Here’s how to find them on Just Wine. Buying local supports local businesses and the local economy which is something we can all feel good about. You may be able to find a cheaper wine from another country or region, but there are long-term benefits of supporting your local businesses. Sampling wines at your local winery is also a great way to learn about wine and expand your palate.

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Wine Tasting Room at Mission Hill in Okanagan Valley, BC. Image Source: BCWI

 

Wine Buying Tip #6: It’s Not Just About Points and Wine Scores

You are your own best wine judge, so choose wine styles, not just points.

Yes, points and awards are great, but enjoying a wine is subjective. Just because a wine has won awards or received a 95 point rating doesn’t necessarily mean you will like it. What it means is that style of wine may be of superior quality, but if you don’t particularly like that style of wine, you won’t enjoy it no matter how many points it has. There are some people who only drink wines above 90 points (in a 100 point system), but that’s really limiting. Besides, there’s a sweet spot for wines around 88-89 points that the critics may have overlooked! If you’re going to read the points, make sure you also read the descriptions or ask a store professional. Just don’t let wine scores be your only qualification for choosing a wine. You could miss out on some really great wines. Sometimes you can learn from the greats, but remember you are your own best wine judge.

 

Wine Buying Tip #7: Join a Wine Club

In order to find the right wine styles for you, sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone.

Wine Clubs give you an opportunity to try new wines every month. This will really help you understand what you like and learn to express it too. You can find wine clubs at wineries and wine stores. Some wine clubs give the same wines to each member, regardless of their preferences. The advantage to this type of wine club is it forces you to get out of your comfort zone and try something you normally might not. Other wine clubs offer a more personal touch with options for different styles. For example, if you prefer white wines over red you will only receive white wines in your monthly selections. If you like an even mix of red and white, that’s what you’ll get. Still others offer a completely customized service where a sommelier will get a profile on you and chose wines based on that profile. Often wine clubs will also have exclusive wine tasting events for its members to enjoy. These tasting events will also allow you to learn more about wine as well as your likes and dislikes.

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Wine Tasting Event at Hester Creek Winery. Image Source: BCWI

 

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