Random Tasting But Purposeful Purchases

October 11, 2013


A lot of the wine that we drink is random. A friend fills our glass at a dinner party. A server suggests a wine with or without our input. A label jumps out at us on a shelf. We have a smart phone application that suggests a purchase. We follow scores. Clearly, the attractive label is the least reliable way to fill our glasses because it can easily deceive. And like the clever label, the smart phone app and scores can be unreliable because they recommend a purchase without a tasting. The wines that we can actually taste first present the best opportunity for future enjoyment, but only when we take advantage of the introduction.

Just to give the other side its due, I have a niece, a teacher in San Francisco, who will buy any Italian Pinot Grigio under $10 at her corner market and says she is never disappointed. Of course, she lives in San Francisco where competition among wines is fierce. Corner stores in other locations may not offer similar quality. I have a friend who is religiously dedicated to Cabernet. Any Cabernet, any place, and price, any menu, and he’s happy. We all know people who buy scores. Any wine awarded 90 points by any entity makes them happy. But another friend, who drinks mainly California Zinfandel admits that he is sometimes disappointed with a purchase because Zin, like any other varietal wine, comes in many styles and guises, some of them not palatable to him, regardless of price.

Ultimately tasting before purchase is the only way to insure that the wines we drink in our own homes will always be enjoyable, but we need to take advantage of the knowledge and buy multiple bottles. So how do we transform a tasty introduction into a purchase of multiple bottles? Like everything else, drinking well requires a little time, attention, and money. But it doesn’t have to be the equivalent of a part-time job.

Obviously, you can go back to the same store if you got lucky on a shelf-pick although the wine may be gone the next time you visit, especially if it came from a smaller winery. So you’ll need to write the name of the producer somewhere that you can find later.
If it’s a Californian wine, then your task is easy. You Google the winery name, send an email, and order a case. If the laws in your state make that choice difficult or impossible, you can ask the winery where to buy the wine locally. Assuming that you discovered it on your home turf, you know that the winery distributes in your area.

But if you are an equal opportunity wine drinker and appreciate world wines, the back label becomes essential reading material if you want more of the wine. The front label can be extremely puzzling. In a foreign language, the name of the winery, the name of the wine, the region where the wine is produced, what grape varieties might be in the bottle are often impossible to understand.

Behold! The back label has one line of information in English that is easily found. The law requires that the name of the importer be written there, so you can Google the company. The importer won’t be able to ship to you but will be happy to tell you where you can find the wine in your state. At that point, you can show up at the wine shop or ask it to ship to you if its location is too remote to be convenient.

I would be remiss if not stupid, to ignore the tasting opportunities that Celebrations Wine Club offers. You do not directly taste the wines before they arrive on your porch, but you’re paying me to do that for you. Those that you especially prefer you can order at lower prices than you’ll ever find at the winey or in shops. Simple. And certainly the easiest way to fill your glass well all the time. Enjoy!

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