How to Find the Right Wine at the Store

by Daniel Frigeri

Wine stores can be intimidating

But with some basic knowledge, you can help find what you're looking for with ease

Walking into any wine store and knowing how to navigate those endless rows of bottles can be a superpower. After all, knowledge is power, and the more wine you drink the more power you get; not too bad!

The first step to eliminating any wine store anxiety is knowing your palate and which wines your palate likes. Do you like a more dry, acidic, and bright white? I know I do, but what if you can’t remember that amazing white wine from that cool local wine store? You can easily ask the store wine steward for help. Or you can do some simple deductive analysis, incorporating even the most basic of wine knowledge to help narrow it down.

If it was a Chardonnay, it probably wasn’t from California, for instance, as those Chardonnays are often aged a bit in oak barrels, offering a creamy almost buttery texture to the wine. It would most likely be from the Old World, like France or Italy, where those wine-growing regions don’t typically age in strong New World oak which means it will be crisper and lighter.

In France, a special place that offers these white wine profiles we’re looking for would be the Loire Valley where lots of Sauvignon Blanc and Vouvray (Chenin Blanc) are made. In Italy, you’ll find some affordable and delightfully crisp whites like Pinot Grigio. In Spain, where oysters’ best friend comes from, you’ll find Alberino. 

Honing in on that regional familiarity will turn those endless rows of wine into fun little book tabs to shuffle through, getting you closer and closer to that desired bottle. Now what if you’ve always loved white wine but had an amazing red last night that your friend brought over. It had a heavy, strong tannin structure and was relatively high in ABV and had a dark hue. A comfortable place to start this search is in the world of Cabernet Sauvignon or an Italian Nebbiolo.

Firstly, nearly every wine growing region in the world offers some sort of bold red wine but not every region is alike in specific wine characteristics. The wine last night tasted like ripe, jam-like red fruit with notes of cedar and tobacco on the nose and on the finish.

California reds are famous for high-quality, new-world, oak-aged red wines that are velvety in texture. A French cabernet will be found in Bordeaux, where the wine tastes like black currants and ripe plums with a finish reminiscent of wet gravel or lead. Robust Italian reds will have distinct notes of cured meats like prosciutto or salami with pleasurable tannins and sweet tobacco to wash it all down. 

There is a vast world of different wines out there with endless flavors! So, do not feel discouraged if you can’t quite remember what wine you had last week or the night before. Knowing which kinds of wine you like is the biggest step to turning those rows and rows of bottles into a fun cultural encyclopedia filled with yummy fruits and beautiful terroir.

 



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