Wine choosing. Quite possibly the largest deterrent to prospective wine buyers the industry has ever faced. To the untrained eye a diverse wine rack can be simultaneously one of most terrifying and intriguing experiences known to everyday consumerism. One glance at this loosely organized labyrinth of bottles evokes classic internal conversation: "Not in English, is that good or bad?" "This label is FUN!" "I’ve been to Santa Barbara..." And possibly the most toxic: "My Dad drinks this one..." Now, while oenophiles like myself can delight in spending as many hours in a wine aisle as that recently orphaned 12-year-old can spend at Guitar Center playing the intro to "Crazy Train" at arena volume, most folks have other shit to do. That is why I believe the most ironclad method for wine selection success is in fact, super easy — have somebody else do it.
Having worked on both the retail and wholesale side of the industry, I can assure you that the top wine purveyors are almost invariably run by or employ folks who know and love wine. The kind of place that relies on knowledge and passion, not just shelf-talkers and floor displays to move product. Now, even if you don't live in a recently gentrified neighborhood with a quaint red brick wine store on the corner where your dog is a celebrity because he's become hopelessly addicted to the complimentary home-made organic dog treats from the sassy girl with the koi fish tattoo, chances are there is still a store in your neighborhood that knows their stuff. And here, brothers and sisters, is how to find them:
1. Take a deep breath and walk into any respectable wine retailer, ditching your commercially programmed predilection for Oregon Pinot and proceed to tell the sales associate NOTHING whatsoever about your palate or wines you've enjoyed previously. Think of it like telling your mechanic your own car trouble diagnosis. Also, they’re going to ask you eventually anyway.
2. Tell them what you are having for dinner, and be specific. Don’t say “fish” if it’s smoked sea bass. Say smoked sea bass.
3. Provide your price range.
At this point the shop keeper will likely ask you a few general questions about your palate and/or preferences along with general diagnostic chit-chat (i.e. what kind of car do you drive, how do you take your coffee, etc.) Armed with this basic knowledge any wine merchant worth their salt will be able to handpick a solid recommendation based on said criteria. Now, should said merchant proceed to make no eye contact and walk you to an open box and say something to the effect of, "we sell a lot of this one,” it is time to move on. Continue repeating your newly learned sequence until someone firmly shakes your right hand, thanking you for your patronage while simultaneously handing you a confident pairing with their left. Chances are it won't take long.
Thanks for reading friends and neighbors, be sure to check back next week for more tipsy ramblings.
*for the record I have nothing against shelf talkers and floor displays, as they TOTALLY contribute to my paycheck every week.