Wine shops can easily be your favorite or least favorite place to be – they’re filled with almost endless shelves of bottles which you probably don’t know much about. For some, it’s a magical library of booze, and for others walking in can be an intimidating experience. We’ve got five tricks to getting the most out of your local wine shop:
1) Make sure you’re visiting a quality store.
Are the bottles dusty? Is the store too hot or too cold? Are a majority of the bottles lying down or standing up?
All of these are ways to determine the quality of care the shop gives to its products. Wines that are stored at either too warm or too cool a temperature can turn. Likewise, a deep layer of dust on a bottle can signify that the bottle has been on the shelf for a long time without being moved. With most wines, especially finer wines that are sold less frequently, you’ll want to see them laying on their side so that their cork is in contact with the wine. This ensures that the cork won’t dry out and ruin the wine.
2) Ask questions.
Any good wine shop will be staffed with people whose job it is to help you chose the best wine for you. Sometimes it can be hard to admit that you don’t know a lot about wine, but this is the perfect time to let a staff member teach you. Use them as a sounding board: ask them questions, tell them what meal you plan to pair the wine with, tell that wines you’ve liked or disliked in the past. If you have a photo of a bottle you liked in the past, they can find it for you again or suggest something similar. The employees at your local wine shops are your guides; they’re more focused on giving you a good experience and earning your repeat business than up-selling you on an expensive bottle.
3) Be upfront about your budget.
A good wine shop will be stocked with quality wines at every price point. There is nothing wrong with purchasing a wine for $10, and, as we said before, the staff at your local wine shop is more concerned with repeat business than up-selling, so they’ll be happy to find a $10 that suits your needs. All too often, guests will come in a wine shop asking for a bottle that’s not “too expensive”, but that’s a very subjective guideline. Being upfront about your wine budget allows the person helping you to both stay on budget and to not waste your time with bottles that are out of your price range. Remember, a wine shop is a judgment-free zone – we don’t care how much your bottle of wine costs as long as you’re satisfied with your experience.
4) Be open to new things.
A good wine shop’s inventory is constantly changing, with new things from all over the world arriving weekly. Don’t be afraid to try something new that catches your eye. Maybe it’s an unfamiliar grape, such as a grenache or a carménère, or perhaps it’ll be a familiar grape from a new place such as a Chilean chardonnay or an Australian cabernet. Trying new things is a great way to broaden your horizons and deepen your knowledge of wine.
5) Get social.
Not all wine shops are created equal!
Like most stores, your local wine shop will have an active social media presence, a website, and email newsletter. These are great ways to stay up to date on sales and promotions as well as in-store events and tastings.