Jeff Flowers on January 7, 2015 4 Comments Purchasing wine is always an exciting event, especially when you are new to the scene. Any savvy shopper can recall that feeling of sheer exhilaration that stems from not knowing quite what you are going to get. For beginners, it’s about choosing whether to go with white or red, while novice shoppers tend to dance around the differences between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Finally, there are the true connoisseurs who relish in the interpretation of body, age, and everything in between. If you are wondering what any of those things mean, consider a few of these wine buying tips before your next acquisition. 1. Learn Common Wine Styles and Discover Your Tastes When it comes to wine, a little education goes a long way. At the very least, you should understand the main differences between whites and reds. Then, read about the characteristics of each of the main grape categories. If you fancy sweeter flavors, hone in on sparkling wines and common dessert varieties. If you want a more full-bodied or dry flavor, go for darker reds. Keep in mind that no two manufactures make wine the same, so you might end up favoring a particular producer. 2. Learn How to Pair Wine with Food Knowing a few pairing methods is a great way to learn about different types of wine and discover where your preferences lie. Champagne complements salty dishes while a Pinot noir works well with earthy flavors. Whether you eat a lot of fish or bake a lot of sweets, your wine experiences will be a much more enjoyable experience if you learn how to pair different flavors. 3. Download a Wine App Just like every other product on the market, wine follows technology. Take advantage of one of the many wine-related smartphone apps available to you. These resources provide an abundance of useful information as well as great tips for your specific event or preference. Also, don’t be afraid to open these up while you’re browsing in the store. It can be one of the most vital tools when you are standing in front of those intimidating shelves filled with hundreds of different brands. 4. Know How to Read a Label Wine labels are surprisingly simple, so take a minute to learn the ins and outs. In America, all bottles must include the producer, brand name, alcohol content, net content, sulfite declaration, and a government warning. Most bottles will also indicate the type of wine. You will find that many producers include useful extras like origin information, special color or flavor designations, and even food pairing suggestions. Taking the time to read a wine label before you buy it can provide you with the much-needed bits of insight required to pick the perfect bottle. It only takes a few seconds! 5. Plan Ahead Once you have acquired some basic knowledge, make sure you have a plan before heading to the store. Contrary to popular belief, spontaneous purchases are often discouraged, especially if you’re paying top dollar. Whether you are planning a large get-together or an intimate family dinner, decide what you want and stick to your plan. 6. Take Advantage of Samples Having a plan does not mean you can’t experiment. In fact, you should ask for samples as soon as you enter the store. This is a great way to gear up your mind and your tastes. It also helps you gain real life experience and discover wines that you are less familiar with. Consider a verbal recommendation or an advertised special. After all, there’s a definite reason why the travel industry offers customized vacations focused entirely around the very hobby of wine tasting. 7. Ask for Help Of all the wine buying tips, this one is the most overlooked. Your retailer is there to offer suggestions, answer questions, and guide you to the right purchase. Try to establish a relationship with the staff members. At some establishments, you can even join a mailing list or ask to be contacted when they happen to get in a rare variety that matches your preferences. 8. Be Aware of Your Store’s Layout It’s also a good idea to be familiar with the way your store operates. A lot of retailers arrange their American bottles according to the grape category, while foreign varieties are usually categorized by country. In most cases, reds are kept separate from whites. Knowing the specific layout helps speed things up when you know what you want and need to get back to your guests. Know where the specialty wines are for those times you want to splurge, and keep in mind that discounts are often spread throughout the store. 9. Learn to Recognize Store Flaws Just like wine itself, every retailer is different. Each offers different varieties as well as different prices. It’s a good idea for beginners to frequent shops that offer a range of prices and not just high-end brands. Although it may seem counterproductive, try to identity flaws within the store and the wine itself. Inspect your bottle for cracks or signs of air penetration. Every bottle should be filled to the neck. photo credit Moreover, if the store is unorganized or the sale staff seems unwilling to answer your questions, you’re probably in the wrong place. A welcoming layout and good customer service are two good indicators of quality inventory. 10. Learn How to Properly Store Wine So, what do you do when you finally take your prized bottle home? You either enjoy it or learn how to store it for later. Most commonly sold wines are meant to be consumed within a few months or years after they are purchased. Therefore, unless you are interested in maturing some of the more rare wines, you don’t have to fret about storage. In general, most bottles keep best at a temperature between 45° F and 65° F. A wine cooler is the easiest way to store your bottles. But, as long as you avoid drastic temperature changes, heavy shaking, and find a dark area away from direct sunlight, your wine should be ok. Buying wine shouldn’t be a daunting task. In fact, it’s a cherished hobby for people worldwide. Some consumers buy wine just so they have an excuse to browse their retailer’s selection. Think of it as your next museum excursion. Whatever your reason, consider some of these wine buying tips, especially if you’re new to the scene. A little knowledge can save you money, open up opportunities, enrich your experience, and make you a confident buyer.