Written By: Jason Lee
When it comes to picking out a bottle of wine, there are many factors to consider, which can make it difficult to know where to begin. Luckily, there are a few tricks you can remember when you need to replenish your wine rack or choose something impressive for a dinner party.
When wine shopping, it’s more likely you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for by seeking out a dedicated wine store like NJWineSeller rather than a supermarket or wholesale store. Great wine shops have an edge because they're staffed with impassioned wine experts who can help you choose the right bottle.
Don't be shy about asking for help. Even if you aren’t sure which varietal you want, you can start by sharing your preferences. For example, do you enjoy white, red, sparkling, or rosé? What qualities have you enjoyed in other bottles of wine — dry, jammy, sweet, or oaky? What will you serve with the wine?What's the occasion? What price range are you looking for? All this information will be extremely beneficial in helping the wine store team find bottles that are a great match for you.
You should also review any handwritten signs that call out "staff favorites." Consider these “free guides” created by your wine store to make the buying experience less overwhelming. They often answer many of the most common wine inquiries they get as well, including the origin region, notes, and best foods to pair with the bottle.
Look for labels that give you as much origin information as possible. Ideally, you'll be able to see not only the country of origin or state where the grapes are grown (like France or California) but also the specific region (like Bordeaux or the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County). Some bottles even list the longitude and latitude at which the grapes are grown and, while this information might not seem as important at first glance, it's a sign that the winery is hyperaware of the wine they’re bottling for distribution.
While labels are important, corks are an outdated indicator of quality. Many wineries that were established in Old World Europe still use them because they allow the wine to breathe and age. But because they also introduce a lot of variability, many non-European, New World wineries have moved to glass, rubber, or twist-off caps for more precise and consistent results.
While wine shopping, you might encounter organic or biodynamic wines, which both eschew agrochemicals in the production and winemaking process. This approach to production produces more distinct-tasting wines and has a gentler effect on the environment compared to non-organic varietals.
We also recommend getting in the habit of writing down or photographing any labels you order and enjoy at restaurants. Keep note of the adjectives the server uses to describe them, the years they were produced, and the origins and flavor profiles. Eventually, you’ll be able to determine your preferences for specific vintages, varietals, and regions
If you fall in love with a bottle of wine and your wine store doesn't carry it, don't be afraid to ask your store to order it for you. Usually, the minimum order is a case of 12 bottles. But many stores will usually offer a discount or special pricing on one or more cases. Here at NJWineSeller, we love to place special orders for anything that might not be in our vast inventory. Just call the shop or stop by to ask!
Lastly, our final tip is to follow your wine store on social media. They'll likely post about new products, bottles they’re enjoying, and even when to come in for a tasting. The experience will feel special and curated, akin to being part of a wine club, without paying for it. Plus, the captions will contain digestible bits of information that will help to educate you on all things wine.
At our Cranford location, we have a master wine expert, craft beer aficionado, and mixologist on site. We also host weekly tastings, especially as the weather gets warmer, so be sure to stop in and sample something new and exciting!
Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and we’ll see you soon!
— Dr. Jay