Buying wine for dinner

image from www.sxc.hu One of the things that too often confuses consumers is buying wine for dinner. They get hung up on pairings, they're flummoxed about whether to serve red or white, and wine pricing makes them nervous.

The Wine Curmudgeon has seen this many times, including an especially sad case several years ago when a youngish man stared helplessly at a liquor store employee and begged for advice on "buying wine for pasta." When someone needs help buying a cheap bottle of Italian red to have with spaghetti, we're all in trouble.

Though this confusion is understandable, given the way the wine business treats consumers, it's not necessary. Buying wine for dinner should be fun, and not approached with the same enthusiasm as mopping the floor. It's actually one of my favorite things about wine — going to the store, even a grocery store, and trying to see what I can find (and spending as little money as possible, of course).

After the jump, some tips on buying wine for dinner:


? Buy what you like. Pairings are overrated, and a surprising number of consumers ignore them anyway. Yes, there is some sense to red wine with meat and white wine with chicken and fish, but if you don't like big, tannic wines, don't buy one. No matter how well made the wine is or how many wine critics gush over its affinity with steak, it's not going to help you enjoy dinner if you want to spit it out after the first sip.

? Buy wine that you like, but from a different producer. One of the worst habits wine drinkers get into is buying the same wine over and over (and over and over). Again, this is understandable, but there's no need for it. If you like California sauvignon blanc, try one from a different winery that costs about the same price. I do that all the time, and not only have found some great wines, but have rediscovered wines that I had forgotten about.

? Buy wine that you like, but from a different region. If you like Australian shiraz, then try a French syrah from the Rhone that costs about the same price. They won't taste exactly like each other, but that's the point, isn't it? Plus, you'll get to impress everyone with your newly acquired wine knowledge about grapes and regions.

? Bubbles pair pretty much with everything. I've heard that some people don't like sparkling wine, though I always thought that was an urban myth (like the various ladies of the lake who wander the country). And there has never been better quality sparkling wine available, whether at $6 or $60. Spanish cava is a particular value, as are the French sparklers that aren't from Champagne. The sweeter Italian wines, though not necessarily my style, have also improved markedly, and many cost less than $15.

The photo is from Shahanna of Katy, Texas, via stock.xchng, using a Creative Commons license

4 thoughts on “Buying wine for dinner

  • By bburnsey - Reply

    Excellent advice, especially, trying a different producer from the same region. I have friends who will drink only “KJ”. This has been going on for years.

  • By Jeff Siegel - Reply

    Thanks, Brian. This makes me crazy — people will have opinions about things they know nothing about, whether it’s sports or politics, and will have them loud and often. But they terrified to have an opinion about wine and will do like your KJ friends.

  • By Alyse - Reply

    I’m new to wine. I always wanted to try different wines but was intimidated and was always told I needed to spend at least $30 to get a good bottle. Well, pardon me, I don’t have $30 to spend. Therefore I never bought any because I didn’t want to be seen as cheap, uninformed, or ridiculous.
    Last month, I took the plunge and just bought a bottle from a local winery. Now I’m on my seventh different bottle and I’m starting to learn what I like and what I don’t like. I can’t believe it took me this long, but now there is no looking back.

  • By wine online - Reply

    I would recommend red wine as a traditional practice. Red wine is good after a meaty dinner. White wine for pasta dinners.

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