Tag Archives: buying wine

How to find a good wine retailer

good wine retailerThis checklist will help you find the wine drinker’s best friend – a good wine retailer

The Wine Curmudgeon, after suffering through the $3 wine challenge as well as two weeks of cheap wine samples that tasted like alcoholic Big Red soda, needed to buy some quality wine. So I visited a good wine retailer.

Why a good wine retailer? Because they may even be more valuable than a terrific bottle of cheap wine. When I went to Pogo’s in Dallas to rescue my palate from all that junk, Lance Storer guided me to what I wanted. He was even able to answer a question about a wine they didn’t carry. They had sampled it, and decided the quality wasn’t up to Pogo standards – which saved me from buying another lousy wine.

Not quite what you’ll find at the grocery store’s Great Wall of Wine, is it?.

In this, the best retailers are usually independents, who understand the value of customer service. They know it’s their reason for being, and that you’d shop elsewhere if all you cared about was price. Ironically, this is a result of the three-tier system, which has protected the independent retailer from the kind of competition that destroyed local music and book stores.

How does one find a good wine retailer? This checklist will get you started:

• The best retailers do more than sell wine. They help you find wine that you didn’t know you liked. It’s easy to sell someone something they already know about. What’s more difficult, and a mark of the best retailers, is to find something new that fits the parameters of wine you already drink – a Spanish albarino or French picpoul for an Italian pinot grigio, for example, or a fruity rose for a white zinfandel.

• Does the retailer ask questions about your preferences, helping you figure out what you want – red or white, sweet or dry? Or do they steer you to something they assume you’ll like because you’re a woman (sweet wine!) or younger (cute label!)?

• Does the retailer always seem to recommend wine that is on sale, is displayed at the end of an aisle, or highlighted in some other way – regardless of what you like? Many bigger retailers offer incentives to their employees if they meet sales goals or quotas on featured wines, and too often, that takes precedence over what the customer wants.

• Does the retailer answer your questions? Are the answers understandable or in winespeak? And, when you say you don’t understand what he or she means by leathery or oaky, do they smile and explain what they mean in English?

Winebits 335: Cheap wine, wine terms, and lots of wineries

Winebits 335: Cheap wine, wine terms, and lots of wineries ? Head to Target: The Wine Curmudgeon is always encouraged when the non-wine media does a cheap wine story, since that’s another step in the right direction — helping Americans figure out wine. If the Los Angeles Times’ recent story recommending wine to buy at Target included too much boring Big Wine (Clos du Bois chardonnay, really?), the story’s heart was in the right place. How can I be unhappy with anything that recommends Beaujolais? Though, and I mention this as a cranky ex-newspaperman who wants to help someone who apparently doesn’t do a lot of wine writing, mentioning Robert Parker in the blurb for Sterling cabernet sauvignon was counterproductive. Anyone who cares about Parker scores probably isn’t going to buy $10 cabernet at Target.

? Stoned wine: Beppi Crosariol at the Toronto Globe & Mail answers a reader question about the wine term stony, complete with bad jokes. It’s actually a decent explanation, and includes a good description of minerality: “Flint, wet stone, chalk, limestone, slate, graphite ? various rocky words get trotted out with increasing frequency today…” and he notes recent scientific findings that the grapes probably didn’t pick up these qualities from the soil.

? How many wineries? The state of Texas, with 266,874 square miles, has about 300 wineries. Napa County, with 748 square miles, recently celebrated its 500th winery. This is a mind-boggling figure — there are more wineries in Napa than in all but two or three states (depending on whose figures you use). Is it any wonder that it’s the center of the U.S. wine universe, even for people who don’t know much about wine? Will we start hearing phrases like “carrying grapes to Napa?”

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:

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$200 worth of wine

$200 worth of wineDon’t fear, regular visitors. That’s not one bottle of wine, but the result of a recent Wine Curmudgeon shopping expedition — 13 bottles, only two of which cost more than $16. And there wasn’t a stinker in the bunch.

The occasion for this spree? A chance to shop at Spec’s, probably the best liquor retailer in Texas. Spec’s doesn’t have any stores in Dallas, but I was in Austin for a wedding and Spec’s has several stores there. So that gave me a chance to check out Spec’s vast inventory (at 80,000 square feet, it’s bigger than most grocery stores) and its very competitive pricing. I was not disappointed.

More, after the jump:

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