Five Ways Not to Buy Wine

Categories: Vine Geeks

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Vine Geek Brian Reeder co-owns AZ Wine Merchants in Scottsdale.

Wine is subjective. Every wine is different. It all depends on your taste. Price doesn't equal quality. It's all the same anyway. Just drink what you like. Blah. Blah. Blah.

We've all heard the nomenclatures. The bullshit lines that every wine geek/snob you've ever encountered will feed you about why you should (or shouldn't) buy certain wines. Some are true, while others just make you want to stab someone with a corkscrew. Because ultimately until you pour yourself a glass, you can't really know whether or not it's good, and whether or not you enjoy it. I'm not looking to tell you what wines to buy -- in fact, quite the opposite. I don't reside inside your brain or know what makes your taste buds jump into a conga line. I want to help you ask the right questions, look for the right qualities, and ultimately continually discover new wines you'll enjoy.

So when you're at the grocery store, liquor store, wine store, or (God forbid) the corner mini mart, here are some ways not to buy wine, and a few better ways to do so.

1. For the love of Dionysus, do not buy a wine because you like the label.
"Ooooh, that one is so pretty!!"
"This label is dark and expensive looking -- it must be good."
"This one looks cheap. Yuck."

We've all bought wine this way. And probably as often as not, we've regretted it. Wineries are aware of the power of the label and will do everything in their power to make it more appealing to their target audience. And typically, the more attractive the label/wine name, the more money was dumped into marketing (and quite possibly less money put into vineyard management and winemaking). So wines like "Mad Housewife," "Bitch," and "Frog's Piss" may sound like interesting and fun wines -- but in all likelihood they were moreso products of a marketing department than a farmer or winemaker.

Instead look for: If you must buy a wine based on label, look for other factors than dazzling colors or catchy pictures. I look at what region the wine is from, the varietals (if listed), the vintage (or year the wine was made), and any tasting notes that may be on the bottle. All these factors will affect the wine, and as you develop your taste, you'll start seeing certain factors that consistently appear in wines you enjoy. Maybe a specific region for a specific varietal, or certain characteristics appear regularly.

2. Don't buy wine just because it's cheap.

"It's a Tuesday. I just need a glass (or three)."
"It doesn't matter. It all tastes the same anyway."
"I just want to get drunk."

So clearly you're not looking for the best bottle on the shelves. That's great!! Neither am I! If I'm having a "Tuesday" wine, I'm probably looking to relax with a glass or two with a book/movie/TV show in front of me. It's not a special occasion, and therefore doesn't justify a special wine, right? Wrong. Cheap wines can be just that -- cheap. Mass-marketed swill probably had as much care put into its making as a toddler puts into coloring inside the lines. But inexpensive wine can also mean small-scale wineries that don't have enormous distribution, or great value wines that are made on a large scale but with the same care as their more expensive counterparts.

Instead try to find: Great wines that aren't expensive. And there are a lot of them. Just Google the phrase "High-rated cheap wine" (If you care about ratings, that is) and look at all the results! A good rule of thumb is that lesser-known regions typically can't charge as much as better-known regions, while quality can be as good if not better. I look for alternative regions for value, such as Spain, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, and Washington State.


Location Info

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AZ Wine Merchants

7121 E. 5th Ave., Scottsdale, AZ

Category: General

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14 comments
cheaplondonhotels
cheaplondonhotels

Well, interesting ideas. Next time when I'm going to buy wine, I'll pay attention to these things. Many thanks!

Some winemaker
Some winemaker

I have to disagree with you regarding second labels. Usually second labels are a blend of the fermentations that didn't quite go right or is too technically flawed to go into the premier wine. In most wineries I have worked at the seconds are not treated with as much care as the premier wines since they are often seen as rejects and second wines by the winemaker. Second labels are created for a reason and it is usually as an outlet for the wineries to sell the weakest wines without diluting the quality of the premier wine.

Brian Reeder
Brian Reeder

I would agree that second labels aren't the 'premiere fruit', but disagree that they are necessarily flawed or faulty in any way. I think that this is wholly dependent on the general quality of the winery, winemaker, and wine itself - a legitimate producer would very likely never put flawed wine into bottle and sell it, knowing that it would be rejected by consumers and distributors alike and ruining the reputation for any labels they produce. I think it comes down to quality and trust of the brand/person you're buying from.

Are the second labels treated with as much SUBJECTIVE care as their premiere counterparts? Possibly, or possibly not. But if that producer's standard are well above other producers generally, even their second or third label could likely be made with as much or more care as their competition. Bottom line for me - If a label that has an established quality record makes a second label, I'm going to assume they aren't fermenting mice and grass clippings in with the grapes - they're probably adhering to the same strict practices, and the barrels that weren't what they were looking for just went into a different label, because why waste good wine?? Damn that was a solid run on sentence. Alright good talk.

Old Orphan Boy
Old Orphan Boy

How come NTs never does a story on locally made  Maricopa County Moonshine?

Ando Muneno
Ando Muneno

Shoot me an email. I'm pretty sure we could pitch a story about the latest vintage of MCM. 

Billy Joe Buck
Billy Joe Buck

  They are all fake plastic hoyty toyte wine drinking yuppie city slicker sissy's not hillbilly's might be the reason.

Steve
Steve

Unfortunately the average wine drinker just isn't that sophisticated and generally not educated in the least as to food or wine.   I'm not advocating stupidity, only stating facts.  Try giving a napa cab to someone who drinks only cheap sweet wines and they say yucch! or this needs to be chilled.  So this educating the masses as to what wine to drink with their big mac is not only ludicrous but clearly a substantial waste of time.  When 2 buck chuck is really what they seek, just let them drink it. Leave the good stuff to the onephiles.

guest
guest

 it's spelled oenophiles

Stephica
Stephica

I just read the original comment and your retort to my friends. A laugh was had by all.

Nikki Buchanan
Nikki Buchanan

Is it kosher for another Chow Bella contributor to comment on a Chow Bella post? Hmmm, not sure. In any case, I enjoyed the read! Look forward to more good wine posts from you and Pavle, Brian.

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