As someone who often pops into a wine store/Costco/the supermarket, and returns with a wine that I've never tried before, I get asked: How do you actually pick out wine and know that it will be good?
Well, first of all: you never do know. But, I'm generally pretty successful. I have a series of questions I ask myself (is this going with a meal? am I in the mood for something particular?) when I am looking for a very specific wine, and I will go into detail on this in future posts.
But let's say, you just want to pick out a wine to enjoy, and you want to try something entirely new. I did that the other night. I went into the store to pick out one wine for dinner that night, but decided it was in the budget to buy one more to try.
What do I do? I LET THE LABEL TALK. Yep, my friends: I use the very scientific of label searching.
First of all, I scan the racks for any labels that stand out. Any regions I know? Any years that I love?
Then, I look at the label artwork. Yes, I said it. The artwork. Or lack thereof. Usually I tend towards simple, uncluttered labels, maybe a single image or interesting logo. Once in a while, I will buy the bottles with hilarious or vibrant labels (mostly this happens at Trader Joe's), but usually I stick to the basics. I also try to steer clear of wines with cutesy, punny names--and I love a good pun. But I've found sometimes, cute names and pretty colors sometimes....overcompensate for the quality of the wine.
So, let's say something catches my eye. I pick up a bottle. Then, I flip it over. This is where things get important. Let's use a bottle I recently drank as an example:
|The review for this bottle is coming soon. Spoiler alert: AWESOME|
I always initially ignore verbs and adjectives, and just focus on nouns. In the case of the example bottle: blackberries, cherries, vanilla, fruit flavors. Sometimes, I will then look for a few adjectives: in this case, I pick up "creamy texture."
Let's say I wanted to buy a fruit forward wine to drink and not one that is really spicy or oaky or heavy. I see all fruit on the label, no tobacco or black pepper or meat or anything--just fruit and vanilla and light texture. Sounds perfect.
So I buy it. It may be awesome. It may not be. (This particular one WAS awesome). This method is perfect for the person who knows their budget and a few factors that they enjoy. This method is also perfect for the person who is not afraid of a little failure, or who is not ashamed to take a bottle of wine and turn it into cooking wine. I wouldn't buy a $100 bottle this way, but it's a great way to experiment and find a new favorite inexpensive table wine.