Buying Wine - Tips for the Novice!
• Buying wine at (preferably) wine-only retail shops is the best way to start because they have the most knowledgeable staff. Distributors sell only by the case and not necessarily to everyone. Wineries do sell retail, but you might not want to limit yourself to only one source. Some of my favorite wine stores are: in NYC: Moore Brothers, Sherry-Lehman, Italian Wine Merchants, Bottlerocket, Zacchys (in Scarsdale); in Paris: Les Caves Taillevant, Lavinia, Les Cave des Papilles; in London: Handford Wines, Roberson, The Winery.
• What to buy? Learn to know thyself. Is it red or white? Would you like to start sampling wines from a particular region? I think this is a great way to start knowing more about wine and it’ll help to clarify your wine-buying/tasting in the future. Try buying three or four bottles of the same region (for example, Napa, Burgundy, Piedmont or Mendoza), stick to either red or white, and then select from different wineries and from different vintages. Remember also that you don’t need to spend a lot; there are amazing wine bottles for under $20, like a Le Sergue from Lalande de Pomerol or a Riesling Potter Valley from Chateau Montelena. Keep notes about flavors, what you liked best and that will help to lead and inform you on what to buy next time.
• When buying any wine, inspect the cork, if it’s popped or pushed out the rim, don’t buy that bottle. However, if you find sediments in the bottom of a red wine bottle, that’s a healthy sign, but not for white wines which rarely throw a deposit.
• Regarding the vintages, keep in mind that there’s absolutely no uniformity of great years. For example, Bordeaux had amazing ’82, ’90 and ’00 vintages but ’82 and ’00 were not so good for the rest of Europe.
• Organic wines are produced without fungicides, pesticides, fertilizers and no preservatives are added. Although there is less manipulation of the process of organic wine-making, there are abundant nonorganic wines that are terrific. Beware of passing a great deal on a delicious and recommended wine just because it’s not organic. Good luck and let me hear how it is going!