Monday, September 21, 2015

Rant: The Best Way To Buy Wine

Fall will arrive in a couple days and besides cooler weather, it also brings the start of the busiest wine-buying season. The next few months, until New Year's Day, will see wine stores packed with consumers seeking wine to serve at parties and holiday dinners as well as to give as gifts. The holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's Eve, and more bring out people seeking wine.

For some people, this might be the only time they visit a wine store during the entire year. For other people, this might be the only time during the year that they spend so much on a single bottle of wine. The commonality of many of the wine consumers at this time is that they need help in selecting wine. They want wine and food pairing advice, as well as help in selecting the perfect wine to give as a gift. Some want advice in choosing a diverse mix of wines for a party. Some are seeking wine values while other want to splurge.

However, buying wine can be intimidating and frustrating so what should these consumers do?  What is the single, most helpful advice to assist them in choosing the best wines for their needs?

Forget wine scores, badges, contest medals, critter labels, celebrity endorsements and such. Though they may offer some questionable value to consumers, they are not, by far, the most valuable information you could garner about wine. The recommendations of wine bloggers, wine columnists, friends, family and others also have limited value. The problem is that when you visit a wine store, they might not carry the wines that were recommended to you. So what do you do then?

I am often asked for Sake recommendations and though I could easily rattle off a half dozen or so, I rarely do so. Whatever I recommend might not be available at that person's local or favorite wine store so my recommendations become nearly worthless. Instead, I suggest that they go to their chosen wine store and take a photo of their Sake selection and send it to me. I can then give them recommendations based on the Sakes that are available at that store. That works much better than a blind recommendation.

However, if you don't have such an option at hand, then my best advice is to ask the wine store owner, manager or employee for advice on selecting your wines. It is simple advice but can be extremely effective, with the caveat that you need to shop at the right wine store. You need to shop at a store with passionate owners and staff, knowledgeable people who can help you find wines that best fir your needs. Not all wine stores are the same. Not all provide the same level of service. You need to locate and patronize the best shops.

Let me provide you some recommendations for my favorite wine shops. This is not a comprehensive list and there are plenty of excellent wine stores that I haven't mentioned here. Consider this list a starting point only, and feel free to add your own wine store recommendations in the comments.

If value is a primary consideration, you need to find a discount wine store that provides not only good prices but also an interesting selection and good service. And at the best of these stores, you will not only find inexpensive wines, but also discounted prices on higher end bottles. A few of my favorites include:
Bin Ends in Braintree &Needham
Rapid Liquors in Stoneham.
Wine Connextion in North Andover,

Some of my other favorite wines stores, which possess a good selection and service, include:
Beacon Hill Wine & Gourmet in Melrose (where I also work part-time)
Central Bottle Wine & Provisions in Cambridge
Lower Falls Wine Company in Newton Lower Falls
Pairings in Winchester
Wine Bottega in Boston's North End
Wine-Sense in Andover
Winestone in Chestnut Hill

Buy and drink plenty of wine this season!


Sean said...

Julio's in Westborough is an amazing wine store.
I think the have the most wine bottles per sqft on their floor racks in MA.
Arranged by country, region, varietal and ascending price.
Tastings are educational and fun.
Oh, and they do the same for beer/ales and whiskeys.
In August they had a 20% discount for all Rose wines across the world, the 20% was for single bottles not cases.

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks Sean!

Faith Thomas said...

I used to try and remember which wines I liked but it's really hard to spot them amongst all the bottles in a store. I have had some success choosing wines with contest medals stuck on them but there's so many! Luckily I've found a great store that does wine tastings and now I know what I'm buying.

Faith Thomas @ The Berry Farm