Isn’t shopping for wine a bit like visiting Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory? Pass through the entrance and sense feelings of wonder and awe. How could there be so many choices? The wine, like a seemingly endless river of chocolate, brings on conflicting feelings of childlike joy and overwhelm! Caution should be exercised so that a lack of self-control doesn’t lead to catastrophe.
It’s a lot to cope with, I know. In order to maintain a sense of decorum AND not overspend, it’s a good idea to have a plan and stick to your mission. To that end, here is a simple guide to buying wine.
Begin with a Show of Restraint
My wine shopping strategy begins with a modicum of restraint. I take a bag to the shop that holds 6 bottles and make a pact with myself not to purchase more wine than the bag can carry. This is good for the budget and limited storage space.
Shop with Dinner in Mind
Next, I make a mental list of what types of wines we could use with dinner. What’s on the menu? I reflect on memories of travel and celebrations around the table. Then take some time pondering about what types of value wines might be of interest – are certain regions calling me?
For the most part, it comes back to a key guideline learned from Chef Lenny in his wine and food pairing classes at Northwest Wine Academy. Shop for wine that matches the occasion. Special times beg for extraordinary wines that demand attention. On the other hand, relaxed weeknight meals call for an easygoing companion.
With all that in mind, on my most recent outing to Esquin Wine & Spirits, here’s what was on my list. It was a bittersweet visit, as the shop has recently been purchased by Downtown Wine & Spirits. I’ve worked with Chuck at Esquin since launching VinoSocial. I wish him well in his travels.
To know me is to know I love bubbles. From Champagne to its more affordable representations such as crémant, all bubbly brethren are welcome! My philosophy is that if you open a bottle of bubbly on Monday, it sets a positive tone for the rest of the week. This is a practice the hubby and I embraced during lockdown and continue today. We call it Mousseux Monday. Even Ray Isle has stated that life will improve immensely with sparkling wine and potato chips!
Every simple guide to buying wine should include sparkling wine! It’s not just for special occasions.
Value wines can be tricky territory. Frankly, there is a lot of less than stellar stuff out there! Especially when you dip below $10. I typically look for bottles around $15-20. This is where it really pays to get to know the people at a local wine shop. One time I asked for a Washington Merlot under $30. Risky, I know! However, the recommendation of a $12.99 bottle from Powers Winery offered great quality for the price.
Pizza Night Wine
There will always be a time when the day’s work is more than anticipated and it’s too late and too exhausting to prepare something for dinner. Thank goodness for the local pizza joint! Bring that order home to a chilled bottle of Lambrusco and the sorrows of the day will melt away just like the cheese on that pizza pie. Yes, I said Lambrusco. If you’ve ever had a glass of soda with pizza, you have no right to mock me! Lambrusco is fizzy refreshment that is a terrific foil to gooey, melty cheese. Besides, there truly are some quality bottlings available these days.
A Bottle for a Favorite Weeknight Dinner
How About Pasta and Sangio?
One of the easiest go-to dinners in our house is pasta marinara. It’s typically our Friday meal because boiling water and warming up a jar of sauce is something I can do on auto pilot after a busy week. Sangiovese is typically our vino of choice. Alternatively, Barbera or Primitivo do the trick. Some tried and true brands we turn to include Vietti, G.D. Vajra, Paolo Scavino, and La Spinetta. There are a lot of options, so why not select a different producer on each shopping trip?
A “Vacation Wine”
Make it your mission to pick out a wine that reminds you of a glorious travel destination. Whether the wine is from a place you visited or something you enjoyed drinking while recharging, the bottle you pick is sure to transport you back to your happy place.
Does something come to mind? I’d love to know what wine you’d reach for – leave a comment on my Instagram post.
I hope you find some or all of this simple guide to buying wine useful. Happy shopping!