How to buy wine for the first time: 4 tips to navigating the wine aisles

How to buy wine for the first time

4 tips to navigating the wine aisles

Imagine this scene. A first time wine buyer is in a store. He stares at a shelf full of different wines, all at different price points and does not know where to begin. All the wine on the shelf looks the same to him, he is confused, and staring into a world that makes no sense. To the first time wine buyer, the world of wine is an illogical place, but like many journeys it can be the first step in discovering a whole new realm of delicious experiences. The trick is to make this one count!

The scene we bore witness to was of a man who was buying wine for the very first time in his life, and had wandered into a store would pride itself on doing just that, selling wine. Only he is confronted by too many choices and not nearly enough time nor patience to learn the intricacies that exist. Even the most experienced wine buyer can find a new wine store daunting, and yet the industry seems to have no sympathy for the first time buyer. We watched as a staffer asked him the same questions she would normally ask to anybody “red or white? Medium bodied or full bodied? Oaked or unoaked?” Sorry, but how the fuck is our new wine buyer supposed to know the answers to that? She had no empathy for the task at hand, or a willingness to understand and guide his purchase. This is an inherent fault in the wine industry, and one of the many reasons why we want to help people navigate that mine field.

Putting ourselves back in the shoes of our younger selves, and setting on a mission to improve the first time wine buying experience, we came up with a few tips that could help inexperienced wine buyers surprise and impress the most terroir stubborn wine nerds out there.

  1. Think about what you usually drink, and recall some of the reasons why. If you have a go to drink that is not wine, then you can draw a few parallels between them to find a wine you might like. Ask someone at a store for a wine similar to those characteristics and they should be able to help you find something. For example, if your go to drink is a dark porter or stout beer, then you could easily go for full bodied reds with a bit of a coffee or chocolate flavor to them. If you like crisp and citrusy IPAs then a crisp and citrusy white wine is right up your alley.

  2. Think about the occasion you are going to. This can be tricky, but at the very least will help you nail down a price point. If you are going to a house party and you know someone you are trying to impress likes wine, then a cheap but interesting wine could be a good bet, nobody cares about the taste after four glasses anyway. If it is a dinner, depending on the customs of your guest, you may or may not be drinking the wine that you buy so spending a little bit more shows you put some thought into it.

  3. Think about what may be on the menu. The food could play an important role in how you decide, or how someone could more easily make a recommendation to you. Get as detailed as possible. If you know you are having burgers at a BBQ on a hot summer day, someone might say a darker, chilled rose is a better bet than a pinot noir. If you are headed to a New England clam bake and expecting to eat plenty of lobster, it is going to take me all of two seconds to point you in the direction of delicious, creamy, Chardonnays.

  4. Give as much detail to the people trying to help you as possible. You do not need to tell them your whole life story, but a good wine seller should know what wine will suit the occasion and enhance the experience.

So whether you are a first time wine purchaser or a novice wine drinker who has only just sipped their first glass of Yellow Tail Sauvignon Blanc and decided to give this wine thing a go, you should know that buying wine is not as daunting a task as it may seem. There are people out there who want to help you, you just have to be open with us, ask questions, and we will let you into the world that we love so much. If you are ready to open your mouth, and your ears, we are very much ready to introduce you to wines that rock!