In this extract from 'How to talk about wine' - the handy pocket guide (written by Bernard Klem, published by Sterling publishing) tells you everything there is to know about wine in easy 10 minute sections.
In the second in an exclusive online series, here is a segment on shopping for wine.
Next to ordering wine in a restaurant, picking out a wine in a store is the next most frightening situation for a beginner. There realty is only one solution to this problem.- ask questions, ask, ask, and ask again. Never stop asking and trying different wines so you can navigate with the best of them.
Here are some tips:
1. Find a wine store where you’re comfortable, where the staff is helpful, and where wine is respected (not a glorified beverage warehouse outlet that carries a few labels of cheap wine as a feeble attempt at diversity). Also, be on the lookout in any beverage store where the bottles of wine, including their display racks, are dirty or displayed in a hot window. This is a tipoff that it's best to avoid buying anything there, particularly wine. Also, an unkempt wine store is a clear signal that the owners and managers of the store don't really give a damn about wine. Try another store.
2. Cultivate any employee who is helpful and knowledgeable. Ask questions; there are no dumb questions about wine, only surly or condescending answers from unpleasant people.
3. Continue to visit and buy from the same store, so the staff gets to know you better. If they love wine, and love to talk about it, pick their brains.
4. Tell them the kind of wines you prefer, and a comfortable price level for your everyday preferences. Ask about special-occasion wines or appropriate wines to bring as a house gift. Find out if and when the retailer has wine tastings and try to attend some to become better acquainted with what they're pouring. The more you taste, the better your skills.
5. Don't forget to ask about special store promotions or discounts, or even special buys that haven't yet been advertised. You can save some nice money when you make a friend who works in the store:
6. Once you get the hang of selecting and buying wine in a retail store, you may also try buying wine on the Internet. Don't expect much, if any, personal attention, as you may get in a store. You're shopping for the best price or you're trying to find something unavailable in your local store. In addition, remember that the shipping charges may wipe out any savings over the price in your local store.
7. Finally, there’s really no magic to buying wine. Knowledge and familiarity with the wine is just the result of a little experience and some common sense. One of the nice aspects of getting recognized at a wine store and interacting with the staff is that they're usually willing to help with suggestions about matching wine to food. Trust their experience and taste until yours is better developed. A trusting relationship with a good wine store employee will pay many dividends in the years to come.
While picking up favorites, also pick up some new labels; wines from unfamiliar grapes; other vineyards, regions, or countries. You just might discover a great new taste, a great new bottle or two to share with friends. The beauty of wine is that there are so many out there, so many new ones to try, but not enough time to try them all. That's called the wine lover's dilemma.
A final note: did you know that more women than men buy wine in stores, but that more men than women order wine in restaurants? Why is that? Doesn't matter a bit to me as long as I get to taste new wines with old friends, or old wines with new friends.
How to talk about wine by Bernard Klem, is available to buy from amazon.co.uk