Do you have anxiety when it comes to buying wine? You set off on a last-minute mission to grab a bottle before a dinner party or for someone’s birthday/celebration or an evening hosting friends. Should you bring white? red? bubbly? something sweet or something dry? Wait, dad likes red, mom likes white, Uncle Bob likes Chardonnay, and your Italian grandmother likes Lambrusco. You scan the aisle for a familiar label to save you, but you are alone and overwhelmed by all the options. You pick up a bottle and pretend to read it, like you somehow learned French in the last two minutes. The only thing you can decipher is the price tag and that it is red or white. You eventually take home a bottle that looks cool and appealing, was on sale, and cutely featured on display at the front of the store. Whatever the reason or occasion may be, you need to hit the wine shop. Where do you go from there? Don't be afraid to ask questions and tell the associate your parameters and what you’re looking for in a wine. They would love to do something non-mundane and repetitive and will appreciate your confidence in them for wine advice.
Sample things to say –
How’s it going? Friendly, low pressure dialogue.
Hi! I’m looking for …. Have some idea! Willing to spend up to $50 or on a budget so something around $20/$25. Make a list! Name of wine, producer, country of origin, and vintage year are important. Good shops will have sections labeled and wines alphabetically.
Can you point me in the direction of …. Helps open the conversation and gives you an out to look at labels alone. Most people actually have a basic need of wanting to help others and in a wine shop it is a nice distraction for them from cashiering and stocking shelves.
If you don’t know how to pronounce something, just say so! By acknowledging it, you’re less likely to be embarrassed.
If you mis-pronounce something, just laugh. It will lower stress levels and maybe elicit a giggle on their part.
Know that anything you get embarrassed about, no one else gave it a second thought.
Here is a fun guide for treating each wine occasion you encounter or mood in life. Not proven in science, but rather a guide with a small description of the reasoning behind it and funny anecdotes.
WINE FOR FAMILY
It’s all about navigating the path of least resistance and avoiding politics and religion. The goal is to keep everyone happy and everything on the lighter side.
For Steak Loving Dads
If your dad fancies himself a grill master, he loves Cabernet. Because he lived through the nineties, he must like steak and Cabernet. Even if he doesn’t, Cabernet is phenomenal with steak and he will show appreciation. Get him a newer vintage California or Australian Cabernet, which are a bit lighter than the traditional steakhouse big Cabs of the Bill Clinton era. If he’s cool and likes to try new things, then try a a big, bold Mourvedre or Carmenere.
For Wine Loving Moms
They are the moms with all the wine paraphernalia, like wine magnets, signs with fifties housewives on them with jokes and how they get better with age, and charms. Always go with a light and fruity white wine that can be drank in the afternoon and accepts ice cubes if mom is so inclined. Pinot Grigio and Chenin Blanc are guaranteed to meet their palate. For something surprisingly good and different, grab a Viognier.
For Hippie Sisters
Doesn’t every family have one. Go with an orange wine (skin-fermented white wine) while they discuss yoga and Buddhism.
For Total Bro(thers)
Bros love a nice Malbec. They are generally full-bodied, bold, and go well with brisket, one of their favorite dishes. They are trendy and recognizable so as to not disturb the fragility of their ego.
For Super Religious Aunts
Avoid anything red! No need to incite a lecture on Salvation. She probably doesn’t drink much wine anyway, so choose a sweeter style like Moscato that is easy for non-wine drinkers to enjoy and tastes a lot like dessert. A wonderful talk about all the baking you are doing and to avoid discussing LGBTQ rights and gay marriage.
For Cousins You Don’t Really Know, but are Cool With
You don’t know their favorite movies or their dogs’ names, but you do share blood and childhood memories. Throw back some Sangiovese! It will look impressive, tastes like holidays, perfect for gossiping, and reminiscing about smoking weed in your grandmother’s basement like a dumb teenager. It’s all about bonding here!
For the Political One
Whichever side of the political spectrum you are on, you most likely have a family member who is a complete opposite of you. While you love them, you often suppress the urge to murder them once you start discussing thoughts on the world. Bring Pinot Noir! Easy drinking red, light, and moderate tannins and acidity. It is quite bipartisan in nature and gives you the opportunity to discuss “Sideways”.
For a Birthday Party of a Friend of a Friend
Rose! Everyone loves rose!
For a Dinner Party with Mostly Randos
Dry Riesling! Very food friendly, especially drier versions, stress-free, and not too many people dislike Riesling. Very good chance you will please the crowd.
WINE FOR YOURSELF
For a Long Day/Week/Month/Life
It’s been a long one! You are weary, emotional, and need “me” time in your sweatpants without kids and significant other. Reach for that spicy red to make you feel all warm and fuzzy, like a Syrah, Touriga Nacional or Zinfandel. These wines feed your soul while you watch old episodes of “The Office” and remember that everything will be alright.
For Small Successes & Big Wins
Sparkling wine, of course! Not only does it physically embody the idea of bursting with excitement, it pairs well with a sense of accomplishment and cranking Lana Del Rey. If you’re celebrating getting your taxes done or reorganizing your closet, get Cava. Made just like Champagne, but at half the cost, you get all the fun without the price tag. If you’re celebrating life changing events, like a graduation, promotion, or baby shower, splurge and go with Champagne.
Pre-Gaming a Big Night Out
Before you hit the town, you want something energetic enough to incite some serious post-shower underwear mirror dancing, but also mellow enough to sip on the couch before Uber arrives. Choose something cold and well chilled because the last thing you want is to get all hot with a heavy red. Go with a Vinho Verde that is easy drinking but fizzy enough to a regular Friday night a festive vibe. Since its hard to find, an Albarino will do.
For After a Date
“Would you like to come in?” should always be followed with something intriguing as those implications. Something smooth, but dirty, and alluring as it is energetic. Carignan is deliciously dusty and juicy all at once, and just as sexy to have all to yourself as it is to share. Also, hard to find, so replace with a Grenache/Garnacha or GSM/something from Rhone.
For Being Sad & Freakin Lonely
While wine makes us super happy, it’s technically a downer like all alcohol and rarely cures sadness. Self-medicating is not chill, but we’ve all been in a place where we just want a good cry, pizza delivered to our door, and a better wine. In these situations, I like to lean on medium-body reds like Merlot, Montelpulciano, or something red from Tuscany. These wines are great companions to pizza and will listen you instead of trying to convince you to cheer up. Wine can be very understanding!
Just for Drinking
The wine you keep around the house for casual drinking should be like that one friend who is down for whatever. It’s cool with dinner, warm afternoon, cold evening, whatever season. Gamay/Beaujolais is the natural choice. You can throw it in the fridge, pair it with anything, and you won’t break the bank keeping it in stock.
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