When forced to confront towering aisles of tongue-twisting wines—Cabernet, Beaujolais, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Moscato, Pinot Grigio—even the most self-assured woman can get a serious case of imposter syndrome. Resist the urge to turn around and walk out the door—you’ve got this.
Wine buying, like anything, takes a little bit of practice. Good news: The best way to get better at picking out wine is by drinking more of it. But where do you start? Don’t worry, we got you. Here’s how to buy a bottle of wine with confidence—and possibly find your happy hour favorite.
Please, do not buy your wine at the drugstore. It’s worth seeking out a legit wine shop when you’re first experimenting with the stuff, because you’ll be able to ask employees as many questions as you want. Don’t be embarrassed by it—odds are pretty good that if someone voluntarily works at a wine store, they probably know at least a little bit about wine and are happy to talk about it. Also, that’s their job—so don’t ever feel too intimidated to ask a question or ten, ‘k?
Plus, dedicated wine shops usually have a larger variety of bottles and importers. That means you’re more likely to find something you like, even if it’s a little more under-the-radar than the usual bottles in Trader Joe’s wine aisle. (Oh yeah, and if you’re really nice, sometimes they’ll even let you try the wine before you buy 👌)
There’s always a reason to drink wine—and if you can narrow down why you’ll be sipping, you can make a better call on what to buy. Don’t just walk in and ask for a red, white, or rosè!
Maybe you’re looking for something light to spice up your usual salmon-and-kale dinner situation, or you want a champagne you can chug with your girlfriends while watching “The Bachelor,” or you need a red that will impress that new guy you’re dating. Perhaps you’re just a bit like me, and you like trying new bottles for the sake of novelty and experimentation.
Whatever your motivation, let whoever’s helping you know—that way they won’t stick you with a bottle that doesn’t suit your plans.
OK, let’s say you don’t want to ask for help because you’re a strong, independent woman. That’s fine, but it does make things a bit more challenging because wine varies greatly depending on the grape, vintner, country of origin, and year. You’re shopping for wine, so you’ve probably had wine before … and probably one that you liked, which is why you’re back for more. If you know that you enjoy Cabernet, head to the Cabs, my friend!
And don’t be ashamed to whip open your iPhone and pull up a wine tasting app. We love Delectable, a favorite of Bon Appetit’s wine editor Marissa A. Ross. All you do is take a picture of the label and the app will tell you everything you need to know. You can even save your favorite bottles to the diary section, and the app will give you recommendations on what to buy next. Other apps like Vivino, Hello Vino, and Wine Ring are worth checking out, too.
Most importantly, don’t just buy something because it has an aesthetically pleasing label. It can certainly factor into your purchasing process (TBH, I picked up a bottle last night just because it had a cute pig on it), but don’t let that be the only aspect you consider.
If you already have a few favorite go-to bottles you know you enjoy, take a look at the label and notice who they’re imported by. Wine importers are people who travel around the world tasting bottles from wineries. If they find something they like, they’ll essentially represent that vintner and help get their wines in stores. Typically, importers tend to have a certain style they gravitate towards. That’s good for clueless winos because it means that when they find an importer who has similar taste in wine, all they need to do is find other bottles of wine with that importer’s name.
Shopping by importer really opens up a new range of possibilities when it comes to wine, so you might end up picking up a bottle that you’d never think of trying but really enjoy.
You probably know by now that you don’t need to spend $30 on a bottle of wine in order for it to be good. It’s possible to find great options for as little as $12—and of course, if you have more cash to throw around you probably won’t go wrong with a $65 bottle. But much like you shouldn’t buy a wine because of its label, don’t take home a bottle just because of the price, whether it be low or high.