5 Simple Tips to Make You a Better Wine Buyer

Posted January 07, 2015

Steve Unwin

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2015 is the year you're going to stop buying boring wine. Call it a New Years resolution, call it a #LifeHack, call it whatever the hell you want. Bottom line is that the world of wine is vast, and there are some very easy things you can do to vastly improve the way in which you experience it. Take these rules to heart, and you'll be a pro in no time!

The "one case" rule

If you find a wine that you’re totally in love with, that is awesome! We’re happy for the two of you, and wish you nothing but the best. But for God’s sake, there are bajillions of different wines out there, and a whole lot of them are awesome. If you’re looking to be a better cork-dork this year, do this: Limit yourself to buying no more than 12 bottles of any one wine. That’s it. Order a case and then move on. There is a whole world out there, and you’re sitting here drinking that same Zinfandel for the 86th time because you don’t want to take any risks. We’re not mad, we’re just disappointed. Get out there and play the field.

Buy for the future

Consider buying wine that might not be ready to drink yet. Something you know will improve over the next couple of years. A big sappy Brunello, Chateauneuf du Pape, or culty Napa Cab should do the trick (ps, all three of the bottles I just linked are spectacular. Especially the Brunello). Grab three bottles, drink one now, one in six months, and one in a year. If you’re not the patient type, here is a little trick to help with that: Pick up something that is, say, $20 more expensive than you’d normally buy. That way, you’re much less tempted to squander a bottle on a random Tuesday, and before you know it, you’ll have held off for a whole year. It’s a tried and tested system for me, so give it a go.

Get weird

Think of this as a corollary to rule one. Next time you see see a totally incomprehensible label that is in your price range, GRAB IT. DON'T THINK, JUST DO IT. Look, if it’s in the store (or on this site), a well-qualified wine buyer already thought enough of the wine to buy it from an importer and put it on the shelf, so you’re not running some kind of huge risk. Pick up (or ask someone to recommend) something totally alien and embrace the possibility that you might be about to discover your new favorite wine! But if you do, remember rule #1.

Stop buying by label

A cute label might actually be the worst possible reason to purchase a bottle of wine. Aside from being completely arbitrary, fancy branding might actually serve as a warning to the savvy. Think about it this way: If a winemaker can't be bothered to hire a $200/hr designer to tart up his bottles, maybe that's because he's too busy making delicious wine. Ever considered that? Try seeking out wines with shitty or traditional-looking labels. Just as arbitrary? Perhaps, but it’s a great tactic to help you achieve the previous goal.

Don’t fear pink

It really saddens me that in 2015 there are still people who think pink wine is still the insipid, sweet, box-juice that saturated so many tupperware parties in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Rosé is effing delicious. I can’t stress enough that if rosé doesn’t comprise at least 50% of your warm-weather drinking, you’re doing it wrong. With fresh acidity, lively fruit, and a touch of minerality, pink juice is where. it. is. at. Drink more.

Thats it! Whacha think? If you have any particularly stong opinions (or complaints) feel free to hit me up (or yell at me) on Twitter: @Stunwin

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Steve Unwin (call him Stunwin) cut his teeth in the Washington Wine industry working in tastings rooms on the Red Mountain AVA. In NYC he became an early employee of the wine startup Lot18, where he earned his Advanced WSET cerification with distinction. Currently, he works with internet wine dude Gary Vaynerchuk creating awesome content all over the internets.

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