Holiday Wine Shopping Strategy
Don’t panic shop.
By Erin Henderson
When I was in high school a friend of mine worked at a bookstore. Her biggest – and constant – complaint, was that someone would ask about a book but not know the title, the author, or even a great detail of the plot. The most these hapless book lovers could offer was, “the cover is red.”
It’s easy to smile and feel smug about this story, but we’ve all been there at some point. Maybe not a bookstore, but somewhere, at some time, we’ve wandered around the aisles of a shop, wondering what the heck we need and want.
I see this a lot in wine stores, but especially during the holidays. It’s hot and crowded and overwhelming with towers of glittering cases jammed into every corner of the space.
Inevitably, we grab the closest or cheapest or prettiest bottle, only to come home questioning if what we bought was actually what we wanted.
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Buyer’s remorse is very real this time of year. I can’t help you with your new jacuzzi, but I can help you create a plan to get the bottles just right for you this season – and all year long.
Know What You’re Looking For
Just as you would plan a vacation or buy a new pair of jeans, when you begin looking for wine you have to have certain parameters in mind. “Something for Christmas” doesn’t cut it. That will just leave you wandering all over the store in a daze.
A quiet dinner for two at the ski chalet during the holidays will call for something different than a blow-out Gatsby-esque New Year’s bash in the city.
Do Some Research
I once travelled to Napa Valley with a great friend who is a ton of fun, very savvy, and whip-smart but doesn’t know a lot about wine. I took her to a few wineries where we were treated like royalty.
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At one place, finishing our private tasting and tour, the owner let us know the wine we liked was $150, and if we wanted, he would be happy to pack a travel-proof case for us. My friend, now a few glasses in, misunderstood to think the case of 12 bottles was $150, when in fact, that was the price of a single bottle.
Before you load up your cart make sure you have a clear idea of your budget and what you need the bottle for (an impressive gift, something for your collection, Friday’s steak dinner).
Know Your Own Tastes
I was at a wine store the other day, and a woman asked the staff for a good red wine. The clerks (who were friendly but not all that knowledgeable) offered some names of bottles they “really liked.”
That’s all fine and good, but what they really like and what she really likes may be very different.
A few questions from the staff might have helped them home in on her personal tastes, but in lieu of that, the woman would have done better if she had a few names of bottles she enjoyed in the past, or at least a general style or region.
Shop During Off Hours
The anxiety, stress, and general discomfort of being in a crowded store causes frustration and frustration leads to impulse buys.
If you can swing it, get to the store in the early morning hours or shortly before closing to shop in the peace and quiet where of nearly empty aisles.
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