ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I would like to ask how you could possibly choose a good wine from a wine store without the need of tasting it and considering that I have no knowledge with wines. What factors in a wine should I look for? Are there techniques in being able to easily choose the best wine for me among the many wines displayed in a wine store?

—Carlo, Manila, Philippines

Dear Carlo,

Exploration is part of the fun of becoming a wine lover. Most people start with what they know and expand from there—whether it’s a type of grape they like or a region that gets them excited. If you haven’t yet found a preference for a particular grape or region, you could just look at the label of the last bottle of wine you enjoyed and start from there.

I think it’s particularly important to take notes when you’re first starting out. They don’t have to be long essays or poetic descriptions, but make a list of the wines you’re trying, and mark which ones you like and which ones you don’t. That way, when you’re standing in a wine shop and someone asks you what you’re looking for, you can say, “I really liked wine X, but wine Y wasn’t as much to my taste.” It’s more productive than saying you liked the bottle with the yellow label, or that other one with the name that starts with the letter “C.”

You might find it helpful to turn to someone with more experience tasting wines—either someone who works at the shop, or an expert who reviews wines for a living. Say, someone at Wine Spectator? Between our magazine, website and ratings app, we give buying advice for thousands of wines a year.

Finally, how about finding or creating a group of budding wine lovers who get together to taste and talk about wine? You could host a tasting where everyone brings a bottle of wine in a particular price range, or of a certain type or region. For more fun and learning, you could even make it a blind tasting, so the price tag or producer doesn’t sway your opinion of the wine.

—Dr. Vinny


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