Check out the new, mobile-friendly WineSpectator.com!
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. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
I'm the person who's usually sent to go purchase wine for various informal meetings and parties for my office. What questions can I ask a merchant? What things should I know to better articulate what I'm looking for? Normally I have the mandate to buy a couple bottles of white and maybe one red. And my question to the shopkeeper is ... "What's good for under such-and-such amount?"
—Stephen, New York
That's a good start. Be as direct as you can about what you're looking for, including the price. There's no point in implying you might buy a $150 bottle when you're really looking for something in the $10 range.
When I think of good customer service, I think of Daniel Dawson, the owner of Back Room Wines in Napa. I asked him for advice, and he agreed that the most important thing is to let the merchant know your budget.
Daniel also added that without feeling pressured to say "I like oak" or "I love raspberries," you should already be thinking of two wines you know you like, one white and one red. If you tell the salespeople this information, they'll be able to recommend a wine and compare it to your examples in a way that's easy to understand. And if you can't remember the exact name, just point to the bottle.
You also might want to find a shop you like and stick with it. The more regular a customer you are, the more a retailer will be able to hand-pick choices for you.
Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...
Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.
Passionate about wine? Wine Spectator magazine is looking for an enthusiastic copy editor in the New York office.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions
New! Ratings Flash | New! Unfiltered