'TIS THE SEASON to be jolly and spread the spirit, which for wine lovers means pouring the joy that comes in a bottle with a vintage date and a cork in its neck. . . .
Pull up a chair and pour a glass as I share my 12 tips for Christmas (with apologies to the song with a similar name), with thoughts of how you can stretch your wine-buying dollars and make more intelligent wine-buying decisions this year and forever. . . .
Tip No. 1: Expand your circle of friends and start hanging out with serious wine collectors, those who have giant cellars and throw lavish wine and food parties every weekend; or offer yourself up for adoption to a collector who has more wine than one person can ever drink in a lifetime. . . .
Tip No. 2: If you have a substantial wine cellar, one that will outlive you and yours, do yourself (and your friends) a favor and start drinking your wines. Unless your cellar is stocked with 1992 vintage Ports, most of what's in thereregardless of appellation or vintageis ready to drink and if you pour your wealth you may even expand your circle of friends. . . .
Tip No. 3: Be a more assertive buyerwhen you find a wine you really like, make a commitment and buy as much as you can, as values and great wines don't sit on wine shelves very long. . . .
Tip No. 4: Be a smarter buyer and if you already have a good collection, don't go overboard and overbuybe happy (and thankful) buying three or four bottles of your favorites. . . .
Tip No. 5: Expand your horizons by trying less popular wines such as Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc (or other endangered varietals), to name a few. . . .
Tip No. 6: Be realistic about what you buy and how much you spend by assigning a real value to the wines you drink. By this I mean you should set limits on what you'll spend for a bottle or case of wine. If you draw the line at $15 or $20 a bottle, stick with it and enjoy the satisfaction that you're not paying more than you think the wine's worth or getting caught in the rising price tide. . . .
Tip No. 7: Learn a second or third language so you can better read the labels and understand the wines of up-and-coming wine regions such as Chile, the Languedoc (in France) or even California's Central Valley. . . .
Tip No. 8: Establish a working relationship with the local wine shop owner and tell him what kinds of wines you like and at what prices. Then put him to work for you finding those wines. . . .
Tip No. 9: Shop at deep discounters such as Price Costco, Beverages & More or Cost Plus and get there early on Saturdays when they open so you won't have to fight the crowds. . . .
Tip No. 10: Can't find the wines you want? Write the wineries and get on their mailing lists. When they send you their latest offerings, make sure you order up fast. Even if you get stuck on a waiting list, you'll move up faster if you act now rather than waiting for another year. . . .
Tip No. 11: Don't blindly follow others' tastes. If you've been buying a wine for years that you finally discover you really don't like, break the habit and stop buying it (or taking the advice of others). . . .
Tip No. 12: For Santa's sake, drink your wines when they're young, fruity and expressivelet someone else (your new wine collector friend) cellar the wines (at his expense) and see how they (do or don't) develop. . . .
Beyond that, have a safe and sane holiday season. . . .
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