How do I know if a wine will be good before I buy it?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I tried to return a bad bottle of wine but there was no return policy. How do I know if a wine will be good before I buy it?

—Rhonda, Jackson, Miss.

Dear Rhonda,

I can’t guarantee you’ll love every bottle of wine, but I can give you some wine-buying advice.

If you’re just starting to learn about wine, pay attention to a few things about the wines you do like. If you find a brand that makes a wine you like, explore other wines they make. If you find that you prefer wines made with Chardonnay grapes more than those made with Sauvignon Blanc grapes, stick with Chardonnays for now, or ask for recommendations of other wines like Chardonnay. Or perhaps it’s a region you’re fond of—maybe you like wines from Burgundy more than wines from Bordeaux.

If you find a wine shop that you like, or a restaurant server or sommelier that you enjoy chatting with, ask for recommendations based on the wines you’ve liked before. And don’t be afraid to be straightforward about how much money you want to spend—no one wants to waste your time showing you $80 bottles of wine if your budget is $15.

We also hope you’ll find reading our wine reviews helpful. Look up wines you’ve tasted and see if reading our tasting notes can help build up your vocabulary, or point you in the direction of wines we recommend.

And as for wine store return policies, be sure to ask about that before you buy a bottle of wine you might be uncertain about.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

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