Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I get overwhelmed when I shop for wine in a big store. I tend to focus on known brands but fear I'm overlooking other great wines. How can I get the most out of a trip to the wine store?

—Steve, Bedford, Mass.

Dear Steve,

For starters, you might be more comfortable in a smaller wine store. I’m serious. A big part of my wine education took place in my neighborhood wine shop, where I developed a relationship with the staff there, pointing out what I tried last week and asking them what they’d recommend I try next. And don’t be shy: It’s OK to be direct and tell them exactly how much you want to spend (or not) on a bottle. Use their guidance and ask for their help in developing a vocabulary. They want you to be happy so you’ll come back and buy more wine.

If that’s not an option, then I’d suggest having a strategy before you walk into one of those big stores, so you’re not just staring at the wall of wine looking for inspiration. Focus your next few bottles on exploring a region, or a grape type. Maybe you’ll read a story in a wine magazine or website (ahem) about a style or part of the world that is new to you. And just because the store is big doesn't mean it won't also have a friendly and knowledgeable staff eager to help you. Another of my best pieces of advice is to track your purchases and impressions, to help you better understand what’s working for your palate and what’s not. Good luck!

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

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.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.