Tasting to Buy

There are a lot of reasons to go wine tasting, ranging from a pleasant day in the country to serious connoisseurship.  In some instances, the reason may be (or at least include) the specific intent to buy a certain wine or type of wine.  Of course, we usually buy a few bottles from many of the wineries we visit on any given trip, but there are also times that we’ve been specifically looking to buy a particular varietal or a blend. 

Sometimes the objective is obvious: If we’re in Burgundy, we’re going to buy wines made from either Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, because that’s what they make.  But for us Americans, we’re used to tasting at wineries where as many as a dozen types of wine are on offer.  If we are intent on filling a hole in our wine collection while we’re out tasting, we could just rely on the luck of the draw.  But we have found that following the tips we give below, we’ve been more successful in finding what we were looking for.

Photo courtesy of Kreglinger Wine Estates.

  • Be as specific as possible as to what you’re looking for.  If you start out thinking, “I’d like to buy some white wine”, don’t worry, you’ll find it everywhere.  That’s not the same as looking for a certain style.  Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Chenin Blanc are all whites but with very different flavor profiles.  So before you leave home, consider what you like, what you’re likely to serve it with and how soon you intend to drink it.  If you trying to buy, say, a flowery white with lots of fruit and a hint of sweetness, then you can buy accordingly.
  • It’s like going to a wine shop, except it isn’t.  At the store, all you can do is look at bottles and ask the salesperson for advice.  At a winery or a formal tasting, you can try before you buy.  That’s a plus.  But you probably would never go to ten wine shops to buy ten bottles to try at home.  On a wine tasting trip, you are going to taste the type of wine you’re looking for, then another an hour later and two more the next day.  Are you enough of an expert taster that you can remember all of the ones you’ve tasted and choose the best?  And will you want to drive back to the winery you visited yesterday to buy the one you remember you liked best?
  • Improve your odds by choosing the right wineries to visit.  As noted, you’re likely to encounter many different grapes and styles, all at the same winery.  A little homework before you set off on your trip will guide you to the places where it’s more probable that you’ll find what you want.  If a particular winery has six single vineyard Zinfandels and, oh yes, a Chardonnay, you have less of a chance if it’s a white wine you’re intent on buying.  Yes, there are exceptions and you should take advantage of them if you encounter them, but don’t bet on it.  

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