I’m Gonna Pop Some Corks, Only got $10 in my Pocket

Now that you’re getting the hang of tasting and talking about wine, it’s time to talk about how to choose a wine you’ll like from the shelves upon shelves at your local wine shop.

(Let me preface this post by saying that I live in Ontario, land of the LCBO, and so my wine-buying tips exist within that context)

Before you dive into choosing a new wine my advice is to taste, taste, taste! The more you taste the more you’ll learn about your preferences. When you find a wine you like take note of the varietal, country, and region – these are great guides when choosing something new to try.

Once you know a bit about what you like and don’t like, it can help to think about where and when you’ll be drinking what you buy. I will probably buy something more universally-liked for a dinner party than for a random Tuesday night, when I only have myself to impress or disappoint.

In some ways you really can judge a book (or in this case the bottle) by its cover. Old world wines tend to have much more traditional-looking labels, and new world wines will often have more modernly designed labels. It’s useful to keep that in mind when matching your preferences to a new pick.

Buy something because you think you’ll like it, not because it’s popular. I’m looking at you, Yellowtail.

When in doubt, talk to someone – every LCBO store has a Product Consultant whose job is to talk to customers like you and help them find a product they’ll like.

Here are a few mental sign-posts that I use to guide my as I wander the aisles of the Vintages section of any LCBO:

  • Be wary of blends that don’t explain themselves. I’ve mentioned that this is a pet peeve of mine. This is because I know which varietals I like and which I don’t, so I am less likely to try something new if I don’t know the grapes being used. (One exception to this personal rule is French wines, which assume that you will know the varietals and blends used simply by telling you the region or Appellation.)
  • I will admit that price plays a role. While I firmly believe there is a lot of great wine to be drunk for under $15, I generally don’t dip below $9, especially when trying something new.
  • On that note, I suggest deciding on a price ceiling when trying new wines. That way, if you’re disappointed with your choice the level of investment was relatively low. I find the $10-$12 range is high enough to give you some good options but low enough that you won’t have broken the bank on a bottle you don’t love.

What wines have you taken a chance on, and how did it go?

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  • Reply Andrew January 31, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    I’m loving the blog so far, Meg! Quick caveat to your post though. Not every LCBO store has a product consultant. Many do, but smaller stores, stores without a vintages section, and stores that don’t do enough business to warrant one don’t often get a product consultant. That being said, every store does have staff who have been trained on the product, although not necessarily to the degree of a PC. I would recommend that customers ask a CSR if they are comfortable recommending a wine. Newer staff have not had time to go through all the training yet. Also, note the colour of the name tag. White are new hires, bronze have completed level one training, silver- level two, and gold, all levels of standard training. Gold CSRs are often confident with many general list products although everyone in my store has their specialties. If shopping in vintages I recommend asking for a CSR who is familiar with the vintage section of the PC is unavailable. I hope that helps! 🙂

    • Reply meg February 1, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      Thanks for the great LCBO inside info!

  • Reply Sarah January 31, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    I just tried Inception Red two nights ago on a recommendation and loved it. It’s a South African blend and I didn’t note what varietals were in the blend as it was a recommendation. I don’t normally venture into the South Africa aisle but this will be added into my rotation.

    • Reply meg February 1, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      Conception Red is exactly one of the blends I was talking about. I do like it, but it bothers me that the bottle doesn’t explain the blend. How else can I expand my wine knowledge if I don’t know what I liked about that wine?

  • Reply prgirltoronto January 31, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    I tend to stick to my favourite wines which include pinot gris and sauvignon blanc. But maybe the next time I’m in Niagara, I’ll try to step out of my comfort zone.

    • Reply meg February 1, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      Niagara has lots of great wines to try! I would suggest giving a dryer Reisling a go, know Cave Springs in Jordan makes a delicious one.

      • Reply prgirltoronto February 1, 2015 at 3:14 pm

        Thanks. I will put Cave Springs on my list and check it out this summer.

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