The Basics

Having trouble navigating the wine store?  Ask for help.  Do not be intimidated. 

With everyone watching their budget these days, you don’t want to end up with a wine purchase you aren’t particularly fond of drinking.

Knowing the answers to a few simple questions can easily assist the person behind the counter find you something you will enjoy:

How much would you like to spend?

What foods will you be serving with the wine?

Do you prefer a fruit-forward taste or something more earthy?

Red or white?

Are you interested in something crispy or is smoothness what you are looking for?

Light or full-bodied?

Having trouble answering these questions?

Ask for a recommendation.  If you like it, refer to that bottle the next time you visit, explaining what it was you liked or disliked about it..

Give wines from other states, countries, hemispheres and regions a chance. 

You just might be surprised what you will find.

What I Was Laughing About One Year Ago Today:  Conversation With a Waitress

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  1. dawn 1

    I used to be completely intimidated at a wine store. But I found they wanted to help me so badly. Slowly I started to figure out what I liked. I had a difficult time expressing what I liked and sometimes still do.

    Great questions to know though. It does really help.

  2. Dee 2

    I love browsing through wine stores, but I’m generally clueless. Thanks for the tips.

  3. nina 3

    I had such a good laugh about the “conversation with a waitress”. I had to disturb my husband from work to tell him the funny story….he laugh so loud that he forgot what he was busy typing…..

  4. Barbie with a T 4

    I do not purchase expensive wines, and if I do not like a particular selection, I use up the bottle by using it for cooking purposes. There are very few wines that I do not like to drink, but after adding it to a sauce or recipe, I cannot tell the difference. Thanks for the tips on choosing, though. I do like to experiment with wines from different regions, and your tips are very helpful.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Wine? Did someone say wine?

  6. As a non-drinker who loves to cook with and serve wine, I’m always at sea about what to buy. I often bring recipes with me when I go wine shopping. The shop owner can match the wine to the main ingredients in the dishes I plan to make. They actually love doing it, so don’t be shy about asking for help.

  7. I’ve really found the youngest wine store personnel to be very helpful. They are typically on a budget themselves and know the best value wines. I’ve even impressed wine connoisseurs who have come to our house with “my” choices. ;-)

    The Conversation with the Waitress was too funny. Those cute, cute boys are just typical kids. You have to wonder what they might have said/done if you hadn’t prepared them! ;-) LOL


  8. Great tips. I think more people would drink wine if they didn’t feel intimidated or think they have to spend $25+ for a good bottle.

  9. This is amazing! Seriously…I had written a note to myself to email you when I woke up this morning about the sorts of things I wanted to ask when looking for a particular wine!

    Brilliant! It’s like you read my mind.

  10. Pam 10

    I always ask questions – I just don’t know enough about wine yet.

  11. Liz C. 11

    I remember that post & it’s still funny. Boys… *sigh*

    Since you’ve been schooling me on wine selections over the last year, I’ve been trying to pass this on to hubby, but haven’t been too successful yet. One night he came home from the store, so proud of himself for having found a new white wine for dinner. I said “But honey, you don’t like sweet white wine.” He replied that it wasn’t. I told him it was a Muscat & that is a sweet wine. He opened it, tested it & spit it into the sink.

    I asked him if he read the back label since it often gives you clues as to the flavors the wine presents. Of course, he did not. I guess it’s like getting a man to ask for directions…

    Anyway, the wine guy at HEB is my new best friend. I told him my mission was to try all of the cheapest wines & I think he fell in love with me, lol. We spent 30 minutes going over the wines & I came home with a dozen new bottles of wine. I also bought their wine carriers that are like their grocery bags, only sectioned. I had a blast & will do a post this week about the wines I got…

    Oh & they finally have the wines shelved by country which is a great help. Thanks so much for all that you’ve taught me. When you open the doors of your winery, we will be there to celebrate & buy.


  12. Biz 12

    That’s about the only thing I miss from working in high end restaurants was trying all different kinds of wine – your right, you don’t want to waste money on something you won’t enjoy!

    Happy Monday!

  13. elra 13

    LOL… really … really LOL, kids are the most honest human being on earth!
    Thanks for all of those questions.

  14. Cheryl 14

    How fortunate I feel to have not only a mother-in-law who worked in a winery (and is VERY forthcoming with great tips) but a wine shop WALKING distance from our house, with a proprietor we’ve known for years. Of course YOU are a great resource…. :)

    Blessings aplenty! ;) (Great questions to ask, too!)

  15. You are so right on this. My favorite place to buy wine is this little family run store in the next town over from me. They are all so friendly and are always more than willing to help you out in anyway, which is so nice.

  16. Sorry, I’m still laughing about your boys’ convo with the waitress!

  17. Bob 17

    Good tips. I’ve never been shy about asking for help with the wine. My major problem is the liquor store I go to only has a couple wine folk in it, the rest are Bud drinkers! It makes it tricky sometimes. heh.

  18. erin 18

    This is so true! I did this Friday in fact, except I asked a group of blogging ladies I befriended. They came through with great (cost friendly!) Trader Joe’s pics that I wouldn’t have bought had I not known about them.

  19. No, no, no….they did not say that in the restaurant! OMG, I almost pimp!!! Makes me feel better about my 3 year old climbing over the booth at Applebee’s (yuck btw) and joining the couple behind us. At least it was a crappy meal he interrupted!

    And that’s why mommy drinks…

  20. Lo! 20

    I think having a great local liquor/wine store is VITAL! No matter how much I learn (or think I know), I always ask the guys at our local wine shop what they think… I’ve come up with some GREAT unexpected wine finds that way (sometimes for less cash than I was expecting to spend).

  21. giz 21

    Well…I had to come all the way to FL just to be able to send a message so now I’m clear it’s my pc and not your site. Sheesh, the things you do for friends. Wine?? I’ll have the red one, or the white one – they seem to be the only ones I know

  22. Laurie 22

    These are great tips! It’s hard to choose a new wine, so I tend to play it safe and buy those I know I like. I’ve found restaurants are a great place to try a new wine by the glass to find others to add to my favorites.

  23. Thanks for the tips. There’s so much to learn. I’m going to get hooked on going out wine tasting. So much fun!

  24. an another tip, don’t be afraid of wines under $10. there are SO many delicious ones that are under that price point. we rarely spend more than $12 for wine b/c you just don’t have to these days.

  25. imom 25

    Thanks for the advice. I am getting better with experimenting, so I know I like smooth and fruity, but I also like a hint of earth too. I definitely prefer reds too.

  26. Everytime I walk in a wine store I feel like I fell off the turnip truck.

  27. Debbie 27

    I don’t drink wine bur I love to cook with it. I probably should ask next time about which are the best to cook with since I normally just guess….Loved your post on the mashed potatoes!! They look great!

  28. Great points! No matter how knowledgeable one is about wine, it’s always wise to ask for recommendations as a good wine store always has something new and interesting.

  29. Thanks for the tips. We love wine but are not expert.

  30. Kate 30

    Laughing out loud at that conversation. Hilarious.

  31. Linda 31

    The last time I bought wine, I pointed out a bottle that i had tried recently and told the sales guy that I really liked it, and he said, “well then you’ll LOVE this” and steers me towards something new. It was a great way to approach it.

  32. megan 32

    Out of the mouths of babes! Thats so funny. I bet she went and checked out the chin hair right away! She should thank your kid. Great tips on wine buying. One of my favorite things to do. ;-)

  33. Great tips and I love your b/w pics!

  34. GREAT, simple & clear post Cathy.

    the only thing I would add is for people with slightly more experience with wine is to EXPERIMENT a little. Try a new varietal or a wine from a new region.


  35. Meg 35

    I have a few bottles in my frige and one on my counter. I like lables. Think that is how I found Noble Pig when I was in OR. For what ever reason I didn’t write down the name and remembered the Pig…so I was asking about Swine Wine. Funny one man knew exactly what I was looking for and pointed me your way.
    Yep brought two bottles back to MI with me.
    One is gone… :)


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