Learning How to Buy Wine

Lissette and I attended Bin School last night at Bin 36 for the “How to Buy Wine: An Insiders Guide” class. As always Bin 36  did a good job of providing lots of information about wines and the terms used to describe wines. It was an informative class and highlighted the do’s and don’ts of picking a wine. I found the price to be a little steep compared to other wine classes I’ve gone to ($36, eight wines) and I wish we had spent more time discussing the wines we actually tasted, but over all it was a good experience. For those who don’t want to pay $36 for a class, try the half hour Mini Bin classes at $15.

Key takeaways from the class:

  • Know how to describe what you like: demi-sec, dry, fruity, oak, light-bodied, full-bodied, earthy etc. (If you can describe what you like and give an example of a wine you like even better).
  • Retail mark up is double so if the wine shop paid $5 for the bottle you will pay about $10
  • In a restaurant markup can very greatly but a good guide line is you will pay approximately the retail price of the bottle for a glass of the wine. And double or triple retail for a bottle of wine. (so if you can buy a bottle of wine at the store for $10 it’s likely to cost between $20 and $30 in a restaurant)
  • Know the difference between a flawed wine and a wine you just don’t like. Flawed wines can be corked, oxidized or cooked

Corked wine is when the cork has been tainted with TCA (see “What Does Corked Mean” for more info) and  will have a wet cardboard smell

Oxidized wine is when oxygen has gotten into the bottle, it will result in a brownish color and a nutty smell. (this can happen when a cork become too dry and shrinks due to improper storage)

Cooked wine is when a wine has been stored improperly at higher temperatures. It will have the smell of cheep Sherry or burnt caramel.

  • Know when not to order wine

If the wine list has all wine made by one producer most likely a distributor put together the list and there was no thought put into how the wine would pair with the food

If you can by all the wines at 7-11 it probably not a great wine list

If no one else is drinking wine there may be reason why. Also the wine has probably been open for more than a few day which will change the normal flavor profile of the wine.

Bin School is a great place for wine novices to learn the basics of wine. Classes that explain wine vocabulary and what types of things to look for in wine are great for newbies. If you’ve been drinking wine for a while you may want to look for wine classes that are more focused on the nuances of the wines or pairing wines. I prefer wine classes that ask you to try to pick out the flavors and characteristics of the wine rather than telling you what you should find in the wine. Happy Tasting!


Posted on May 2, 2011, in Helpful tips, Wine Terms and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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