How to take the intimidation out of the process

Tips to Master Shopping for Wine

Lifestyle image of two Spiegelau Definition Burgundy glasses and one Spiegelau Definition Universal glass on a glass coffee table filled with wine. In the background is a book shelf filled with books.

Buying wine should be fun – but selecting one bottle from the hundreds lined on retail shelves can seem like a daunting process. Australian Sommelier Shanteh Wale offers a few tips for a stress-free and pleasurable shopping experience.

Lifestyle image of the outside of a bottle shop.

Ask For Assistance

All liquor store staff have some level of training and can be your most significant lifeline – yes, even more than Google! Especially if you are shopping at an independent speciality wine shop, they'll be thrilled to have you in-store making purchases. 

It's true that wine has a particular language and terminology. Still, it's time to stop thinking that a lack of knowledge means you can't start a conversation. After all, you don't walk into a car mechanic and feel silly that you can't talk their lingo!

At the end of the day, if you drink wine, you have a right to your own opinion. Here are some ways to start a discussion with the retail assistant. 

Start a conversation

  • What variety or style are you after? If you know you love Shiraz, sparkling wine or full-bodied red, that will focus the options. Varieties often exist under different names in different countries, so give a country where possible.
  • What's the occasion or setting? Providing this information will help the staff determine if the wine needs to suit one person or a group of people. If your Dad loves Australian Cabernet and it's his birthday, this is a great starting point.
  • What's your budget? Wine prices range from $5 to $50,000, so providing a maximum amount will stop you from spending more than you anticipated. When I worked at an independent retailer, I could find a wine at any price point that I would be happy to drink myself - so don't be ashamed of your budget. 
  • What's hot? Ask about seasonal features or a new winery's recent release. Often these are wines that the staff have tasted recently and had some training on, which will enable them to discuss the wines in more detail. 
A lady pulling down a bottle of wine from a shelf filled with rows of wine bottles.

Look Outside The Obvious Places

It's time to look above and below your natural eye line.

Top sellers and recognized brands often appear at eye height – but look above or below, and you'll find alternate varietals or unique little gems. 

Are you looking to scoop up some value?

Don't forget to check the discount bins and vintage areas. This is a big one for independent bottle shops and larger retailers, where a lesser-known brand might be a slow seller and end up in a discount area with decent bottle age. 

A line of wine bottles on a wooden shelf.

Get snappy & be happy

It might seem obvious, but simply taking photos of the wines you enjoy can give you a guide for your next purchase. It will assist you in remembering brands, vintages, and regions, and you can share it with your favourite shop assistant. 

This takes me to the last point: it's okay to be selective about where you shop. If you don’t feel welcomed or comfortable asking questions, find another store! As with all things wine, it's a journey of discovery and one that should be fun.

Shop the perfect glasses for that perfect bottle