RedThumb Natural Wines | Logo

4 Great Wine Shopping Tips You Should Know

One of the biggest problems in the world of wine is how intimidating it can be for beginners. There is just so much information (not to mention misinformation) that even professionals disagree on many different topics. Many people hold the industry attitude that their job is to be gatekeepers rather than teachers, too, though this is changing. Two early-to-wine moments that can be stress-inducing: ordering wine in a restaurant [a topic we’ll get to at a later date] and walking into a wine shop for the first time.

Confession: walking into an unfamiliar wine shop can even be intimidating to me. Every shop is organized differently-some by region, some by varietal, some by flavor profile—and many won’t have wines from producers I’m familiar with. Some areas are lucky enough to have shops that are dedicated to selling only natural wines, but each shop’s definition of “natural” can vary. Most parts of the country don’t have dedicated natural wine shops, which adds another layer of questions. However, pushing through the uncomfortable moments is the best way to learn just about anything. Here are a few tips to make wine shop visits less stressful:

Wine shopping tip #1: Know what the the wine is for 

Whether you’re looking for something to pair with a recipe, something to give as a gift, or just a bottle to enjoy on its own, have an idea of what you want to accomplish and lead with that. If you have a varietal or region in mind that’s great, but stay open to other options. 

Wine shopping tip #2: Decide how much you’ll spend on a bottle of wine

It is easy to get wowed by a glowing recommendation on something that’s a little out of your price range, so knowing your budget ahead of time is a good way to leave satisfied. This bit of advice actually becomes more important as you learn more about wine [at which point it gets easier and easier to justify spending a lot on a special bottle].

Wine shopping tip #3: Ask your wine questions

While selection, pricing, and organization can vary greatly from one wine shop to the next, the one thing every good wine shop has in common is a knowledgeable and helpful staff. They should make you feel comfortable asking for assistance and especially asking for recommendations. When I worked in wine retail, customers of any level that were curious and wanted to learn more were always the best part of the day. Remember, and I mean this: there really are no stupid questions. Any wine shop whose staff makes you feel intimidated should not get any of your money.

Wine shopping tip #4: There is no right or wrong

The last bit of advice is that shopping for wine isn’t a test. There is no right or wrong bottle. In fact, while you’re learning about varietals and regions, you can gain just as much knowledge from a wine you hate as a wine you love. Don’t beat yourself up if you get a wine you don’t like, just try and make a mental note about what you don’t like about the wine [more tips on that here]. That way, on your next visit, you can tell the staff that you’re not a fan of highly acidic wines, or very tannic wines, or whatever it was that stood out about that bottle that you just didn’t enjoy.

A great wine shop can open the doors of the wine world to you. Most have a good selection with choices that fit many different budgets and a helpful staff. That, coupled with your willingness to learn and try new things, are all it takes to get the ball rolling.