Do you find that you drink the exact same thing every time you have a glass of wine? If so, you’re in a wine rut. We reached out to Ecco Adler, a manager at Manhattan’s Moore Brothers Wine Company to figure out how to try something new—but still enjoy what you’re drinking. Here are his tips on how to buy wine you’ll like, and what to look for.
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First, a few ground rules…
#1. Forget Price
Just because one wine is more expensive than another, doesn’t mean it’s better. “Price is determined by all sorts of factors, including politics, the price of labor in the area and land values. Flavor isn’t one of them,” says Adler. Look at the grape and the region it was grown in first (see #2), then work within your budget.
#2. Look at the Label
No, I don’t mean how pretty it is. This is where you’ll find information about what grape you’re drinking, where it was grown and when it was harvested. If you know nothing about that stuff, that’s okay—read our guide below, start to keep track of the wines you like, and you might start noticing a pattern. When in doubt, do some internet research or move on to…
#3. Ask for Help
Sure, some some wine vendors or sommeliers will laugh at you for mispronouncing sauvignon blanc (it’s “saw-vee-nyon blahnk”). But many more have a passion for wine, want to share that passion and would be happy to drop some knowledge on you, if you ask nicely. After all, if they’re any good at their job they should be focused on helping you enjoy wine instead of jacking up your bill.
MORE: A Totally Not Boring Wine Spritzer
Now, on to the suggestions for the top five most purchased wines in the USA.
If You’re Drinking… Chardonnay
Chardonnays tend to have a velvety, oaky flavor with citrus notes. So Adler recommends looking for white wines from the northern Rhone region in France, with grapes like Viognier, Roussanne or Marsanne. “They can be very crisp and clean, but still have the weightiness you get from a good Chardonnay,” says Adler.
If You’re Drinking… Pinot Grigio
You tend to like a more crisp wine with hints of fruit. Adler recommends looking for grapes like the Verdicchio from the Le Marche region on the Adriatic side of southern Italy. “You’ll get a clean, bracing wine with a fresher taste,” says Adler. You could also try Sauvignon Blancs from the Marlborough region in New Zealand—these are a personal favorite of mine!
If You’re Drinking… White Zinfandel
Pink wine is huge in the summer (“Sales switch off like a light switch after Labor Day!” says Adler), but the American versions can be too sweet for Adler’s taste. Instead, look for a rose from its historical regions, like southern France and along the Mediterranean Sea, like a Sagnier grape from Provence or Languedoc. “These have some of the softness and fruitiness of a red but are still crisp and dry,” says Adler. “It’s like eating a ripe strawberry instead of a Mars bar.”
If You’re Drinking… Merlot
Merlot can get a bad rap, but if you go for a smaller regional producer instead of one of the big industrial ones, they’re still great grapes. So look for merlots or Cabernet Franc blends from the Bordeaux Superieur or Cotes de Bourg regions. “These will give you rich, full red wines that aren’t too syrupy,” says Adler.
If You’re Drinking… Cabernet Sauvignon
One of the most widely-grown grapes in the world, the key here is to look for wine from regions that have the right conditions to grow them well. Adler recommends cabernet sauvignons from the mountain-designed California vineyards near Napa Valley and Sonoma, like Mount Veeder and Oakville. “These are excellent wines that give you that fresh tobacco and earthy flavors,” says Adler.