Depending on a state’s liquor laws, supermarkets often have an aisle or two dedicated solely to wine. Unfortunately, very few establishments actually take the time to care for, store, present the bottles correctly and, to top it off, actually entrust the task with a trained professional. And yet, most of the shelves are devoted to private labels (mainly commercial wines sold under the brand’s name) or wines from large châteaux capable of supplying massive quantities that actually require the serious care a caviste or serious wine store owner would provide. In a grocery store, there’s usually no one there who can consult you on a good bottle.
Wine festivals occur in September and offer great opportunities to purchase new wines as the latest yields are shipped out. It’s even possible to get a good deal on a cru despite speculation around a wine’s popularity that often causes prices to spike. But as you go to the grocery store to buy your wine, keep a few basic rules of thumb in mind to avoid buying a wine that’s more like a grape juice in disguise.
A few rules to follow:
– Ignore medals and awards.
– Don’t be swayed by discounts, a price reduction is a distraction.
– Avoid Champagnes when they are not in cardboard boxes (no, seriously). Light is the deadly enemy of Champagne.
– If you don’t have someone reputable to guide you (which is the likely scenario since you are shopping in a supermarket), choose only châteaux and estates you know and beware of imitations, names that sound almost identical.
– Do not rely on the so-called sommelier in an apron (a.k.a., a grocery store employee who stocks shelves) who has been advised to send the customer where there is the most stock in the wine cellar and the biggest margins
– Use a trusted source, like (if you speak French) Le Point’s special wine articles. Out of about 30,000 wines offered by supermarket chains and websites, Le Point selects only 700 to 800 really good ones. In English, Vivino and Delectable are reputable applications that scan wine labels and provide information and reviews.