How to Choose Wine at the Grocery Store

Picture this: you’re strolling through your local grocery store, you have your dinners planned, your lunches are going to be great, and you’ve decided this week you’re eating cereal every morning for breakfast. You get to the wine aisle. There are hundreds of bottles staring at you. You begin to feel a little overwhelmed by all their grapey goodness. You panic and grab the first bottle with a label you recognize. STOP! It’s time to break the mold. Branch out from your usual “go-to” wine. Chances are there is something even better in the same price range just waiting to be discovered by you. But how can you possibly decide? Follow these steps to picking out your next bottle of wine.

  1. Decide on your price range. Even if you are working with a small budget you still have the opportunity to branch out. Most grocers and liquor stores offer a variety of wines in every price range. My personal favorite place when working with a smaller budget is Trader Joe’s. Their $2 chuck is, well, not for me. But there are plenty of other wines in the $5-$10 range that are fabulous! There are plenty more in the $10-$20 that, in a blind taste test, you would never guess they were so inexpensive. Whether you are at TJ’s or any other place, all wine decisions can start with your budget.

  2. Consider what you will be eating this week. Wine and food have a delicious yin and yang relationship. They have the potential to make or break each other. If you are planning a delicious steak dinner you want a bigger bold wine that is going to compliment the stronger flavor red meat brings to the table (literally). If you are planning a tuna salad, those big bold wines are going to taste bad and they’re going to make your salad taste bad. If you aren’t sure how to properly pair food with wine head over to our Pinterest Page for resources on how to accomplish a delicious pairing.

  3. Consider your own personal taste. If you insist on only drinking lighter wine but need to pair something with lamb chops, take this into consideration! I always encourage people to branch out and try something new, but at the end of the day you know yourself. Spring for a Pinot Noir, which would still compliment your beloved lamb and satisfy your love for lighter wine. This works in the reverse, too. If you have planned an amazing salmon dinner but prefer to drink wine that packs a punch, opt for a fuller chardonnay. You are buying for you, and your opinion and preferences matter.

  4. Read the back of the bottles. Pro-tip, most wines will have a quick description on the back of the bottle. Not all cabernet is created equal! One might be fairly light bodied and drink more like a pinot, others are so big you’d think you were drinking a zinfandel. The description on the back will give you an idea of what kind of wine you are looking at. Generally speaking, if there isn’t a description on the back of the bottle I take it as a clue that the winemaker was just trying to create something drinkable vs. enjoyable. I take it as a sign of lack of caring and typically avoid these wines. Again, that is generally speaking. Occasionally you will find a gem without a description.

  5. Pick your wine. Once you have narrowed down your search to something in your budget that will both pair well with your food and match your personal taste, it is decision time. I hope you enjoyed what you picked!