How I Buy Wine for Home
22 Wednesday Aug 2012
I was out with my friend Janice two weeks ago, and at one point I uttered “…when I buy wine for home.” Janice wanted to hear all about it, yet she stopped me in my tracks. She urged me to blog about it. Janice is a gifted writer with a sixth sense for what people want to read. Slightly surprised – and certainly flattered – by her suggestion, I registered a mental “note to self”. That sticky note fluttered in my mind’s eye this morning. So, here is how I buy wine for my home.
Having bought for restaurants and a retailer and being someone who attends trade tastings regularly, I have a good feeling for wine mark-ups. Naturally, I want to pay as little mark-up as possible. This is especially true as I open lots of wine at home. Today, for example, there are three open bottles in my fridge. There’s the Corsican Clos Alivu 2010 Patrimonio Rosé, the Loire Jean-François Mérieau 2007 Malbec Cent Visages and the red Burgundy Hudelot-Noellat 2010 Chambolle-Musigny. Each was opened for a specific meal, and I feel no compunction to finish them. I spend so much time around wine (and spent so much time studying wine) that I figure I should drink what I want when I do stop to enjoy a glass.
I do most of my wine shopping online. I receive frequent emails from my favorite wine shops as well as flash sales sites. Astor Wines and Vitis are my faves. (Disclosure: I work as a freelancer for both of them, but my buying days at Astor began way back as a Master of Wine candidate.) When I take the time to pop into a store, I like to browse Appellation Wine & Spirits and Chambers Street Wines. I used to buy at auction, and I miss that. It’s good fun to score a good deal on a set of mature wines.
I love buying half bottles, especially since I open so much wine. I wish more producers would bottle in 375 ml bottles, but I understand that it’s not very practical for them. My per-bottle spend is rarely more than $20, unless I’m buying Burgundy or Champagne. Even then, I almost never spend over $40. After all, I’m lucky to have many opportunities to drink and share high-end wine when I’m not at home.
Even with all the tasting I do, there’s always more to discover in wine. Though I’m often tempted to explore further and occasionally do, for home, I purchase for pleasure. Every case I buy contains at least one bottle of bubbles and preferably three. I buy lots French and Italian wine followed by bottlings from Austria. Then, Oregon and New Zealand figure in, and I always have a random smattering of things from around the globe. For example, Swiss, Texan, Turkish and Bulgarian wines are now hibernating in my wine fridge. In the summer, there’s always rosé, Australian Riesling and Txakoli, and in the winter, there’s always Madeira, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and Priorat blends. Most of the wine I buy is for current consumption though I have a dozen cases of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo and Brunello stashed away at Chelsea Wine Storage.
There you have it. And, now that I’ve worked up a thirst thinking about all these wines I love, I think I might pour a glass of that 2010 Chambolle-Musigny.