Shopping for wine should be joy, but for some it is angst. Anti-angst strategies:
• Talk to the clerk. Some clerks are clueless and others elitist snobs, but good ones will be informed and excited to pair you with wine you like so you will come back, store will prosper, and they will get a raise. Give the clerk a chance.
• Don’t focus on price. Cuts both ways. There are affordable bottles that can be great, and overpriced bottles that do not perform. Price is just one measure of wine. The tipping point to improving your chances for a good bottle is $20, but there are many wines—Argentine malbecs, wines from Spain and Portugal—that are fabulous and cost less.
• Don’t eschew screw caps. Long ago screw caps meant inferior wine. That has not been true since the 20th century. Ignore closures in making your buying decision.
• Don’t play safe. The greatest joy of wine is adventure. Go for it.
• Embrace case discounts. Many stores discount if you buy six or 12 bottles, which makes the sixth or 12th bottle half-price or virtually free. No brainer.
• Don’t grab and go. Stuff happens, sometimes you must buy on the run. But browsing, getting input from the clerk, reviewing labels is integral part of the joy of wine buying. Don’t deny yourself this pleasure except when desperate. You can also buy a case of go-to wine to have on hand for rush emergencies.
• Return bad. You twist screw cap or pop cork and discover something is dreadfully wrong. Don’t pour the wine down the drain and curse the wine store. Take it back. A reputable store will replace it, no questions asked. If they don’t, find another wine store.
• Feudo Zirtari Inzolia-Chardonnay Sicili IGT 2014: Sicilian rival to sauvignon blanc well worth finding and trying. $11
• Van Duzer Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2013: Light, nice acidity, ethereal Oregon style; screw cap. $29
• Paitin Pasquero Elia Sori’ Barbaresco 2012: Well-crafted nebbiolo, great starting point in exploration of really serious Italian red wine. $42
Last round: There are better things in the world than a bottle of wine. But a bottle of wine compensates for the times when you do not have those better things.
Email Gus at firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook: Gus Clemens on Wine. Twitter: @gusclemens. Website: gusclemens.com.