Wine shopping tips

Shopping for wine can be intimidating. Here are five tips to help you overcome vinophobia.

• Talk to the wine seller. There are elitist wine-snob sellers, but not many because those boorish types don’t sell wine well. Successful wine sellers want to politely pair you with wine you will enjoy so you will come back for more.

You may encounter an employee who doesn’t know much about wine, but they can at least give general directions. At a grocery store, you are unlikely to find anyone at all to help you. In both cases, ask a friend who knows about wine—they will be happy to assist. Of course, you also can read a wine column, as you are doing now.

• Price is important, but not the only thing. The break point for quality starts around $15. You begin to get more consistent quality over $20. The next level is between $35 and $65. Price points to do not ensure quality, they increase the likelihood of quality.

• Forget your comfort zone. When searching for values, look past California, France, and Italy. Portugal makes wonderful stuff in the $15 or less range; so do Greece and South Africa. There are great values from better-known, but not Big Three wine countries: Argentina, Chile, Spain, Australia, New Zealand.

• Eschew screw-top snobbery. Years ago, screw tops proclaimed plonk. Those days are long gone. Many superb wines today open with a twist and not a pull.

• Take advantage of multi-bottle discounts. Most stores offer a 10 percent discount for six or more, some offer a 15 percent discount for 12 or more. Do the math. Depending on the discount, the sixth bottle or the eleventh and twelfth bottles essentially are free.

Tasting notes:

• Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec Mendoza 2013: Sit-back-and-slurp malbec at seriously good price. $14

• Bodegas Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva 2010: Easy-on-the-wallet, nice entrée into Spanish reds. $14-15

• Bodegas Bilbaínas Viña Zaco Tempranillo Rioja 2014: Juicy, fruit-driven, well-made, superb price. $15

• Nobilo Icon Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014: Very nice, remarkable price for quality pinot pour from New Zealand. $23

Last round: If you drink wine like a fish, don’t drive. Swim.