fredag 17 december 2010

Where to Buy Wine?

Whether you're in a store, a restaurant, or overseas, price is almost always a consideration, but there is more than that to buying a good bottle.

Buying wine ought to be one of life's pleasures, and yet navigating wine shelves and restaurant wine lists can be a daunting experience. Even a supermarket may have as many as 600 different wines from more than 20 countries - and no one with any wine knowledge on hand to give advice. If you don't want or need help, that's fine, but, if you do, there are probably better alternatives.

Stores, merchants, and mail order
In many countries, most wine is sold through supermarkets. In Britain, for example, they generally offer large lines of well-made, ready-for-drinking wines at competitive prices. Increasingly, they have wines made for them to their own specifications - modern, easy-going, fruity styles made by itinerant Australian or Australian-influenced winemakers (so called flying winemakers). Supermarkets also focus on mass-market, heavily promoted wine brands, on which profit margins are generous. What they can't offer to any very useful extent, because of their size and the nature of their business, is wines from small, independent producers, wines that are daringly innovative or idiosyncratic, and wines that need aging - although some offer a few token wines of these kinds in their flagship stores.

Unsupported by sales of laundry detergent and pet food, prices in chain stores and wine warehouses tend to be higher, but the best of these retailers list more of the world's interesting, limited-production wines and are staffed by people with enthusiasm and at least some knowledge.

For the most individual selections of wines, together with personal service and passion for the subject, you need to seek out independent wine stores, some of which are partly or wholly mail-order businesses. They are also the principal retail source of the finite volumes of sought-after, sometimes cult, wines that are allocated around the world and which sell out almost as soon as they are offered. Some retailers also put on tasting events - fun, educational, and intended to encourage you to buy more wine.

Mail-order wine clubs are a variation on the theme, often with more club events, newsletters, and so on. They range from one-man operations to large enterprises. Either way, they should be offering wines that aren't available in the big chains -either because quantities are too small, or, conversely, because the club is big enough to buy up all available stock or has its own winemakers in the regions. Buying wine online is yet another variation on the theme, but one that has yet to catch on significantly, even among the established mail-order wine companies who have added cyberspace as another avenue.

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