Walking into an shop that has a huge array of wines on offer is intimidating. It's the volume of choices on offer today that does it: twenty years ago the choice was limited, so choosing was a lot easier. There are two ways you can approach this multiplicity of choices, you can stick to a couple of wines that you know or you can take a chance.
Walking into an shop that has a huge array of wines on offer is intimidating. It's the volume of choices on offer today that does it: twenty years ago the choice was limited, so choosing was a lot easier. There are two ways you can approach this multiplicity of choices, you can stick to a couple of wines that you know or you can take a chance. If you're going to try the second of these options, you can make improve the odds of success by knowing what to avoid.
Top of my list of wines to avoid is red Bordeaux at under 10. If it sells here for 10, it certainly left Bordeaux at under 3 a bottle. Now here's the thing; for eight hundred years the Bordelaise have been selling fine wines at high prices, and over the centuries they've also learnt how to get high prices for mediocre wines as well. Trust me, if the most the Bordelaise can extort for a red wine is 3, you'd be well advised to avoid it.
Less readily found, but objectionable to me, are cult wines. Wines like Le Pin, like Vega Sicilia, like any one of many Californian 'boutique' wines. These aren't bad wines - they can be utterly excellent - they're just horrendously over-priced and prey on gullible people's need to be trendy.
Personally I'm a huge fan of dessert wines - properly made dessert wines, ideally using botrytis grapes. This is a very expensive way of making wine and the results aren't just delicious, they're very pricey. Cheap sweet wine is not in the same league at all: a lot of sugar doesn't make a dessert wine, it just makes a sticky, cloying wine that's best avoided.
I'm going to add Beaujolais Nouveau to this list. It's an easy target, I know, but it's a product that's way past its sell-by date. It is to wine what a comic book is to literature. It can be fun loo-reading, but you wouldn't shelve it in your library. Perhaps where we are now is OK, for a week a year it's on offer and the hype of twenty years ago is thankfully gone.
Beware of 'Chianti'. Chianti is a huge area of Tuscany covering many different climates, from maritime to mountainous. Unless you know the vineyard, who picked the grapes, who made the wine and who markets it, leave it alone. There are many more bad chiantis than good ones.
Lastly I want to add branded wines. There's a shift in the trade towards offering a brand name to the consumer, not grape variety and provenance. Branding is what gave us Black Tower, Blue Nun and Mateus Rose, wines that may have put entire generations off German wines and roses. Avoiding wines from this list may not guarantee you a good wine, but at least you'll be avoiding the more obvious horrors available to you.
Santa Ana Viognier 2002