Bottoms up, chicas! Women make nearly two-thirds of total wine purchases in the U.S. That’s about 523 million gallons of vino.
One reason for the trend, according to the author of a book about problem drinking among women (relax, that’s not where this post is headed) is that we are being heavily marketed to by the wine industry.
Since wine companies have us on their radar and are cooking up creative ways to sell us their finest, here are seven tips to help you make smart choices when ordering a glass of wine at a restaurant or bar, or buying a bottle at the grocery store.
AT A RESTAURANT OR BAR:
1. Get advice. Your server should have some basic wine knowledge, so if you’re not sure what to order, ask. They may ask if you like red or white wine, fruity or minerally, sweet or dry. If anyone ever tells you, “You’re a girl, so you must like sweet/rosé/sparkling/light-bodied wines,” run away! Trust your palate and don’t be afraid to put your stilettoed foot down when someone makes an assumption about your taste just because you’re wearing a cute top and lipstick.
2. Try before you buy. Back to the fashion analogy, you wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without trying them on first, right? The same could be said for vino. Most wine bars or restaurants will give you a sip of one or two different wines if you ask. They may offer a taste outright. After all, they’re trying to sell you something. One sip should be plenty for your tastebuds to say sí or no.
3. If the wine tastes weird, send it back. It’s not good wine etiquette to send a wine back simply because you don’t like it. On the other hand, if there’s something wrong with the wine, then absolutely, send it back! Here are some common wine faults: A ‘corked’ wine will smell like wet dog or a moldy basement. Yum. If a wine smells like a band-aid or “medicine-y,” it could be tainted by a rogue microorganism. Last but not least, your wine may smell like rotten eggs or the skin of a balloon. This means you’ve got out-of-whack sulfur levels. What to say to the server? “This wine tastes off,” not “I don’t like it.”
4. Photo op. If you taste a wine that rocks your world, pull out the ol’ smartphone and snap a picture of the label or the name on the wine list. You’ll have it handy the next time you’re choosing wine.
AT A WINE SHOP OR GROCERY STORE:
1. Attend tastings. WIne shops large and small offer periodic tastings for a nominal charge. This is a great way to sample wines you may not try otherwise, and it’s a good opportunity to bond with store employees that can offer suggestions the next time you’re there.
2. Go online. Buying wine at the grocery store can be intimidating, and often it’s hard to find someone to ask for help. There are some great smartphone apps that offer fairly unbiased ratings on different wines. If you’re left with nothing but the little signs on the store shelf, ignore the foo-foo-ey language (“seductive hints of cardamom and exotic Moroccan leather…”) and look for descriptors that appeal to your palate (sweet, dry, fruity, refreshing acidity, firm tannins, minerality, full-bodied, oak/no oak, etc.).
3. Judging a wine by its label. True or false: Buying a wine because the label is cool/funny/cute is muy malo. The answer: There is no right answer. That critter Señorita Vino despises almost as much as cucarachas, the Wine Snob, would argue that you’re shallow or uneducated for buying wine because of the label design. The wine company would argue that you’re brilliant for doing exactly what their marketing department wants. I would argue that it’s your palate, your wallet and your opportunity to learn from an experience–or discover a truly amazing wine, like this one below. And yes, it tastes as sassy and spicy as it sounds. ¡Salud!