We've all bought a bottle of wine based solely on the fact that we liked the label. And while that strategy may win you "funniest wine name" or "coolest-looking bottle" honors at your dinner party, the taste is what counts. So the next time you're buying a bottle, follow these timeless tips from winemakers and you can't go wrong.
1. Great wine doesn't always mean expensive wine.
"Look for wines in the $12 to $20 price range that come from winemakers who also make expensive wine," says Charles Smith, winemaker and founder of K Vintners. "They'll also make great affordable wine to uphold their reputation." And no, the more expensive bottle isn't always better. "A $100 bottle of wine doesn't usually taste five times better than a $20 bottle of wine," says Pat Henderson, Kenwood Vineyards' chief winemaker.
2. Search on the right shelf.
"At your eye level, you'll find the most popular products at a medium price range (least expensive wines are at the bottom, most expensive at the top)," explains Chandon's head winemaker, Pauline Lhote. "This is also where retailers will place their favorite wines and the brands they believe in the most."
3. Think regions, not countries.
"When looking for a varietal, consider looking for specific regions as opposed to countries," says Paula Borgo, winemaker for Bodegas Septima. (Read: Not every single bottle of French wine will be amazing.) Choose malbec from the Uco Valley in Argentina and garnacha from Priorat in Spain. Dennis Cakebread, vintner and owner of Mullan Road Cellars, adds that you can't go wrong with cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley, sangiovese from Chianti (that's right, it's not just a wine, it's also a region in Tuscany), and pinot noir from Anderson Valley. "For red wines in general, check out Columbia Valley in Washington," he adds.