Know Your Wine Preferences

Mo Wine Please

In many ways wine, like art, is all about personal preference.

Some people love a rich, buttery Chardonnay, other prefer a big, juicy Cabernet.

Peppery, fruity, light, bold. Different strokes for different folks.

Occasionally friends will tell me that they just buy the cheapest wine they can find because they can’t tell the difference.

I’d like to suggest that with a bit of self reflection, advice from experts, and a willingness to try new things, everyone can find wines they love at a price point they are comfortable with.

My pal, YogaGirl, is a perfect example of this.

YogaGirl is a wine lover. She has a very refined palate but a modest wine budget.

She loves The Prisoner (who doesn’t!) but was looking for something at more of an everyday price.

The Prisoner

YogaGirl decided to start playing a game called, “If I like this, I should try that.”.

YogaGirl talked to the wine guy at her favorite wine store, Binny’s. He said that if she likes The Prisoner (at around $40 per bottle), she should try Slo Down Wine’s Sexual Chocolate.

Slo Down Wines references The Prisoner when talking about the winemaking philosophy behind Sexual Chocolate. Both are blends with some combination of Zinfandel, Syrah and Petit Syrah.

2012 Sexual Chocolate Wine

Courtesy of Slo Down Wines

Sexual Chocolate Red Blend retails at under $25 per bottle and, according to YogaGirl, is indeed a delicious alternative to The Prisoner.

But she was not stopping there.

YogaGirl analyzed what it was that she liked about these wines – spice, chocolate, fruit – and went in search of an even more modestly priced wine with these same characteristics.

She strolled into a local grocery store, headed to the Red Blend section of the wine department and started reading labels.

Pretty soon she struck gold.

Once Upon A Vine – around $12 per bottle – describes itself as a big red blend with notes of spice, fruit and chocolate.

Once Upon A Vine

Courtesy of The Wine Bar

YogaGirl bought a bottle, tried it and loved it!

I know it is sometimes scary to try new wines that you may or may not like. Who wants to waste $20, $30 or more on a wine that doesn’t please our palate.

But if you go into the store having defined some of the wine characteristics you enjoy, you will be way ahead of the game. Know your wine preferences.

Often this means engaging the wine experts as DW did.

“If I like this, what else will I like?”.

I had that experience recently.

You know how much I love B Side.

B Side Cabernet Sauvignon

I popped into my favorite grocery store, Heinen’s, looking for this yummy, reliable Cabernet. When I asked Joe, the wine department manager, if they carried B Side, he smiled and said, “No, but if you like that, I have something else you will love.”

Beringer Knights Valley The 2012 Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was just as advertised.

The Knights Valley AVA (American Viticulture Area) is located in easternmost Sonoma County. It is the region, in fact, that separates Sonoma and Napa. Warmer than the coastal Sonoma regions, Knights Valley is prime Cabernet growing land.

Wine Spectator awarded this wine 90 points. Pretty darn good for a wine that costs about $25 per bottle.

This wine features juicy fruit notes and a long silky finish – two of the qualities I also love about B Side.

So, where do you start?

Start by paying attention.

What characteristics do you like?

  • Bold
  • Bright
  • Dark fruit
  • Red fruit
  • Citrus Fruit
  • Buttery
  • Peppery
  • Chocolate
  • Smoke
  • Earthy
  • Long finish
  • Leather
  • Vanilla
  • Cola
  • Tobacco
  • Floral
  • Oaky
  • Mocha
  • Minerality

The list goes on and on….

Do you have favorite wine regions?

I love Napa Cabernets but even more specifically, my favorite are Napa Cabs from Atlas Peak, Howell Mountain and Diamond Mountain. I look for wines from these AVAs.

Do you prefer Sonoma Pinot Noir? Or Oregon Pinot Noir?

California Chardonnay or French Chardonnay?

Keep some notes as you go through this process.

When shopping for wine, engage the wine experts. Tell them what you like. Yes, they are in the business of selling wine, but they also want to develop loyal customers. Build a relationship with these folks.

Read bottle labels, shelf recommendations and tasting notes.

If this all seems like too much work or you would like to leave it to the pros, you could always sign up for the wine club Bright Cellars.

Bright Cellars

Courtesy of Bright Cellars

Started by two roommates from M.I.T., Bright Cellars uses algorithms to discern the preferences of club members, thereby customizing each month’s shipment.

Club members start by filling out a questionnaire – what characteristics are you looking for in a wine to date drink? After each shipment, customers review and rate the wines. All of that information goes into making the next shipment even more precisely aligned to your taste. The website says you can skip a month or cancel at any time.

Pretty cool, eh?

I did a “test run” by taking Bright Cellar’s initial survey. My results, what would be my initial shipment, included four bottles each with a $20 retail price but $15 club price.The characteristics of each of the wines chosen for me matched my wine preferences quite well.

I had never heard of any of the wines before, but that’s kind of the point of joining a club like this, right?

How do you choose a wine? A you a Bright Cellars club member? Would you consider giving it a try?

No one paid me to say this.Designated driver, Uber or cab

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  1. Buttery, smooth Chardonnay for me! My everyday is Toasted Head, but I will drink a more expensive chard anytime and can tell the difference 🙂

  2. Back away from the wine club. You had me worried for a minute.

  3. I love reading your wine descriptions but my favorite wine comes in a vodka bottle!

  4. If I go into the Piggly Wiggly here in South Alabama and ask for Sexual Chocolate, do you know how many different ways I’ll be stared at, discussed and prayed over? Lordy, you’ll be to blame for all my troubles!
    Leslie Anne recently posted…Comment on ItoldyousoItoldyousoItoldyouso!!! by Leslie AnneMy Profile

    • I KNOW!!! I almost left that part out. My mom reads my blog!! But, in the interest in complete reporting, I felt compelled to tell the full story. I, however, will never go into a wine store and ask for that particular vino. I will spend the extra $$ for The Prisoner or *gasp* drink water, instead.
      Mo Lux recently posted…Know Your Wine PreferencesMy Profile

  5. I love a big bold red – usually the Spanish or Argentinian/Chilean varieties of malbec, tempornilla or ganacha. I usually keep the price under $15, which can be a challenge but I have begun to notice some very good wines and have been taking note of the year – 2010 was an EXCELLENT year for the above style of wines! And while it is a little embarrassing, I must admit, I begin my search by the label…
    Laura Ehlers recently posted…Just NursesMy Profile

  6. I’m not surprised that it was two MIT guys who developed an algorithm to aid in the wine selection process. Go Beavers! Have an enjoyable weekend, Mo.

  7. I’ve heard a lot of people won’t buy Sexual Chocolate because of the name. Trust me – big mistake. Sexual Chocolate is a fantastic wine! It is sooo smooth and those hints of chocolate are interesting and delicious. I’ve paired it with everything for fish to pasta to pizza and it’s a winner. And if it’s really the name stopping you from buying, remember it’s only a name.

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