1. We don’t buy $2 wine, ever (you know the one)
Just. Don’t. And. Never. Look. Back. It’s. Over. It’s. Ooooooovvvaaa. Sorry to say, but $2 wine is undrinkable because the fixed cost of a glass wine bottle is give or take $1.50, which values the juice inside, if they’re making any profit, at well under $0.50. How can it be this cheap? Because it’s a kitchen sink of the least-desirable, combine harvested, leftover juice from the lowest tier viticultural real estate then balanced with a witches brew of acid, sugar and god knows what other additives. (Fact: there’s dozens of chemicals approved for use in wine-making the entire world over and believe me when I say these chemicals are used, and used often, by cheap and fine wines alike. This is why so-called “natural wines” with limited additives, on a purely philosophical level, are a wonderful thing.) Rule of thumb: if you’re on a strict budget, decent wine starts at $8. Don’t make that face, it’s not a good face.
2. We buy most of our wine from our restaurants at cost
I know, this isn’t fair and I shouldn’t have mentioned it but it’s also true and I’ll attempt to justify the trade off for this extreme privilege is having to actually, you know, work in a restaurant.
3. We buy our wines at dedicated wine shops
This should be self-explanatory but if it isn’t I suggest seeking out professional (and hopefully small business, personal relationship based) wine advice is always for the best. The same logic applies to why I don’t get my car fixed at the grocery store — just because something is convenient doesn’t make it right (fine, I realize this car analogy doesn’t really make sense but Costco “technically” fixes cars so shove it). Remember: wine is an agricultural product so it makes sense to buy it from people who actually care about agriculture.
4. We first consider texture
So the enjoyment of wine is really the enjoyment of flavored texture (the way it hits that lovely, well groomed tongue of yours). Questions you should be able to answer when conversing with your friendly wine professional: do you like your wine to be more linear? (acidic and refreshing like lemonade?) Or do you prefer your wine more rounded? (mouth coating, i.e. BIG RED.) Know thyself!
5. We know “points” ratings are for fools
True, because hard statistics rooted in taste and opinions are arbitrary (yes, even if they’re associated with supposedly uncanny, old pasty dude palates) and should live in the arbitrary trash where they belong. Yawn.
6. We know there’s no such thing as “the best”
A German once told me that advertising something as “best” is illegal in Germany and even though I’ve found zero evidence this is a real German law there’s something beautifully honest about this idea. Sorry big wine collector, your wine isn’t simply the best (with apologies to Tina Turner, who is damn near close) because it’s expensive, it isn’t the best because there’s no such thing. (as far as I know, no one on earth has yet to experience a single taste from the perspective of another person and for all i know everything you taste is a varying degree of ham and it’s bonafide delicious.)
7. We look for cheap/wonky labels from small production wineries
This is a fun game. So the basic idea here is smaller wineries don’t spend money on design and marketing, they spend money on the actual wine in the actual bottle, which is where you should spend your money too. Sure, this can backfire, but I’ve found it to be surprisingly effective.
8. T.C.W.F.G.P! (the. cheapest. wines. from. great. producers.) This is my go-to rule of rules — if a great producer (ie. Artadi, Cavallotto, Chave, etc. — ask your friendly wine professional!) puts their name on a (relatively) humble bottle it’s probably going to be good because it doesn’t exactly benefit them to, you know, disgrace their family name. Straight up ask your wine professional for the entry levels or most humble varietals from the legends and prepare to have your mind blown.
9. We remember what we drank
Yes, even if it’s foggy, creating a little, “hey, I like this wine and I’m going to remember it” memory here and there is a great investment in your future of creating and destroying more wine memories and that’s a wine win if you ask me.
Contributing Writer: Adam Ohler, Los Angeles, CA
Adam Ohler is a writer, Sommelier & Beverage Director living and working in Los Angeles. Adam has worked as a sommelier and bartender at République, Lucques, Ray’s & Stark Bar, Pretty Dirty & Church & State.This fall he will be opening the restaurants Caldo Verde & Cara Cara and the bar Dahlia alongside James Beard winners Suzanne Goin & Caroline Styne as the Beverage Director of The Proper Hotel DTLA