The wine park

Transforming your Wine Cellar from Boring to Voila!

Aug 20, 2013 11:56:29 AM

Quite often when I go to house parties, I am branded as the wine expert due to the nature of my business. I am the guy who knows wines best, well that’s what the guest who has invited me thinks!

The bottles of wine served during the course of the evening often come to me first for comments. Many a times the guest invites me to take a look at the bottle collection they have stored either in a wine cellar or more often in their store room or closet. Most of the time, these are bottles that have been collected when they are traveling and bought generally in duty free. I truly appreciate the gesture but more often than not I find the selections unexciting.

Well I don’t blame them. Let me draw a parallel of me being in a similar situation where if a fine watch importer comes to my place and I show him my regular watch selection, it would be disappointing for him considering what he sees on a daily basis for which I would have no access to, no knowledge about or would have to spend a great deal of money to acquire it.

I don’t want to be misunderstood and sound cocky. I love the fact that my hosts are super enthusiast about their wines and try to get good wines as per their wine knowledge and availability. But they can get much better wines with some basic rules and guidance. I also want to add that, I have tried some truly exceptional wines at several of my friend’s places who take great pleasure in learning and acquiring these wines – just because they are passionate about the wine and the subject.

Below are some simple tips that can be used to buy interesting wines for entertaining or self-consumption.

1. Buying wines in Duty Free Shops: One often spends $40 upwards to buy a good bottle of scotch, but when it comes to wines the $10 price range looks quite attractive to most consumers. Why? If you want to buy interesting wines, then you should be ready to spend a bit more and look beyond the $5 to $12 range. Wines in this price range are often mass-produced, from big wine houses or cooperatives and missing the excitement factor. Instead I would recommend trying wines in the $15 to $30 range. In this price point some of the most exciting wines from small boutique wine producers are made in the world. I am not saying that the wine will be always great and you will never go wrong, but at least you will move away from the boring stuff!

2. Buying wines in India: Getting good imported wines in India is a challenge. Many of the retail shops don’t stock good wines, as they fear that the movement is poor. Hence one tends to again get the $5 to $12 wines, which I discussed above. However these wines now cost between Rs. 1000 to Rs. 1500 in India due to the complex taxation system. If you have to buy interesting wines in any category look for Rs. 1700 to Rs. 3500 range. The wines will be great and from exciting boutique producers.

I am taking the pricing route for consumers to select good wines rather than the conventional regions, type, variety. I feel that an average consumer may not remember these complicated terms while buying in a hurry and price differentiation may just do the trick!
1. Bordeaux is one of the greatest wine producing regions in the world and makes stellar wines. But not all wines from Bordeaux are great. In fact most of them that you find in average duty free shops are just cheap and of mediocre quality. “Superior”, “Reserve” are just some words used on the bottle to attract the consumer. I feel that Bordeaux wines taste a bit dry, are high in acidity and mostly savoury. The complete opposite of what a new Indian wine consumer likes to drink – fruit forward, well rounded wines. Hence if you really don’t know much about Bordeaux wines and which wines or wineries to buy, it is better to give them a skip.

2. Ratings: Wine Spectator or Wine Advocate rates wines out on a 100-point scale. Wines above 85 points are always dependable to buy. People who rate these wines are professionals, trying thousands of wines every year and hence it is like taking help in choosing a wine from a professional. Look out for these ratings and make sure that the ratings for a particular vintage match the vintage on the bottle.

3. Old is gold is a thoroughly outdated rule for wines. I have seen bottles of old vintages from mediocre wine houses in my friends’ cellars completely undrinkable as they are past their peak. Yes, all wines are not meant for ageing. In fact less than 5% of the wines in the world age well, remaining 95% wines are to be drunk young. So as a rule – up to 3 year old white wines and up to 4 year old red wines from today’s date should be good to buy. Any older than that, give it a skip. Also, to consume these wines fast once you get them is important!

Wine world is vast and there are millions of wineries. So as a consumer one can get confused easily. Hence if you have been a new wine drinker, you can apply the above rules for buying wines for either your favorites grape varietal and country or region. You will reduce your chances of going wrong drastically. And if you do…what’s the big deal, you always fall before your rise!

Cheers,
Vishal