When you walk down the aisle of your favorite retail liquor store you can't help but notice the "shelf talkers" that give you a brief description of the wine and often times a score. Who creates the score, what criterion is it based on, and what does it mean? There are reputable wine publications that impartially taste dozens of wines from the same region to ensure that they are trying to offer an unbiased opinion. Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, Sante and Wine Enthusiast are only a few.
Wine critics are considered experts, right? Well Merriam-Webster's dictionary basically defines an expert as someone who has special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience. When it comes to selecting the perfect wine that you will enjoy, I think that there is only one expert whose opinion counts, and that's YOU.
Sure some people have training in the field of wine, but they do not share your exact experiences. What I mean by that is, they don't have the same habits that help you to define your preferences. For instance, if you drink black coffee every day with no sweeteners, I could easily recommend a style of wine that you will find enjoyable. If you drink diet soda all day, I will take you in a totally different direction that will please you. What you drink on a daily basis makes an impact on the style of wine that you gravitate to.
The people who score wine have a set of criteria that they use to critique the wine based on the typicity, acidity, alcohol, fruit, tannins and finish. When it's tallied, it equals a number. If you enjoy researching wine on line, look at who is giving the wine a score and see if you agree with that assessment. Once you find a wine critic who shares your taste, you can look for their recommendations and be confident that you will enjoy the wines they score. Keep in mind that a wine may be highly rated, but you may not like it at all. So what can you do? Taste and taste again.
Set a budget and visit several retail stores in your area. Talk to the people there and tell them the style of wine that you enjoy along with the price range you'd like to spend. If you like what they recommend, then ask them for another recommendation at your next visit, another. Establishing a relationship with a retail wine person is not that different than the one you have with your hairdresser or mechanic. Don't you return to these people because you trust them to listen to you and make recommendations?
There are so many great local retail liquor stores. Visit them, talk with the people who know what's on the shelf and let them help you uncork the expert in you!
Anjoleena Griffin-Holst has been Wine Director at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa since March 2006 and is the only female wine director at a casino-resort in the United States. She helped establish Borgata's reputation for its impressive wine selection, which includes more than 40,000 bottles and recently received four separate Best of Award of Excellence and two Award of Excellence by Wine Spectators 2011 Restaurant Awards. Her column runs every other week.