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Wine information > How to buy wine
How to buy wine
Selecting the right wine
It does not seem to be too gross an assumption for me to make that in the purchase of wine the layman will need advice. Wine is not an altogether easy commodity to judge. It can, of course, at worst be dishonestly tampered with or misnamed; at best it is subject to
changes, during its years of maturing, which only very experienced judgment can detect or foretell with any degree of assurance.
The customer should feel no qualms about claiming special personal attention, and need have no hesitation in talking round the subject of his ideas and preferences. The intelligent wine merchant will welcome the interested customer even if he be not a 'big' one.
Wine happens to be a very interesting subject, and anyway, quite apart from a certain natural professional pride which the merchant may feel in his job and the technique of his job, an interested customer is a retained customer and probably a good recommender.
It is a wine merchant's business to find for a customer the wine he wants, not merely to sell what he happens to have. When you are
sampling wine see that your choice pleases eye and nose and palate; see, moreover, that you are buying it because you like it, not because you think you ought to like it.
It seems to me much better to invest one's predetermined outlay in fewer wines that are good rather than more that are second-rate. I hope it is not snobbish to suggest that as wine is so often a medium of hospitality a man gets an added 'bouquet' out of his guests' appreciation.
Naturally one will buy beverage Clarets, Burgundies, etc., for normal constant use, and dessert and vintage wines for occasional special use or for entertaining.
When buying Clarets, Burgundies, and all French light wines (wines
in general that will not keep when opened), buy a certain proportion of half - bottles which, though slightly dearer in proportion than
bottles, will, by the opening of a fresh half-bottle instead of a bottle, prevent the waste of good wine.
Wine merchants are always glad to store the purchases of customers whose houses lack suitable accommodation, and will deliver their
wine in reasonable instalments as directed.
Wine bought in magnums and other large bottles takes longer to 'come round' than wines in smaller-sized bottles; but, on the other hand,
the longer period allowed for maturity of the larger bulk develops qualities unattainable in the smaller quantities.
The more the customer knows about wine the better for both customer and merchant. But I do not advise the private consumer to back his
knowledge by buying wines as a speculation or investment unless he is content with the excitement of the gamble as an alternative to
profit. This merely means that the layman is quite unlikely to have anything like the specialized experience of those against whom he is
pitting his judgment.
Another important piece of advice to the customer who would buy economically is: buy ahead of your immediate requirements and
don't leave till the last minute. Let your wine merchant know in good time that he may be able to look round for what you want, and so buy at, for you, a favourable price. Laying down young wine that is well succeeded and of fine promise is, of course, in the long run a great economy as it is a great interest.
Entries of a11 purchases should be made in the cellar book, of which the pages should be ruled so as to allow of entries of all purchases (merchant's name, price, quantities, year of vintage, number of bin) ; and of consumption (with notes of character and condition of wine).
The storage of wine is discussed on wine storage systems