Welcome to Guide to Life, a series of tips, tricks and insights designed to help you get the most from your gear.
Despite its stuffy standing, wine is outpacing both beer and spirits when it comes to access to the good stuff. Where procuring highly allocated or sought-after bourbons or beers requires paying exorbitant prices and waiting in long lines (or getting someone to wait in lines for you), wine shopping is far more democratic. The issue is getting past the over-marketed (and overpriced) bottles at the grocery store. Getting great wine is easy if you know where to look — here's your playbook.
Join a Club
If you want to get into wine aren't sure where to start, this is your starting point. What you'll gain in knowledge, curation and guidance, you pay for in, well, cost. The nature of the wine club – which typically deliver wine monthly or quarterly – is such that you're putting your wine life in the hands of an expert, hoping to find your own tastes. To get an idea what comes with club membership, check out Viticole and The Grand Tour, both of which will ship you exceptional wine, and teach you a thing or two along the way.
Check your email
The Death of Email was greatly exaggerated. In the wine world, it's a link to experts with connections to small producers and importers. Subscribe to email lists from the likes of SommSelect for new, sommelier-selected bottles daily, or Jon Rimmerman's longtime wine nerd favorite Garagiste, which specializes in small producers and growers. This is a second link in the "leave it to the experts" chain.
Cut in the middleman
For those who think it's tough to keep up with whiskey distilleries or breweries, the vastness of the wine producing world may be intimidating. To narrow it down, in the know wine drinkers have long scanned bottles not for brands, but for importers. Find an importer whose taste matches you own, and buy what they're buying. Legends like the French wine evangelist Kermit Lynch and the old school Neal Rosenthal aren't bad places to start, but don't sleep on smaller merchants and importers either.
Buy direct from wineries
The subject of who can sell booze is the subject of much legal strife, but thanks to a landmark Supreme Court of the United States decision (Granholm v. Heald), wine isn't quite as confusing as spirits or beer. Where the rest of the booze world is beholden to a sale chain that limits who can sell alcohol, wineries can, generally, sell their product directly to drinkers. In this case, Google is your friend, too. Pull up a map of Napa Valley, pick a winery and odds are you can order a bottle and have it delivered in short order.
Bid on it
Whether you're buying something special or shopping for bargain cases, auctions, paired with a little independent research, are the way to get what you want. Rare and coveted vintages rarely find their way to retail shelves, but they sure as hell are auctioned off on sites like Sotheby's, Acker or Christie's. Track lots, identify your notable bottles and bid to your heart's content.