We talked with Sara in Sunset's wine cellar, surrounded by 2,500 bottles of Western wines.
Q. What's the best way to pick out wine in the supermarket?
A. Go with better known labels, the ones you've heard of. I wouldn't recommend trying obscure bottles or imports from the supermarket. Stick with American wines for the most part. If you want an import, some grocery stores (like Safeway) offer good Australian wines such as Syrah.
Most supermarkets organize their wines in a way that is predictable. The expensive bottles are on the top shelf, mid-range wines are on the middle shelf, and magnums and jug wines are on the lower shelf. Don't rule out the bottom shelf, you can find good-value bulk wines there.
Look for special wine displays out on the floor. These are often the wines the store has gotten a good deal on and can be the best buy.
Q. How should you store wine if you don't have a wine cellar?
A. You don't need perfect conditions to store wine. The experts say that 55° is the ideal temperature, although those without a wine cellar shouldn't be discouraged. An inner closet in your home could work just fine.
When storing wine at home:
1. Maintain a constant temperature, a cool place is best. You don't want to put wine in a place that has temperature swings that go from 60° to 85° 10 times a season.
2. Keep wine out of bright sunlight.
3. Store wine in a place that is fairly still. You wouldn't want to store wine on top of a refrigerator because the vibration could damage the wine.
4. Store wine on its side or upside down. It's important to keep the wine in contact with the cork ― this keeps the cork moist. You want to prevent the cork from shrinking and drying out, which can cause air to get in and oxidate the wine too fast. If you buy a case, place it on its side or turn it so the bottles are upside down.