Wine shopping secrets

How to make a smart choice at the grocery store

Wine shopping secrets
Photo: Rob D. Brodman

Great wine inventories are amassing at grocery stores these days, and the prices look good. But when you're standing in front of the shelves - expensive price tags on top, magnums on the bottom, and no help in sight - how do you choose a good bottle?

My friend Lisa has known lots of wines (I've met many with her), but claims not to know much about wine. So she was perfect for the assignment: Hit a supermarket and buy three bottles - one for a weeknight, one for a special dinner, and one to bring to a party.

For her weeknight bottle, Lisa settled on a Wolf Blass Yellow Label Shiraz (on sale for $9.88) from South Australia. "I saw an article somewhere about it flying off the shelves, and I love Shiraz."

A Spanish sparkler, Cristalino Cava Brut ($7.84), suggested possibilities for company. "I remember buying an Italian prosecco a few years back-one of my rare triumphs. So I think, 'Italy, Spain … not so far apart … ' Her party-gift bottle: an Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. "Alexander Valley is familiar, impressive; everyone who drinks wine likes Cab; plus this one is on sale, from $18.99 to $15.99."

To see if Lisa's logic had merit, I tapped two pros ― Russ Parsons, food and wine columnist for the Los Angeles Times, and Leslie Sbrocco, author of Wine for Women. Both had promising words about supermarket wines in general.

According to Russ, "There's no better time to be a wine drinker than right now. The number of wines that could be considered faulty is very small." But, he mourns, "most are of a type, similar. We've taken out the faults, but also the personality."


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