The pitfalls of buying wine

The first thing you learn as a winelover is that budgeting is a flexible concept. It’s not exactly easy to just say no to a delicious discovery or something that seems so good that you just need one bottle to try at home. In theory you may think that you don’t really need yet another bottle or case of a certain wine but it is and will always be far easier to come up with a reason to buy it, a lot like women with shoes!* Now, there are always certain situations that are more tempting than others, so let’s take a look!

Visiting a producer is tricky. If you’ve done your research beforehand, the excitement and the interest will already serve as mental preparation for a purchase. I’ll be visiting Burgundy next week and as I am already excited about some of the producers we are scheduled to visit as I know them by reputation or past experiences with their wines, I’ve already done the mental accounting required to justify yet another couple of bottles. Even so, a wine does not have to be excellent in order to be tempted to buy it. The setting as well as the fact that you are actually meeting the person behind the wine can be considered as powerful influential factors. Of course, winemakers know this as well and they’ll also have something just right for you, the last bottle of an exceptional vintage or a rare cuvee that coincidentally happens to be close by in their fridge. Presenting something as a treat will drastically increase the probability of a purchase so you can’t really blame them. Another tactic is all of a sudden not being able to recall who their importer is in your country. You better stock up right then otherwise you may not get a chance to taste it again! Sooner or later every winelover will fall victim to this. It’s not that bad unless you stock up on a whole truck of wine with each visit. This may be a symptom of some bigger issue rather than just being an impulse buyer!

A trade tasting is the ideal opportunity to make new discoveries. At the better ones you get to meet winemakers presenting their wines, which can basically go two ways. Either they enhance the experience by showing off their passion, or they behave so indifferent or arrogant that you lose all interest in their wine. This happens more often than you’d think. Of course there is in most cases the language barrier, but I have met a couple of winemakers who pay so little attention to the people interested in their wine (checking facebook on your mobile while pouring does not exactly display consumer care) that it has a detrimental effect on your experience with the wine. It can be as great as you want but being an asshole about it will still leave a bitter taste. Luckily, most winemakers love to talk about their wines and can enthusiasm a taster.

My favourite tasting takes place at one of Belgium’s biggest importers of Spanish wines and the presence of 20 winemakers is all the more motivating to buy more than I intended to. Of course this is not exactly a pitfall towards purchasing wine, but it can be cumbersome, in particular because wine merchants all over the country have the annoying habit to organize all tastings in the same three to four weeks. Austerity and discipline would come a long way but we all know that it gets thrown right out of the window if a wine brings a smile on your face. One thing that remains important to keep in mind is to never place an order immediately after a tasting. Wait a couple of days, try to remember the wines that really struck a cord and focus on those. Merchants have a tendency to put their most expensive wines or rarities near the end of the tasting, they are not idiots, so don’t get too carried away here!

Newsletters or special promos are my biggest weaknesses. I have an ever-increasing list of wines that I like but haven’t purchased (e.g. wines tasted at Dive Bouteille, in class or during mastercourses), with the intention of picking up a bottle if ever I find an excuse. I don’t have a lot of experience with online wine purchases but it is ever so tempting when you see a bottle you like with 20% off. 1jour1vin is terrific at this, sending out a list of special offers two times a week. The discounts may not always be worth it, but it can be so convenient to just buy a couple of bottles, simply because it can be so easy. Merchants sending out en primeur lists have the same effect. If you know that you can acquire an experience in the future at a discounted price today, you don’t really pay attention to the fact that the probability of that experience actually occurring if you hadn’t receive the offer would have been dramatically lower!

*If I get smacked it would be proof that my girlfriend actually reads everything I write, so let’s find out!

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