How do you buy wine?
Buying wine, whether in a restaurant or wine shop has to be one of the most stressful purchases ever. Buying a bottle of wine is like a bet. If you like it: Great! If you hate it: Darn, you have just wasted $20,$50 or $100+ on some fermented grape juice.
With that in mind there are many different ways to reduce the risk including:
2) Wine Critics
3) Recommendation from a friend
4) Wine consultants in a wine shop
5) Taste 1000s of wines a year to determine your taste profile and base that along with producers you personally know
Or if all else fails...
Clearly the 5th option is the most efficient, yet can be costly and unless you work in the industry, is difficult to achieve. The other options involve a certain amount of trust in the source. The main issue with the other options, is that everyone has a different palate and prefers different styles of wines. Your friend might love big, lush and oaky Napa Cabernets but you might prefer a delicate and elegant Pinot Noir from Volnay, Burgundy. Other pressures include those who tell you, you MUST like this wine, everyone does. So who do you trust? The most important palate is yours, and you must drink what you like. So if you like Burgundy then drink Burgundy, if you like $5 cans of Pinot Noir then drink those cans!
However as with all interests, you might want to expand your knowledge and taste other wines you don't normally drink
I find there are two ways to easily expand your wine portfolio:
I believe the best way, is to attend as many tastings as you can possibly. Most cities in the world have wine events. These events can sometimes only be the equivalent of a couple bottles of wine, however allow you to taste 30-40 different wines. This is probably the easiest way to discover new varieties, regions, blends and even styles of wines. Another simple way is to have a wine evening with a group of friends. You all bring a bottle of wine with a 'Theme' around it. This can include focusing on one variety from different regions, a country or event a style (e.g. Dry unoaked whites). Depending how many friends you invite around this is an easy way to expand your knowledge without it costing the moon.
Then when in a restaurant instead of asking the Sommelier for a white wine that will go with Steak (As a Sommelier this has to be one of the most frustrating questions ever!), you can inform the Sommelier what your preferences are, and they will be able to quickly recommend a similar style of wine.
As for new trends and which wineries are improving, I find wine critics tend to be on the ball, and as always, if you find a wine critic which aligns to your tastes even better! As a critic, I try to stay as neutral as I can. However I do have a preference towards more balanced, elegant and minimalistic styles of winemaking versus wines which display new french oak, high alcohol or 'natural' wines that taste of nothing.
Hopefully the above will help you to improve your approach of buying wine in the future and reduce those 'disappointments'.
How do you buy wine?