Wine spending: Sober tips to consider

Posted at 11/20/2009 8:47 PM | Updated as of 11/20/2009 8:48 PM

For the average Jose, wine and liquor stores are alien territory. Shooing away many novices is the thought of a snobbish wine specialist who would raise an eyebrow as they struggle with labels printed in foreign languages.

But that’s not always true. “We really encourage people to look around in our store. The staff will not hassle you to buy anything,” assures Joanna Gallent, who co-owns the WineDepot branches. “Wine stores give you the total experience of buying a bottle. Choosing wine is an experience in itself.”

But with shelves stacked with bottles of different shapes and sizes, selecting wine can truly be intimidating. Seasoned connoisseurs claim though that it’s a rewarding, if sometimes profitable, purchase as well. So go beyond your “white for fillet, red for meat” mindset and follow these five guidelines when shopping for a bottle of wine:

1. Set a purpose

Are you buying wine for investment or for boozing with your buddies? Knowing the answer to this question clears one part of the budget puzzle. Simply put: a P5,000 bottle is an investment, while a P5,000 case is for happy hour. Your purpose should plot your budget. Price range is from P180 for typical use with everyday gourmet to the thousand pesos for a 10-year old vintage. Before you stockpile, determine how much of it you really need—especially if you plan to use it for a special occasion.

2. Shop around

Once your budget is defined, the next step is for you to find the right kind of wine. Best if you skip supermarket shelves and head straight to specialty wine shops where you can seek expert advice. You can find these stores in most commercial districts, hotels, and malls.

If you expect to splurge on wine during the holidays, Joanna shares that it is wise to place orders starting in August. Trade shows are usually held during this period so you can assess your options wisely. The Philippine Wine Week—which WineDepot is hosting—happens on the 17th to the 22nd of September. Sampling galore of multi-awarded wines highlights the event.

3. Taste test

Any self-respecting wine store would let you try a label you’re interested in when you’re buying in bulk. “Taste it first so that you won’t make any mistakes in choosing wine,” reminds Joanna. For this reason, avoid over-the-counter purchases from groceries and 24/7 convenience stores. Bulk receipts from wine stores also usually get discounts.

The descriptive tag that goes with a displayed bottle should clue you on pairing which wine goes with what food. Flavors to choose from range from the fruity and the spicy to the musky, with subtle variations in the mix. Before you even take a sip, good-quality wine would capture your senses with its look and smell. In the end though, pick wine that agrees with your taste buds.

4. Inspect the bottle

Remember that wines are imported, traveling thousands of shaky overseas miles. “The usual importation process does not help in preserving the wine,” cautions RJ Magtibay, who has locally market-managed wine products. Once you’ve selected a label, make sure that you’re paying for a bottle with a good fill level. New wines are usually filled up near the bottle’s tip. It becomes trickier the older the wine gets though (mid-neck fill means best care was applied). Watch out for signs that may indicate faulty bottling or poor temperature conditions. Chips and cracks obviously imply that the bottle has been mishandled.

5. Store it correctly

Wines for use within a week or so may be kept in the refrigerator’s vegetable tray, or even just under the bed. Joanna says however that if you plan to consume the bottle in a month or so after purchase, it’s best if you leave it with the store and then just claim it later.

“Since we are in a tropical country, it would be very difficult for one to store wines here properly,” warns RJ. For investment-grade wines, which may take as long as 10 years of upkeep to fetch a good return, consider spending on proper storage facilities. “I suggest that you buy a wine cabinet. You can set it at a certain temperature and its lighting won’t affect wine quality,” advises Joanna.

Indeed wine-drinking is associated with positive vibes: that of rollicking goodtime, urbanity, and classic chic. Wines add sophistication to an otherwise bland meal, and at the other end, assure profit opportunities. Here’s a toast to your finding that perfect bottle of wine!

From the 2007 edition of MoneySense, the country’s first and only personal finance magazine. You can read more financial tips and stories at www.moneysense.com.ph.