This is a guest post written by my father, Jerry Adel, which originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of the Strategic Leadership Forum’s Focus on Strategy newsletter. Jerry Adel is President of Jerry Adel & Company Management Consultants. A long-time Strategic Leadership Forum member, Jerry has developed a reputation for choosing great wines for their informal, collegial Book Group meetings.

While shopping for wine with my list in hand at our neighborhood wine store, I am frequently approached by other customers seeking help in picking a wine.

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After explaining that I don’t work there, I sometimes offer to help, and I often start by asking them what they like and what they’re going to use the wine for. In reality, they don’t have a strategy, and they are generally inclined to want to just grab something with a minimal investment of time and effort.

But for me, the fun in wine is in the research, the hunt, the selection, the purchase, the organizing and storing, and – of course – the drinking.

Some Ideas on Choosing Wine

In my view, there are two rules when choosing wines:

Rule #1: Wine is a very personal and subjective experience, so if you like it, drink it. Don’t over-think it.

Rule #2: There are no rules.

My own personal process starts with receiving my twice-monthly subscription copy of the LCBO Vintages catalogue in the mail. I leaf through it and pick the wines that I want to try based on the descriptions and the critics’ ratings. (By now, I am very familiar with the critics’
palates.) I then prepare my preliminary list by copying and pasting from the very extensive website, Vintages.com.

Next, I consult some free wine critics’ newsletters such as WineCurrent.com to see what they have to say about the wines I’ve listed and to find out if they have rated any others highly that I may have missed.

I then email my amended list to a friend who has more eclectic tastes, who understands what I like, who’s been doing this much longer than I have, and who subscribes to critics’ newsletters that you have to pay for, such as Wine Access First in Line e-Report. My colleague gives me feedback on my choices and recommends any I might have missed.

Next, I print off the amended list, highlight and quantify the “must haves” (sometimes I buy more than one bottle), cross out the “don’t wants” and place a question mark beside the “don’t knows.”

The cross-outs are important because a wine may have an appealing appearance in the bottle, but if I know I crossed it off I definitely won’t buy it.

Finally, list in hand, I make my way to the liquor store on the Thursday evening before the Saturday release date to initiate the hunt.

Ask for Help

Over the years I’ve become friendly with some of the Vintages consultants at my local store (they’re the ones wearing the white shirts) and I will engage their help in locating my wines on the shelves. Sometimes my choices are not yet out on display on Thursday night, and my consultants will go to the storage area in the back of the store to find out if they’re available. If the wine is in limited quantity, the consultant may not be able to bring it out until Saturday morning and, depending on how much there is in stock and how many people want it, I may have to line up to buy it.

As a beginner, you can’t tell if a wine is good simply by the appearance of the bottle or the label and, as for ratings, half the time they’re not even true.

The trick in shopping for wine is this: It’s all about relationships – your relationship with yourself and with someone you trust in a store or restaurant.

How to Find the Wines You May Like

The idea is to find someone (ideally a Vintages consultant) with whom you can build your wine palate and drinking habits. Start by describing what fruits and vegetables and other things you like to eat, and ask him/her to select twelve wines that complement or enhance these flavours. Take the case home, taste the wines over a month or two or six, make notes on which wines you like and dislike (and why), and bring that exact information back to the same consultant.

Get the consultant to select another case of twelve, based on your reaction to the first case you tried. Let’s say they were six for twelve on the first selection; this time they may go more toward nine or ten for twelve.

Do this three times – it could take you three months to a year; by the third time you will be eleven for twelve and after that third or fourth case, you will begin to understand your own palate.

Recommendations

Now let’s get started. Following are a few current products, of good value, that I recommend that you try:

  • Portugal’s Duoro Region – some great wines at $10-18
  • New Zealand – Semillon Blanc $10-15
  • Argentina Malbec, Cabernet – wines at $8-15
  • Chile’s Casa Blanca Region Sauvignon Blanc; also Syrah, Cabernet (other regions) at $12-20
  • South of France – Languedoc, Bandol, Provence, Cahors, Midi – wines at $12-20

Happy hunting!