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Want to Buy a Good Bottle of Wine? Cultivate a Salesperson

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By Christine Ansbacher

The number of stores with informed salespeople has increased dramatically in recent years. As wine drinking and wine appreciation have increased, so has the number of people who have made it their interest. Young people especially who have the passion, but not the money, to indulge their newfound love are now populating the ranks of wine store clerks and are usually happy to share their knowledge.

A knowledgeable salesperson in a well-stocked wine store is to be treasured, cultivated, and supported. Unless you are a diehard aficionado you will never have tasted as many wines as your wine shop clerk. Good wine stores hold regular tastings for their staff, so salespeople can probably describe the wines you’re considering. If you shop with this salesperson regularly, he or she will get to know you and your tastes, can guide you to bargains, and encourage you to try new wines that fit your taste profile, It’s like having your own personal shopper at Bloomingdale’s.

When I want to restock my cellar, I go to a guy named JR who is the manager at Garnet, a well-stocked wine store in Manhattan with terrific prices. My favorite everyday wine is always the last bottle I drank. Like most people, I fall in love so easily that I tend to restock on autopilot. I count on JR to nudge me when I fall into this lazy habit.

When you’ve found your own favorite wine sales associate, don’t be shy about providing details of that special meal you’re planning. For each dish to be paired with a wine, describe the dish, its ingredients, and a sauce if you’re serving one. Remember, the more input you give your wine seller, the more helpful he or she will be in helping select the right wine.

Once you’ve found your personal shopper, introduce yourself to the manager. Let the manager know three things: (1) that you are interested in wine, (2) would like to learn more, and (3) want to become a regular customer. Then develop a long-term relationship with either the manager or a sales assistant. Everyone’s taste is different, and what one sales assistant finds fruity and soft may not please you. The solution is to try out the recommendations of several clerks until you find one whose taste is compatible with yours.

The goal is to get yourself on the store’s insider trading list so that you’ll be alerted when special wines are available. It’s no different from having a regular salesperson at your favorite clothing store. You know this person will go out of their way to give you a heads-up when new merchandise is being put out, and even set aside items about to go on sale.

Christine Ansbacher, DWS, CWE is a wine expert and the author of Secrets from The Wine Diva: Tips on Buying, Ordering and Enjoying Wine. To order her book and see video clips of her on TV sharing practical tips that will save you time, money and aggravation go to http://www.thewinediva.com/wine-book

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