1. Taste, taste, taste. Wine tastings and festivals are ideal for tasting wines without spending a fortune. Ask your wine store manager or go online to sites like localwineevents.com regarding upcoming events. Restaurants often host wine tastings with local wine stores, distributors or vineyards.
2. Learn what you like. Don’t sip and forget. Track what you like, whether it’s big regions like Spain, areas like Napa Valley or individual vineyards. Identify your favorite varieties from Aragones to Tempranillo to Zinfandel.
3. Plan your cellar. The alcoholic magic of wine generates unbridled enthusiasm in its fans. Before you run amok, set up a budget (in dollars and bottles) for your initial purchase and for replacing what you drink. Develop cellar guidelines, such as how many bottles from each region or other category.
4. Buy more red wines than white wines. Because most white wines age for only a few years, store white wines you will drink within five or six years.
5. Stock wines that complement the food you eat and the way you entertain. Ask restaurant sommeliers and wine store managers for wine recommendations. Tell them what you like, the food pairing, occasion and price range. If your friends serve wines you like, ask about their favorites. You can also consult wine magazines and other experts for ideas.
6. Buy more than one bottle. If your budget allows, buy at least two bottles of each wine. In
addition to a backup in case of a bad bottle, you can drink bottles at different times to learn how wine changes with age.
7. Buy more than one vintage. Consult a vintage chart (like the one at Wine Enthusiast’s www.winemag.com) and purchase the same wine from a fair, good, and great vintage. (Life’s too short to drink bad wine.)
8. Purchase across price ranges. Stock lower-priced wines for nearterm consumption. To make pricey wines more affordable, buy recent vintages, when they cost less, and cellar them until they mature.
9. Organize your cellar. Arrange your bottles based on how you usually choose a wine: by region, variety, food or event. Leave room in the racks for more bottles of wines you like or drink most often. Store expensive bottles out of easy reach, so you don’t grab your best bottle for a weeknight potluck.
10. Keep a wine journal. Make notes about every wine you drink. Identify what you like, memorable food pairings, how wines age, who provides the best recommendations, best buys and so on.