The Hippo


Feb 20, 2020








Wine, wine, everywhere
Why navigating the wine aisle can be challenge

By Stefanie Phillips

Labels, labels everywhere
The bigger the store, the more labels there are to consider. Even when I know what wine I am looking for, finding it can be difficult among the hundreds of other wines lining the shelves. I appreciate that many stores break up their wines into sections, either by geographic region or varietal, but even this doesn’t always help. If I am looking for a sauvignon blanc from Chile, is it in the South American section or the sauvignon blanc section? I typically go by the geographic location first. 
Labels are all about branding, and often consumers buy what they know and what they can see. This is why — and this pains me to say, but it’s true — Yellow Tail, Sutter Home and Gallo are so popular. They are common, they are recognizable and people buy them. 
Labels can also be fun and add character to a bottle of wine (I saw one called Plungerhead during my trip to the store, no joke). But a fun label does not mean the quality, taste and overall experience will be to your liking, or that it’s worth the price. I sometimes find myself picking up a bottle of wine with a fun label, but I make an effort to look beyond it (what does a plunger really have to do with wine?!) and learn more about it: description, varietal(s), etc. 
On the flip side, I like buying an Italian wine where I can’t read all the writing. As long as I have an idea of what I am getting, I am OK with it, but I know this isn’t the case for all consumers.

If you don’t know, you don’t buy
One major challenge for our local New Hampshire winemakers is placing their wines on the shelves next to the hundreds of other wines, only to have them get lost in the mix. Even with a “New Hampshire” section clearly marked in a store or an end cap display with descriptions, does the average consumer pick up a bottle if he doesn’t know anything about the wine? I think that sometimes the answer is yes, but not all wines can be explained by a label alone. This is the reason that some New Hampshire wineries have decided to focus their energy on educating visitors about their wines, versus taking a chance that  someone will blindly pick it up in a store. Once you have visited a winery and tasted its wines, you are more likely to buy it in a store. 
I am going to put this out there for consideration: most wine drinkers, when shopping for wine, are not overly adventurous. I can’t blame anyone for this. When you are spending money on wine, the last thing you want is to open it and find out you don’t like it. But this is where the education piece comes in, and  tasting a variety of wines at a winery or event can really help. 
Up until a few years ago, I had never tried valpolicella, barbera or vermentino, but today I am happy to pick up a bottle or order a glass if I see one on the menu.
Many New Hampshire wineries offer fruit wines and consumers typically expect them to be sweet. Truth be told, they aren’t all sweet and some even mirror wines from grapes. Even with a clear description on the bottle, someone purchasing one may still expect something else. 
There will always be an overwhelming number of wines to choose from, but the key is to taste as much as possible. Also, don’t be afraid to try something new or invite a friend to check out a New Hampshire winery. Wine is an experience to be shared, not just a funny label or a name. 


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