Sticking with the familiar
|Hmm, purple foil or red foil?|
If you're hung up on Chardonnay, mostly Kendall Jackson, or Australian Shiraz, you have to branch out. There are lots of places that make wine and lots of different varieties. Forget that fear of the unknown--it's only wine.
Not buying for the situation
Sometimes you buy a bottle just to have a glass or two after work, but often you're buying it for a meal. Is it a cold winter's night beef roast or a summer picnic lunch with lots of fruits and cold cuts. This will influence your decision more than anything.
Staying in a comfortable price range
Some people don't want to pay more than fifteen bucks for a bottle. Others look up their nose at any Cabernet under $40 or not from Napa Valley. If you shop in the cheap end of the store shelf splurge occasionally and maybe you'll find you've been missing out. If you usually shop in a premium price range then you don't know about some of the spectacular bargains out there. Besides, you don't need a $30 wine every night. I bet there are a bunch at half that price that will work.
Thinking screw cap wine is lower quality
This idea is dying too slowly in the U.S. Other countries never had this problem. I expect most people if they are looking at two similar wines will choose one with a real cork over a screw-capped bottle.
Buying by the label
A wine with a fancy silk screen multi-colored label is better than one with a black & white paper label? Fancy labels, fancy closures, and fancy bottles only mean more money was spent on the container. You don't actually taste any of this, do you? It's easy to fall into this trap.
Not checking the alcohol content
The label usually tells you the percentage of alcohol in the wine. Problem is the law gives wineries a big leeway though most are honest. This number can tell you a lot about what kind of wine you're looking at. For instance, if you made Pinot Noir from the same vineyard, one at 13.5% alcohol and the other is 14.8% you'll have two entirely different wines--one made as a true Pinot, one is crap IMO.
Being afraid to ask for help
Whether you're in a winery or a retail shop ask the hired help for assistance. It's perfectly fine to ask, "I'm going to my mother's for dinner. She's making chicken and dumplings. She only drinks Chardonnay." It's not a good idea to ask, "What's your favorite wine?"
Thinking any winery owned by a conglomerate can't be any good
Have any smaller wineries been gobbled up by corporations and their wine turned to mass-produced crap? Sure. Small ma-and-pa wineries have quality problems, too. Everybody wants to make the best quality product whether it's your name on the label or you're employee #500 in the company.
Joining the trends
There are way too many trends promoted by various wine experts. You're not supposed to like buttery Chardonnay any more. You're supposed to love California and Oregon Pinot Noir. Make up your own mind on what you like. Don't be afraid to ask for a buttery Chard or a $15 Merlot if that's what you want.
Not taking advantage of quantity discounts
If you only drink a bottle per month then buy just one or two bottles at full retail. If you have a bottle or two a week or more then be aware wineries and many stores offer a six or twelve bottle discount on mixed cases. This means you can buy something like two bottles each of six different wines and maybe get 15% or 20% off. It's like getting a couple bottles free. Just be sure you have somewhere you can store it.