Purchasing Advice in terms of buying
Buying directly at the wine-growers, in his private cellar, is probably the most enjoyable way of purchasing wine. Meeting a wine-grower and discovering his know-how, his vines and his cellar enables to specifically identify a wine and to understand it better than if simply glancing at the supermarket label or buying at the wine-merchant’s. In most cases, a wine-tasting session will be proposed, accompanied by advice on keeping and expert comments from the wine-grower, not forgetting his personal service.
This is one of the rare occasions where you can still enjoy this way of buying. When choosing which private cellar to visit, a little information might be useful. Indeed, many quality labels are displayed at establishments, guaranteeing a special welcome. In the Languedoc region, these mainly concern the following labels: “Cathare Country” (for cellars in the Aude county), “Hérault Quality” (for cellars in the Hérault county), « Bienvenue à la Ferme » , « Accueil Paysan » , “Wine-growers Tourism Inn” or “Country Tourism” , all found throughout the wine-growing region.
Such information can be gleaned from the detailed wine-producer information sheets found in the directory. It is also important to ensure that the wine-producer himself bottles his wine. Indeed, it can happen that wine-growers take their grapes to the cooperative cellar and benefit in return from a share of the latter’s production in the form of bottled wine, legally labelled with the mention “mis en bouteille à la propriété ou au château” [bottled on the estate or at the chateau]
It is not a question of doubting the quality of the wine, but rather that it will not be the wine-grower’s own wine and that prices are likely to be more competitive when buying directly from the cooperative ! Many cooperative cellars and producers sell a portion of their production in bulk, packed in inexpensive plastic containers. It should be noted, however, that wine sold in this manner must be consumed quickly, since it may only be kept for a short period. In the event of moderate consumption, the wine should be transferred into bottles. Having said that, for wine bought in bulk packed as a “Bag-in-a-Box”, it may be stored for longer periods, having been vacuum-packed at the origin. Direct sales of wine are not common on all estates, which is often the case for the well-known chateaux (nevertheless, should they do so, prices are often quite high).
However, it is more often than not the case for the smaller estates, being a regular source of income and a means for establishing privileged customer relations. Having said that, you should not be blinded by such privileged relations with the producer! It is essential to ask the wine-grower how he makes his wine, to taste it and to weigh up the price. Indeed, even though it is true that prices are generally more interesting than in the shops, an increasing number of wine-growers are basing their prices on those of the wine merchants. Browse the business directory for Languedoc wines
Purchase at the Wine Merchant’s
Advice from a specialist may no doubt prove to be useful. The true wine-merchant, acting as a link between the wine-grower and the consumer, is he who fully understands the wine-grower, whose wine he endeavours to promote. He will have tasted the wines that he has on sale and will thus able to inform you about their general characteristics and maturity, even making suggestions as to the dishes that best suit the wine.
As oppose to mass distribution outlets, and rather more than a simple wine merchant, he plays an important advisory role, having the task of establishing a trustworthy relationship between his clientele and the wines on offer. Care must be taken, however, when choosing a true wine-merchant: after weighing up his professional capacity, it is advisable to compare the prices on offer, since they may vary considerably from one merchant to another. Browse the business directory for wine-merchants
Purchase in chain stores
Confronted with unending rows of wine bottles in the supermarkets is often a daunting experience, considering the lack of advice when making your choice, unless, of course, you already have a good idea at the outset or are expert in the wine field. It is true that contrary to other consumer products, neither the label nor the bottle serve to guarantee product quality, this largely being dependent upon varying parameters, notably the means of storage. For example, bottled wine directly exposed to neon light may come to alter.
Furthermore, the transport conditions up to the point of sale must be idea, having that same risk of altering the wine. Having said that, end-of-year wine fairs organised by the supermarkets can be a good opportunity for hooking out goods deals. Yet, attention should again be paid, since all types of wine are proposed, with no guarantee of quality. To avoid making mistakes and missing out on real bargain, it is advisable to prepare one’s “plan of action” in advance by checking out specialised publications, pinpointing the special offers in each store and visiting the fairs during their first few days of opening.
Buying over the Internet
Over the past few years, many Websites proposing the sale of wine have been set up, either by the estates or the wine-growers themselves, or by specialised agencies. Among the specialised sites, check out those created by true professionals in comparison to others, the former generally benefiting from greater storage capacity than the latter. The "About us" section provides useful information as to who is really at the origin of such Websites.
Except for the standard guidelines valid for all online purchases (notably secure payment systems), it is essential to be aware of those too generalist Websites, as well as those proposing second-hand items or objects up for auction.
Indeed, no guarantee is provided as to the quality and the price of the bottles. We recommend that you verify such criteria by checking in particular the quality and contents of the Websites in terms of their selections and the advice given, and by comparing prices in relation to other Websites, to those of the wine-merchants or even of the supermarkets.
Wine in restaurants
When out for a meal, the choice of wine is very often linked to the food served, some restaurants even proposing wine-by-the-glass to ideally accompany the dish chosen. A restaurant wine list is very often determined by the style of cooking proposed: food and wine from a same region are more easily associated.
When the restaurant has its own wine-waiter, you should not hesitate to ask advice, since the latter will no doubt be more than delighted to recommend a wine from his cellar to best accompany your choice of dish, or even to introduce you to his favourite vintage, perhaps a little known wine or a vintage at its height.
Without any advice, we recommend you to be cautious: better to opt for an inexpensive wine that you already know! Instigating steps to optimise the local food and wine combination, the Aude Chamber of Industry, in partnership with the CIVL (Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Languedoc - Interprofessional Council of Languedoc Wines) amongst others, has introduced a concept, entitled “Food and Wine of the Aude”, to encourage restaurants to draw up a wine list, highlighting the Aude vineyard. You may find more information on this club at the following address: http://www.cg11.fr/www/contenu/perspectives/P156-04.pdf .
It is also possible to buy bottles of wine put up for auction by professionals, generally destined for knowledgeable wine amateurs. Again, it is necessary to be quite cautious by enquiring with specialists, reading specific publications and making an in-depth study of the sales catalogue, amongst others.
Perhaps you have already heard of nouveau wines? Here, the principle of this type of purchase is to buy bottles during the spring following the grape harvest, at a time when the wine is still in the process of making. This often concerns a portion of the production of listed vintages, sold off to wholesalers nine months after harvesting and nine months before bottling. It is clear that such operation involves certain risks, since it is difficult to be able to predict the evolution of the wines, even though prices are far more attractive.