Beginners Corner

Snooth User: Mallory Malinoski

Wine Newbie, College Budget

Posted by Mallory Malinoski, Jan 5, 2012.

I've recently discovered my interest in wine since turning 21, and I've been learning some of the lingo through this great site.  I'm about to graduate from college in May, and I hope to leave my days of Franzia and refrigerated Yellow Tail out of a solo cup behind.

I have a lot to learn, but I just wanted some input from you on how to become a wine enthusiast on a budget.  Any suggestions on what to buy, where to store bottles without a fancy cellar, etc. would be much appreciated.  I do know that I am a fan of California Pinot Noir and Moscato, if that helps.




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Reply by Tim Camp, Jan 5, 2012.

I'm pretty much a beginner also, always before I just asked others which wine to drink and went for it. Some good and bad experiences that way. I just recently decided to learn for myself. I found the information in the Wine Rack Library to be very useful. Go to your Wine Rack link at the top off the page, then click on the Library tab and read the suggested articles, They are an excellent start and are very concise but interesting.

 Good luck  and tons of fun on your journey,


Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jan 5, 2012.

Make friends with other wine geeks and split the cost of bottles.

Even better, drink thier wine!

Go to free in store tastings to learn about wines.

Read, read, read.

taste. taste, taste.

Seriously, that's all there is to it. You're going to find wines you love and things you think suck, then in a year or two they might suck ess and you might get bored with what you thought were the best wines ever. This is a journey, cliche city but it's pretty true. Don't stop asking questions and trying to experience something new on a regular basis. Wine travel is also a helpful option.

Where are you? Close to any vineyards?


Reply by wineozach, Jan 5, 2012.

Wine stores can be rather daunting.  I would suggest getting to know the wine director at your local store.  They can be very informative and helpful.  Also have an open mind when trying new wines.  I would store wines in an interior closet.  Thats how I store the wine I plan on holding onto.

Good Luck


Reply by BigWoodenSpoon, Jan 5, 2012.

If you have any wine bars in your area, I've found them to an excellent place to hang out and learn about wine. Do it often enough and the staff may learn your preferences and introduce you to new things you'd enjoy. Let them know your budget limitations so they don't suggest something you may love and would be out of reach.


Reply by Julia91, Jan 6, 2012.

I'm in exactly the same situation! I can afford to splurge once in a while, but for now, most of my wines are going to be on the less expensive side.

I think my problem is that I'm not really sure what I like yet. It's not that I haven't tried a decent amount of wine for a beginner, or that I haven't liked what I've tried... pretty much the opposite, actually. I've liked most of the types of wine that I've tried. Sure, I've had some things that weren't to my taste, and a few wines that were just bad (as much as there can be an objective "bad,") but I don't yet really have certain varietals or flavor profiles that I know I prefer over others. I've been trying a lot of California Chardonnay because that's what my mother likes, and it's good, but I want to branch out. I think I'll be trying a lot of reds soon...

I had a Shiraz/Grenache blend the other day that I really liked, can anyone reccomend something along those lines that's not too expensive? I wish I remembered the name of the wine... I think it was 70% Shiraz/Syrah and 30% Grenache? I could be wrong.

Reply by JonDerry, Jan 6, 2012.

Just took a look at your recent wines, and it could be you like wines on the sweet side. That's kind of how I started getting interested in wine...finding something I didn't mind drinking to feel the effects of alcohol. But then it developed into something where wine wasn't just a drink, but more of a super food. Color, Smell, Taste, Nuances/Complexity, Finish (after taste), and even the science behind wine and the process of making it have all become fascinating to me.

Not sure how you're path will evolve, but getting complex wines in the $10 - $15 dollar range sounds like a good goal. Try some Spanish Tempranillo (the Rioja region is the most common) or Spanish Garnacha (try Tres Picos 2009), Italian Chianti Classico, French Cotes du Rhone, Argentine Malbec - these are all standards. I actually just had a French Madiran (from Southwest France) that was awesome for $11.00, here's the link:

I haven't had much luck with lower priced CA Pinot Noir's, but everyone has a different palate. McManis and Joel Gott are good budget producers in California for all types of grapes. I've recently heard Sebastiani is making some good Cabernet Sauvignon for the price in Sonoma County.

As far as storage is concerned, it can get tricky depending on what kind of space is available to you. If you have access to a house with a basement, that is ideal. You'll want the temperature to reach no higher than 70 degrees, though 55 - 58 is ideal for long term storage. Keeping the wines in the dark is also important, and of course you'll want them sideways if they have a cork. On the other hand, most of the wines mentioned above, and less expensive wines in general don't really require aging. Find a good store to cellar them for you as you experiment, and if regular storage isn't working for you a good way to start might be a little wine cooler. Someone got me one as a wedding gift, a 16 capacity by cuisinart, and it's done a nice job and always made drinking more enjoyable knowing I had the wines stored at ideal temperatures. 

Well with all that, have fun, drink plenty, and hope you'll let us know how it goes.

Reply by Mallory Malinoski, Jan 6, 2012.

Wow!  You all are extremely helpful.  This is great.

Tim:  I've read all of the articles on the Wine Rack; it was really informative and I love the interactive nature of it.  It was a great way to spend my winter break.

Gregory:  I really appreciate the advice.  You have already helped me learn so much about wine.  I go to school in Cincinnati, OH/Northern KY area, so it's on the border of bourbon country more than anything.  Our Whole Foods market has wine tasting, and I live about 5 minutes from another wine specialty shop, so I'll definitely frequent them more often.  It's a little intimidating sometimes to be so young, however.

Zach:  Good idea.  Thank you!

Angela:  That's an excellent thought.  There is a wine bar very close to my school, and I think I could drag a few friends with me every now and then.  Thank you.

Julia:  I can definitely sympathize with you on this.  I think going to more tastings would save me the trouble of buying something I don't care for.  My parents are beer people, so they looked at me like I had 3 heads when I told them that I wanted to get into wine.  It's nice that your mom has at least a little interest in wine.  At this point, I want to try to like wine for its complexity, and not just the alcohol content.  Heh...

Jon:  Awesome post, thanks a million.  I do prefer sweet stuff right now; wines labeled as "smoky" or "earthy" don't sound appealing to me yet.  I am excited about getting to know the geeky stuff about wine; reading wine reviews has taught me that my palate has a long way to go!  I appreciate the tips, and I'm going to try to branch out to make my wine rack points look better! 

Also, I do have a basement in my house that has more than enough space to store a few bottles of wine.  One of my roommates kept hers in a cabinet above our stove; it made for a great bottle of vinegar.  I've been keeping a few bottles in a downstairs closet, but the basement idea sounds even better.  Thanks again!

Reply by EMark, Jan 6, 2012.

Mallory, you have received some very good ideas from the posters, above.  There is not much that I would add to their advice.  I can, however, add another welcome to Snooth. 

Julia, let me also pass my welcome to you.

You are both on the cusp of a lifetime of discovery.  I've been drinking wine for over 40 years and every new glass is a new learning experience.  As you can see, there are many Snooth participants who are eager to help.  We look forward to hearing about your experiences as the years go by, and, as you can see from the above responses, are eager to share our passion and help you out with any questions you may have. 

Reply by Mallory Malinoski, Jan 6, 2012.

Thank you Mark! I look forward to spending more time here and getting to know you all. 

Reply by zufrieden, Jan 6, 2012.

Be eclectic and try with abandon.  Read the classics - George Saintsbury, perhaps - if you are a real serious wine type.  But explore the world through wine and make your judgements slowly - just as carefully and slowly as you might taste the wine itself.  You are just beginning your life, and if you make wine your controlled companion you will experience a richer and more sensual experience.  Be bold and smart and it will be great!


Reply by StevenBabb, Jan 7, 2012.

another resource would be going to a restaraunt and sitting at the bar. HOPEFULLY the bartender knows a "little" bit about the wine he's pouring, and then just ask to try a few different wines. they should be more than happy to pour a few tastes, then you get to try and see what wine you like, and then order a glass to enjoy!

i'm somewhat familiar with the area you are in, do you ever get into downtown Cinci? you can check out palomino on fountain square... there wine by the glass isn't spectacular, but they are decent and afordable. they're happy hour is pretty good. morton's steak house is also there on the square, and may be a little expensive, but have a much better selection...

good luck with your new wine adventures.... and this site is a great resource... and there are never any stupid questions in wine....... just stupid answers


Reply by duncan 906, Jan 7, 2012.

You do not have to spend a fortune to get a quality interesting bottle of wine.I do not often spend more than ten pounds per bottle but then I am fortunate living in London because I can go to Calais once or twice a year and I also use quite a bit.Be prepared to try things that you have no experience of because only then will you know if you like it.When you get a bottle of wine the way to find out more information is to simply google it and that is what I do before writing a one paragraph review for Snooth.I have learned a great deal by doing this and by participating in this forum.You say you like Californian Pinot Noir.I and most other wine lovers feel that the best Pinot Noir comes from Burgundy so I would suggest you try some of that.

Reply by joebernardinoATyahoo, Jan 7, 2012.

Hey Mallory I didn't start drinking wine until I was 30 so you're going to be a real expert before the age where I didn't even get started, check out my reviews I do a lot of wines under $15 and I don't really like to spend more on a bottle anyway, there's lots of good stuff even down to the $7.99 price point, especially South American wines today are a real value, just try everything you can and always try something new. Enjoy!


Reply by Mallory Malinoski, Jan 7, 2012.

Zufrieden: Suggestions noted; I'd love to do some more reading on the subject. Thank you!

Steven: I go to Xavier, so I'm a short 10 minute drive to Fountain Square! Thanks so much for the tips. I'll definitely check them out this semester.

Duncan: London is gorgeous. I wish Ohio wasn't so dull. Anyways, thanks for the guidance!

Joe: I will definitely check out what you've been drinking. I see so many delicious-looking wines on here, but they're usually out of my price range. It's nice to know that some people give value wines a decent commentary. Thanks!

Reply by mclj2007, Jan 7, 2012.

Hi Mallory

I think you've been given some sound advice already but as an expat Brit who has lived on 4 wine growing continents I can safely say that  there's a whole world of wine out there that you can begin to explore at very affordable levels. I think many good Ca. wines are now so overpriced they are out of most peoples reach while the new world wines of Australia,NZ, and South Africa (great pinot noir from SA) are much easier on the pocket and for the most part very easy on the palate. Not too sure about the wine bar and restaurant advice - I think you'll profit far more with wine tastings, wine savvy friends and by reading up on wine from scratch.Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Guide is 12 bucks on Amazon and is a great little dictionary of wines from all over. have fun!

Reply by Onin24eagle, Jan 7, 2012.

I think finding a local liquor store or wine shop and seeing if they do wine tastings is the best idea put forth so far.  Where I'm at I go to the local liquor store.  They do 2 tastings a month, each one hosted by a different rep (the guys that sell the wine to the liquor store).  Usually there are about 15 people attending but we had one this past November where it was just me and the rep.  I'm the only one that showed up.  This was by far the best wine tasting I had ever been to.  We were joined by the owner of the store, so there ended up being three of us in all.  Scott (the rep) poured from each of the three bottles that he was planning on showcasing that night.  Once we tried those, he asked what kinds of wines I typically drink.  After that conversation got kickstarted we ended up going out into the wine section of the liquor store and just picking things out.  I had mentioned to him that I tended to like red zinfandel, especially anything made from old vines.  He suggested that I pay more attention to the specific regions that they come from and what started out as a Riesling tasting turned into a Zinfandel tasting.  We tried zins from Sonoma, Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Mendecino county, Napa, Austrailia and more.  I found out that of all these places the Dry Creek Valley zins stood out to me as the best.  I think we had somewhere around 20 open bottles on the table when all was said and done.  

If you can find a small wine shop that does tastings you can have a blast and it won't cost you a cent.  It's easily the most inexpensive way to find out what kind of wines you like and what kinds you don't.

Reply by duncan 906, Jan 8, 2012.

I am  fortunate to be in L;ondon becvause next weekend we have the annual London France Show at Earls Court.As well as music and the dancing can-can girls,,cookery demonstrations by top chefs,and exhibits by car clubs,holiday companies and estate agents,there are a number of wine producers present.Each has a table where they offer visitors a taste before inviting them to buy.There are also wine tasting seminars where you get to taste various wines while you listen to a talk about them

Reply by EMark, Jan 8, 2012.


I'm back.  I just could not resist.  I want to give some support to the recommendation of mclj2077 a few posts above. 

I live in California and, so, it is pretty easy for me to find California wines in any price range.  I can find drinkable (maybe, not great) examples for less than $4.  Not what I would want to have with a fine meal, but they certainly work for an afternoon sip in the back yard, or for a party where I don't want to break the bank.  (OK, that last statement was a stretch.  When we have people over, we are going into the cellar.  OK, it was an outright lie.  I think, though, that you understand my point.)  These wines may not be widely distributed, and are probably not available in your geography.

Mclj2007 recommends that you investigate "new world wines," and I want to second that suggestion.  To his list I would urge you to look at South America.  Chile and Argentina are emerging as strong regions.  They are not overpriced.  In fact they are downright attractive.  And they are very good wines.

One more addition.  In the "old world" Spanish wines are still very reasonably priced.  I find it easy to find very good Riojas (both reds and whites) that are less than $10.    

Reply by Mallory Malinoski, Jan 8, 2012.

This is absolutely wonderful. Thanks for sharing everyone! I'm definitely going wine tasting soon and will check out the South American aisles at the party store.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 9, 2012.

MM: Welcome to Snooth.  Just a small warning that you will find yourself buying wine, thinking about wine, reading about wine... oh, and drinking it, too.  And that's the most important. 

In addition to the positive recommendations (Taste! Taste! Taste! and get to know a few local wine stores being among my favorites), I want to offer a few words of caution.

Don't listen to people who tell you how expensive the wine they drink and you should be drinking are.  GdP's recos for amassing a wine cellar for $2000 are generous, and skew a bit high because those are cellar-worthy wines. For now, look for stuff at the lower end, without being too cheap.  Skip the "prestige cuvee" of Chateauneuf du Pape, for instance, and buy a Ventoux, or a Vacqueyras that might be similar but, because those appellations don't have the hype, sell for less.  You'll get some idea what you like in that style.  (Cotes du Ventoux being lighter, generally, Vacqueyras more gutsy.)

Buy wine from off the beaten path (although maybe not too far at first--Spain, Alto Adige in Italy, the Loire, being good places that aren't Bord,Cali,Burg,Tuscany) and don't worry about the points.  For instance, one of the best Ribera del Dueros I ever had was my first, bought for very cheap, that didn't get great reviews when released (I think it had a little SO2 taint that blew off over time), but it also was really typical and NOT international in style--much more educational than a RdD or Priorat that's been made with lots of cab/syrah/merlot to appeal to people unwilling to spend $30 on interesting tempranillo or grenache but willing to spend much more on bland Cab/international variety blends because they are familiar with the grape and the winery has paid for a big spread in a wine publication.

Don't worry about points in general, either, except when you have some idea what the writer likes compared to what you like--look at what you drank and liked and if the critic liked it, and see if that critic might be somewhat useful as a barometer since, no matter how much you drink, it's his/her job and he/she drinks more wines than you will have time for.  Frankly, I haven't found anyone perfectly in accord with what I like, although some critics like the same kinds of some wines that I do. At best, it's a way to narrow down your choices a little, but nothing more.  Better to post something here--we're not shy about our opinions and some of the folks on here have amazing tasting abilities.  They can describe what you are getting in the bottle in terms you will understand.

Don't worry too much right now about storage, except not to leave the wine on top of the oven or the dishwasher when it's running, and to put it out of sunlight and, when it's warm, the coolest place in your home. But do cool your reds a little before drinking--American room temp is usually a bit too high.  JonDery shared a rule of thumb (I think it was him):  Take whites out of the refrigerator twenty minutes before drinking, put reds in the frig twenty minutes before drinking. See threads about serving temps, how to warm up those whites (cup your hands around your first glass for a minute or two or as needed).

Don't cellar much (if any) wine for a while.  Your tastes will change, and you will be more confident in your choices later.  Use wine shop tastings, wine shows, evenings with friends, to buy/drink older bottles to see what you think of them. Use restaurants to try new things, too, without having to commit to buying it and keeping it at home.  (A wine bar or restaurant with a good, off-the-beaten-path by-the-glass program is a great thing, since you can try 2 or 3 wines a night, or more if they offer flights, although those aren't a great value, often.)

I am going to diverge from a lot of the "new world" advice.  Everyone is supposed to think that, for instance, Chilean cab is a great deal.  (For that matter, Argentine Malbec, too.)  I don't.  The bargain priced stuff tastes like low end wine to me, generally, and some of the higher priced stuff is just as pricey for the quality as non-cult Napa Cabs.  What do you know about the plains of Chile, compared to a generic Napa Cab?  Nothing. But I love carmenere, and it is grown practically exclusively in Chile.  Buy that, and don't spend a ton because the basic Castillero del Diablo Carmenere, $8 at Trader Joe's, is really good.

Besides, the Euro is crashing, wineries in California are selling formerly $30 bottles for under $20, and I am bombarded with good offers everyday for known producers not shipping the stuff halfway around the world. 

As a rule, buy locally, from the wine shop, and avoid (strongly) online or newspaper wine clubs, and come-ons from web vendors.  Later, you might dip into the latter, but having a wine shop that knows your prior purchases, successes and failures, means more good bottles, which is economical in the long run. Those prices in the email come-ons need to be taken with a grain of salt.  Remember that the "best price yesterday" doesn't reflect that the distributor cut the price to everyone who can buy six palettes last night.  Check using wine-searcher if you do get tempted. Or ask around here if it's a good deal.  I jumped on some Dunn Howell Mountain for my daughters birth year bottles recently because every one here thought the price was unlikely to get better.  I saved something like 6-10 bucks per--the same dealer is charging $8 more right now. But your local wine shop might not be able to always match a price--ask them, but take into consideration shipping, both in cost and its effect on the wine.  Buying locally is not just good for the local economy, it is often good for your personal economy. 

Now, a bit of positive advice:  Get to some wineries, esp in the less-well-trodden areas of California.  Paso Robles in the south, Sonoma/DryCreekValley/Russian River Valley up north.  Why? Because wine country is beautiful, and the smaller producers with family ownership and on-site winemakers can really give you insight into how much work/passion/craziness goes into a bottle.  A few people in the wine business get rich in money, but most don't.  Far more start out with resources and lose money. And you'll figure out why they persist in spite of that when you walk through a working winery. 

Have fun, enjoy wine, and let us know what you are drinking!

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