Welcome to a helpful “stopover” on Meredith & Lou’s Summer Passport Series!
The purpose of this blog is to set you up to truly experience the actual types of wine Mere and Lou will be tasting during our Summer Passport Series. In a crazy twist of truth, it’s often easier for us to help you get your hands on international wines in your local market than it is for us to direct you to a domestic wine brand we’re crushing on! So we’re going to use this fact to our advantage this summer and set you up in the best way we know how!
Shopping for International Wines in Your Local Wine Shop
If you are a fan of our podcast, or if you’ve been following some of our other blog posts, then you might already be aware of how much we value local wine shops and specialty retailers. Even before we lived in a post-pandemic reality, we’ve tried to make it known that we sincerely value the act of supporting local businesses of every kind. But in particular, we love local wine shops! And when it comes to this summer series, we already know that your corner wine store will provide you with the best ticket to a wine trip overseas!
Smaller shops have a whole different way of sourcing their wines, and often, they have relationships with unique distributors who are seeking ways to get wines from around the world directly into your neighborhood! Finding that hidden gem-of-a-wine is something most wine shop owners live for, and so building a relationship with this kind of retailer is worth it for so many reasons. But as your tour guides on this summer journey, Meredith and Lou wanted to make sure they gave you a few tips on how to source international wines for yourselves.
Check out these five tips to help you stamp your wine experience passport right along with us this summer!
Tip One: Get to know the Importers
There are a few importers, like Kermit Lynch, who are known for selecting fabulous wines to import, especially from France and Italy. Very often, you can find out who your local wine shop sources for their wines on their website, or…if you’re like Lou in any way, you can just ask! This is not something retailers are unprepared to share with their customers, so it’s not inappropriate to ask.
But here’s another way to learn more about the importers of wines you’re interested in: If you enjoy an international wine you’ve purchased, notice who that importer is because you might find that your palate is akin to the wines they choose to carry. Some of the more recognizable names in this sector include Empire Merchants North and Louis Glunz Wines, Inc. But there are so many very small international distributors that your best bet is to talk to the wine shop owner to discover how they went about connecting with their distributor. (There might just be a good story in the mix because when it comes to good wine, there usually is!)
Tip Two: Lock-In on a Region
For our Summer Passport Series, Mere and Lou are doing this step for you! But when you are ready to start exploring other wines of the world on your own, picking a region you want to discover is always a great place to get started. When you know where you want the wines to take you, sharing this detail gives your wine professional a way to set his or her gauges to guide you into experiences that are sure to please!
We are going pretty wide with our travel itinerary this summer, but we’ve only just opened the door for your exploration. Every wine region in this world has nuances and pockets of interest to discover, and this is something a good wine shop owner will be excited to share with you!
Tip Three: Set a Price Range
In addition to knowing where you want to go with a wine, it’s also super helpful if you can give the shop owner a price range, too. It might come as a surprise to you that other parts of the world don’t get quite as hung up on price as a value indicator as we do domestically, and therefore, the exact price of an international wine isn’t always the best way to predetermine how delicious the wine will taste. So don’t be afraid or embarrassed to set your price range with a low number, too. You might be surprised when you see how many options fit into a wide range!
Setting a budget helps you not only find a great wine you are happy to purchase, but it can also give you an experience you never expected to come out of a bottle that’s priced much lower than you thought you could go! Table wines from Italy or Spain, for example, might just be the best value in the end because of how those wines were made to pair with food — and people — and so an “international wine trip” might be the least expensive adventure of your summer if you ask your wine shop owner for some keen guidance!
Tip Four: Buy By-The-Glass Experiences
When you dine at a restaurant or visit a bar that offers international wines by the glass this summer, this is an ideal opportunity to explore a new region without committing to an entire bottle — or even the glass! If a bar or restaurant pours wine by the glass, they are usually more than happy to provide you with a sip before you commit to a glass, which gives you a true opportunity to test the waters before you dive in! But once you discover a wine you like in this kind of environment, don’t be afraid to ask the server or bartender to tell you more about the bottle so you can archive the details in your mind. Then, when you’re at a local wine shop, you can already provide the owner (slash “tour guide”) with some destination coordinates! Everything you log about a glass of wine is useful — especially if you want to have a similar experience down the road!
Tip Five: Remember, what grows together goes together!
One of the best parts of international travel is trying new foods! So when you’re setting yourself up for an international wine experience at home, vector in your destination by thinking about what you love to eat!
So if you’re preparing a meal influenced by Italian, Spanish, French, Argentinian, or any other country's cuisine, this is the perfect opportunity to add a bottle of wine from that part of the world and let the whole experience transport you! So much of what makes wine so much fun to explore is how each bottle is influenced by the way you set up the experience. It’s what we do in the California Wine Country — we set the stage and let the wines open up our guests to new sensations that offer them a sense of place and a complete experience.
And that’s what this whole journey we’re creating for you is all about!
How To Join Mere & Lou This Summer
With these tips in mind, we want to encourage you to branch out a bit this summer and find some of the international wines Mere & Lou will be sipping on in your local wine shop. We won’t make this process too difficult on you by telling you about any specific winemakers or international brands. We’ll save that kind of thing for future podcasts, and eventually, for our Crush Collection! But for now, we want to help you have a beautiful summer filled with wines you can confidently source locally on your own.
After all, summer is supposed to be all about relaxing and making things easy, and that’s what we hope this international experience will help you do!
NOTE: Be sure to check out The Wine Shop Interview Meredith did last summer on the Major Crush Winecast. Click here to get the episode!