Food & Drink

Where to try before you buy

When I started getting serious about wine, I decided the way to become a better taster was to try as many wines as possible.

I made a rule for myself to never buy the same wine twice. I discovered some amazing wines, and also tasted a few disappointing duds.

There is a way, though, to try new things without going home with a bad wine. For a wine lover with an adventurous palate but a conservative budget, in-store wine tastings are perfect.

You can try before you buy somewhere in Charlotte every night of the week. In fact, in this uncertain economy, it is the only way to go, as stores often have discounts on featured bottles on tasting nights.

These tastings are terrific, not only for price, but also for the connection you'll make with other tasters and wine shop staff. If you routinely attend your favorite store's tasting, you'll hear first about new classes or winemaker seminars.

Here is a glimpse of the wine tastings in a typical week in Charlotte. I've only mentioned a few of the many tastings available, so be sure to ask your favorite store for a schedule.

You can find details on all of these stores in the Observer's wine calendar, at www.charlotteobserver.com/food, or in the Observer's online events calendar.

Monday: Dean & DeLuca Wine Room offers lovely flights of wine, affordably priced. A flight is a little pour of several wines that might be compared and contrasted.

Winestore offers a large number of selections for tasting for a small fee every night of the week. Check their calendar for “taste-offs,” where they pair highly rated wines against other contenders.

Tuesday: Dolcetto Wine Room near SouthPark, one of the prettiest new wine bars, has a sponsored distributor tasting from 6:30-8:30 p.m. that is usually informative.

Vintage Wine Cellar in Ballantyne usually offers tutored tastings for a nominal fee.

The Wine Room at Afton Village in Concord kicks off the week with a Tuesday tasting at 7:30 p.m., and Arooji's Wine Rooms' Ballantyne location pours great selections from 4-7 p.m..

Wednesday: Reid's Fine Foods & More in 7th Street Station is a perfect place to stop for an after-work tasting and pick up something for dinner.

Arthur's Wine Shop in SouthPark often has well-organized, structured tutored tastings for a small fee, and there are bottles open for sampling any day of the week.

Thursday: Corkscrew Wine Shoppe & Bar in Huntersville offers small flights for a small fee. Pours are generous, and the relaxed atmosphere makes it easy to shop.

Common Market, the funky but charming grocery/deli in Plaza-Midwood, has an eclectic selection at a free tasting that starts at 6 p.m.

Friday: The Wine Shop at Park Road has a very popular tasting from 5-7 p.m.

Saturday: The Wine Shop at Foxcroft does a terrific tasting every Saturday that typically includes several off-the-beaten-path gems.

Total Wine & More always has a large sample selection available on Saturday afternoon.

Sunday: The Wine Shop at RiverGate has a cool wine server that has 40 bottles available for tasting all the time. It's the perfect place to while away an afternoon on the patio.

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