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Wine Tips
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The Artful Diner writes restaurant reviews for nj.com. To receive e-mail notification when a new review or article is posted, send a note to artfuldiner@worldnet.att.net.

Part 1 of 3: Your Local Wine Merchant

Choose your wine merchant with care. While it is possible to purchase a bottle of generic brand rotgut at any retailer in your area, latching on to a kindred spirit is a formidable task indeed. I refer, of course, to someone who knows and loves wine, is able to discuss the subject intelligently, and who derives a lion's share of his/her income from the selling thereof.

Unless you happen to be filthy rich, or just dumb enough not to care how much long green you shell out, price is usually numero uno on your list of priorities. And nowhere is comparison-shopping more important than in the matter of fine wines.

The key to capitalizing on bargains is to find a reliable local retailer and stick with him/her through thick and thin. Of course, in lieu of a long-term relationship, you could elect to flit hither and thither, wherever the prevailing winds of sale happened to be blowing at the moment. This sort of oenological promiscuity, however, is ultimately self-defeating. Not only do you waste a good deal of time and energy running all over the county on these dubious buying binges, you inevitably end up paying just as much (usually significantly more) than you would if you had done your comparison shopping at the outset, established a single base of operation, and purchased more circumspectly. While prices of a great many vintages, both foreign and domestic, are bound to fluctuate up/down depending upon the mysterious whims of individual retailers, dealing with one particular merchant who consistently offers the best dollar value across-the-board will assuredly save you a bundle over the long haul.

Patronizing a single retailer affords you ample opportunity to become thoroughly acquainted with his/her inventory and pricing peculiarities and, in turn, to take full advantage of them. In addition to reaping the rewards of familiarity, a firm rapport with a particular wine merchant is likely to yield other long-term financial dividends as well. If you are a steady customer, the retailer is likely to apprise you of a particularly juicy sale looming just over the horizon, or recommend an incoming vintage that may be to your liking---and cut you a significant break should you elect to purchase a case or two.

In the choice of a local wine merchant, however, price is only half the story. Anticipated bargains must always be carefully weighed against the depth and breadth of inventory. Prospective savings are meaningless if the selections offered are insufficient to warrant your continued patronage. On the other hand, depending upon your location in the Garden State, you may, of necessity, be forced to choose between the lesser of the evils. Should you happen to domicile in one of New Jersey's high-rent districts, your chances of stumbling upon a superior selection of fine wines is greatly enhanced---as are your chances of paying superior prices. Should you be unfortunate enough to reside in the boonies (either geographically or culturally) you may have to take what you can get. Good hunting!!

Go to Wine Tips Part 2.

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