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When I stepped through the doors of the Super Buy-Rite Wines & Liquors in Jersey City, New Jersey, the difficulty of my mission really hit me. Standing there, gazing out over the store’s 30,000 square feet of bottle-laden shelves, I thought to myself, This is ridiculous. How on earth is anyone supposed to figure out which bottle to buy here?
Of course, people shopping for wine face the question of what on earth to buy every day, whether in a megastore or a suburban supermarket, many of which stock several hundred different wines. It’s one reason people find wine daunting, and rightly so. If stores stocked several hundred kinds of soup, we’d find soup daunting, too.
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I was in Jersey City because I’d decided that the best way to help regular wine buyers come up with a strategy for finding values would be to become a regular wine buyer myself, shopping for choices in the $15-and-under range. I’d forbid myself to draw on the reams of wine info I’ve crammed into my brain over the years. There’d be no buying anything I already knew was a value. In fact, there’d be no buying anything I’d ever tasted before. Instead, I’d choose what happened to catch my eye, or a bottle that fit a category that non-wine-savvy relatives and friends of mine—people who didn’t taste a couple of thousand wines a year—had told me they liked. I gave myself one out: I could ask someone in the store for advice.