Wine Buying Tips: “Bookmarking” Your Favorites

Maybe it’s the writer or reader in me, but whenever I find a wine I love, I have to document it.

This doesn’t mean I post every “cool” wine I find on Instagram, though others do use that as a means of noting their own discoveries, and it is a valid option.

Instead, I just use my smartphone to snap a quick image of the wine, and then file it away online in a private folder. That way, I can access a library of wines I’ve tried — or want to try — anytime I want.

A bit more about my preferred method:

I have a folder on my Google Drive called “wine,” which has two subfolders — “wines I’ve tried” and “wines to try someday.” If it’s a wine I was able to make tasting notes of at the time, I try to take the photo alongside the notes for reference.

If I don’t have available notes on hand, sometimes after uploading the image to Google Drive, I will comment on the picture with relevant information, such as where I found the wine, a quick tasting note if applicable, pricing, or an emoji of my reaction to it. It’s nothing incredibly time-consuming, and that’s precisely the point; it shouldn’t have to take a whole lot of time to do this.

Friends and colleagues of mine might keep wine notebooks where they keep labels of bottles they tried, or at times simple notes about the wine, such as the region, winery, grape(s) and vintage. Still others collect the bottles themselves, though goodness knows I don’t have the space for that!

Whatever method you decide to use for documentation of your wine journey, here are some tips:

  • Keep your notes/photos in a consistent location that’s easy to find, whether it’s a Google folder, a local photo album on your phone, or a small notepad kept on your person. You can find small moleskine pads or even notepad apps for little to no cost.

(There are specific apps for wine tracking out there, too, but since I don’t currently use them, I can’t speak to their quality.)

Your wine journal, should you choose to keep one, does not have to be fancy. You can even keep a pad of sticky notes that later go into a larger scrapbook.
  • Make sure to take complete, non-blurry images of the ENTIRE front label, top to bottom. Something that only says “petite sirah” or “Bourgogne” won’t help a wine associate locate the bottle you want.
Note that this image shows everything you need to identify the wine. I can see the name of the producer (Élisabeth & François Jourdan), the vintage (2017), the grape (Cinsault), and the region (France). All of this information is ESSENTIAL to locating the wine in stores.
  • Understand that labels can change, sometimes as often as each new vintage year. While this is highly independent of the whims of the winemaker or the owner of the vineyards, the bottle you eventually find may not look exactly the same as the one you tried 18 months ago, which is why having accurate information about the producer and the region is essential. As an example, look up “Clos du Bois Chardonnay” in a Google image search — there are at least three different labels in the past five years alone for one product.
  • Ask the serving staff to see your wine bottle again — if they took it away in the first place — when trying a wine on a night out.
Most dining spots will leave the bottle at the table if you bought a whole one, so it’s easy to note. If you only bought a glass, ask the server to show you the bottle for a moment after the pour.
  • Remember that not all wines are available to purchase everywhere. If you visited a few vineyards or cellars while overseas, they might not distribute in your home country. Likewise in the United States, many wineries sell to stores locally and in their own state, but not always beyond those borders unless they’re a large-scale producer such as Bogle or Underwood.
Alcohol and beverage laws differ between the fifty states, which can potentially limit the reach of a smaller winery. This one in particular can be found across Colorado, with limited shipping to other states.

Boiling down to the bigger question — why bother with type of documentation at all?

Several reasons I offer you in answer to this, even if your “method” involves simply taking a photo and forgetting about it afterward.

First, it can jog your memory of a great bottle in case you wanted to try it again. Real talk: tasting wine involves imbibing alcohol, which can impair memory. Instead of straining to remember which of the five wines you tried at that one place last March you liked best, just note it next time. Future you will thank you for it.

Second, it’s helpful when you want the associate in your local wine shop to help you find that particularly gorgeous grape expression you had whilst in vacation in Virginia. Vague information such as “it was a really good Italian red” unfortunately does not narrow the field by much.

Further, if someone wants to buy you a bottle of wine as a gift, sending pictures of what wines you do like can help them surprise you with something new, but within your range of tastes. Heck, if they have Amazon wishlists, why not create a wine wishlist?

And finally, though this isn’t necessarily for everyone — should you ever decide to invest in a wine cellar of some kind, knowing what wines you already love can give you a great place to start when filling up that space.

One day, I hope to have a wine cellar. A proper one with temperature controls and room for a couple hundred bottles. Someday, perhaps.

Do you have a different method for tracking favorite wines? Have you tried a wine app and recommend it? Let me know — I’d love to hear about it!

Published by Allie

Foodie explorer with Stardew Valley dreams. Lover of wine but not beer, cheese but not milk, and all things chocolate. Working to learn as many self-sufficient, at-home food production skills as possible.

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