Even if you find a great wine merchant near you, you'll still be faced with choosing the right wines whenever you go there. This might seem like a daunting task, even to someone who knows a bit about wines, but making intelligent wine choices out of a huge wine selection isn't as difficult as it sounds. There's no magic, just a bit of common sense, some preparation, and a willingness to take chances.
Think About What Wine You Want
You can wander into a wine store to browse, with no particular intentions or goals, if you already have a solid grounding in the wines you like. A little causal browsing is sure to bring some interesting wines to your attention. If you don’t know a lot and are insecure about buying wines, then you should go into wine stores armed with forethought about what you want to do with your wine.
Are you looking for a desert wine or a wine to go with a meal? Do you want a wine that is better with fish, chicken, steak, or a vegetarian dish? Is the occasional formal, informal, or once-in-a-lifetime? Will there be just one wine, or do you need to worry about the order in which wines are served? Are leftovers likely? You don't need to have super-detailed plans, you just need to think ahead about what you need.
Remember Which Wines You Like
Unless this is your first time ever shopping for wines, you've had wine experiences before. You've purchased other wines, you've ordered wines at restaurants, and you've drunk wines at friends' houses. Therefore, you must have had wines you liked a lot and wines you didn't care very much for. You need to remember these wines because they will guide future wine purchases. Not only can you try to buy a good wine again, but a wine merchant can help steer you to similar wines if they have a better idea of your likes and dislikes.
Don't be afraid to write this information down when you come across a wine you want to try again — even a person with a lot of wine knowledge can't always remember all the brands and vintages which they like and have to write things down, too. You might want to consider buying a small notebook and maintaining a record of good and bad wines, something that could develop over time into a wine journal.
Talk to the Wine Merchant
Buying the right wine to suit your needs — and the "right" wine is whatever wine you enjoy when the time comes — is made much easier if you have some general knowledge about wines and some specific knowledge about the available wines. Even an expert will have gaps in their knowledge, especially when it comes to the store's stock, so you should be prepared to talk to the people working in your wine store. They should ideally know about wines generally as well as the wines they are selling, so they are in the best position to help you navigate their stock.
Unfortunately, too many are reluctant to ask questions of the staff in wine stores — including people who don't feel intimidated asking for help of even less knowledgeable sales staff when buying other products. The reason seems to be the culture of mystique surrounding wine: people fear that if they ask the "wrong" questions or reveal that they have the "wrong" sort of taste, then perhaps they'll be subjected to ridicule, treated as a social inferior, etc. These are the last things you should worry about (unless, of course, you wander into a shop that just screams "snob" everywhere you look).
With time you will hopefully find it much easier to browse a wine store and find wines that you are likely to find appropriate, but even then you will still have occasion to ask the wine merchant questions — for example, about a new wine that they recently started selling or a wine you heard about and want to know their opinion on. Some wine shops don't even display all the wines they have for sale, so talking to the merchant may help you discover something kept in the back which is especially good.
Avoid Wine Ruts, Take a Chance on New Wines
There is little point in exploring the world of wine if you're just going to stick to the same two or three brands or varietals all the time. There is something comforting with a familiar wine, yet not only are you potentially missing out on even better wine, but you won't be able to appreciate your favorite wines as much if you never learn what wine is capable of providing.
Wine can be a lot of fun, but to truly enjoy wine you need to get outside your comfort zone and take chances. Sometimes this means trying new wines you've never heard of before, trying wines produced in countries you've never had wine from before, and even trying wines which you don't normally enjoy as much. The point isn't to always drink something different, but rather to strike a balance between the familiar and the new.