Toward the end of a typical tasting at a winery comes the inevitable question:  To buy or not to buy?

For most, it depends on whether or not they actually liked the wine.  For some, it may come down to how much to buy (or how much they can afford to buy).  And for others it may come down to a simple cost-benefit analysis.

Let’s first consider the cost-benefit scenario:

Considering that most wineries  now charge anywhere between $5 and $20 for tasting, you may be left with an interesting choice of whether to buy a bottle in order to offset the cost of a tasting – regardless of whether or not you actually liked the wine!   If your tasting is $15 and you splurge for your significant other/partner/friend/etc. – it can end up being $30 pretty quick.  And let’s suppose the average cost of a bottle at the winery you’re visiting is $25.  Depending on how many tastings they waive for purchase, you’ve pretty much already purchased a bottle.  So you may as well do it.

This type of scenario differs greatly by winery and location.  Some in more popular areas tend to charge more – especially for a “reserve” tasting, which generally means wines that you won’t find at Safeway.  While others in lesser known wine regions may not charge at all.

So aside from the cost-benefit scenario you’ll likely face at most wineries, here are a couple of  tips (beyond the most obvious one – if you like it, buy it) to consider when making the decision to purchase wine at wineries:

1. Beware wineries that do not waive your tasting fee upon wine purchase

Of course, by the time you realize this it may be too late to avoid.   I personally find this business practice unsavory.  I have absolutely no problem with wineries employing tasting fees as a way to offset their cost for the wine and service, but if you make a purchase of any wine, it should more than make up for any cost associated with the product and service.  Additionally, it is a good quid pro quo gesture that most good business people can understand.

2. Purchase wines, where possible, that you cannot find in your local supermarket

At some wineries, if you’re lucky, the only way you can find them is directly via the winery, word of mouth, or at very select specialized wine shops and restaurants.  These wines may have somewhat of a cult following.  For most of us regular wine drinkers, this will be a rarity but there are some that you’ll find that are unpretentious too.

At most wineries, there will be wines that are popular, with high case yields and readily available to the general public.  These might be very good wines. But you can also find ‘em at Safeway.  My question to you would be: why would you want to spend more at a winery to purchase a bottle of wine that you can also find regularly on sale at your local market?  I thought so.

The simple solution to this is first, to ask questions… It’s pretty easy to ask your wine host about the overall yield and distribution in your local area.  If they can’t answer the question immediately, or within a minute of “checking” with someone – well, they should be flogged.

Then all you really need to do is figure out the wines that you, A. like; and B. you can’t readily find.  Do the math and you have a winner.  And a wine you can brag about to your friends, even if it is only $15!