Working in wine retail was like observing a case study in the human condition. Non-wine lovers always thought I, the passionate wine sales person, had an agenda as they raced over to the magnum wine section. “No, no. I know what I want,” they growled before I even had a chance to offer my services. On the opposite end were the curly-nosed, label chasers who never bought anything that wasn’t Caymus and Merryvale or Château Petrus and Cristal: “I’ll take a case of the 2007 Caymus, the vintage Spectator rated as iconic.” I understand that you have loot, but there’s nothing wrong with a little bottle hopping. No matter where you are on the palate spectrum, it’s totally to your advantage to be nice to the wine guy, especially the ones who enthusiastically make recommendations and appear to enjoy what they’re doing. Yes, some are in pursuit of commission, but many really love wine. These undercover enologists and master sommeliers hold the keys to your future.

Here’s why:

  1. The Fortune Teller: The wine dude knows the store’s best values for the wines you love. Sure, you may have $50 to spend on that epic Napa Cabernet. But wouldn’t you rather spend $30?
  2. The Mind Reader: The wine dude never forgets an amicable client. If you’ve entrusted your palate to him/her, and he/she selected a wine you enjoyed, the wine dude will keep you abreast of wines you will enjoy in your price range (even if your budget is $10 and under).
  3. The Pocket Protector: Bigger wine stores usually have several sales people trying to get your dollar. If the wine dude really likes you, he/she will graciously intercept any attempts to get you to buy a mediocre bottle because it’s on the commission list.
  4. The Put-Me-On-Blaster: There are several advantages to supporting wine boutiques, but my favorite is the personal attention. I love receiving emails on unique, delicious, smaller production wines that are under $20, and my wine dude will hold a super-saver bottle if I can’t get to him that week.
  5. The F.B.I. (Friends Bottles Intimacy): As time goes on, you may even become friends with the wine dude. And for those who love wine, there’s nothing like having a meal and a bottle with someone who possibly knows more than you do but shares your passion. Note: It probably isn’t wise to get too intimate with the wine dude as if the relationship ends, there’s nothing like awkward bottle-silence.

Dinkinish O’Connor is an award-winning writer. Her food sojourns have taken her everywhere from the shanty town bistros of Kingston to the gnarly vineyards of Bordeaux. She has written for Wine Spectator, Condé Nast Traveler, The Miami Herald and other publications. Dinkinish received her sommelier certification and hosts innovative wine tastings. To see what’s happening in Dinkinish’s sumptuous, little world, check out, “Gourmet Squatter,” a blog that explores how to sip high on a low budget.