Most consumable products like food and drink fall into one of two categories. Either they are so distinct that there is absolutely no substitution, or if the brand name you are shopping for is out of stock, there are two or three other choices that are so similar as to be indistinguishable from each other. Soda is a prime example. Most people demonstrate a brand loyalty when given a chance, but if there is no Coke, then Pepsi will be just fine for them in most cases.
Even the world of alcohol is no different for the most part. Vodkas may try to separate themselves from one another by focusing on where they get their wheat, how clean the water is or the number of times they distill, but once you mix it with cranberry juice, most people would never know the difference. Beer fits both categories. One light beer is much like any other, but there are also breweries like Magic Hat and Fat Tire whose products are so distinct that they stand alone. Wine is one of the few products that defies such easy categorization.
With 14 different American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in Napa Valley alone, it is possible to get two California Pinot Noirs from just a few hundred yards away that have two distinct flavor profiles. There is much that goes into making wine - the terroir, the aging process, and the personal preference of the winemaker - that it almost seems silly something so simple could result in so many complex varieties, but that is part of what is making wine more popular than ever.
This presents a problem to people who are just starting to enjoy wine. They may have been out to dinner and tried a Pinot Noir for the first time and enjoyed it tremendously. Later, when they are at the wine store, they may look at the name and not have paid attention to where it is from in relation to where the first one was made. The difference can be stark, and can turn them off from trying future wines.
As a wine that is notorious for its fickleness, Pinot Noir is certainly an extreme example, but even a wine as straightforward as Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon can present many different profiles. One of the surest ways to get the wines that fit the flavor profiles that you like is to enroll in a wine of the month club. The experts that run these clubs choose wine that fit a specific focus. By finding the wine of the month club that best matches up with what you already know you like, you can guarantee that the new wines they send you will match up with that profile, introducing you to new wines without worrying about spending money on something you will not enjoy.
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who has been writing about the food and beverage industry in over 20 years. http://www.wineclubworld.com