There are actually many tangible reasons why the wine you enjoyed so much somewhere else tastes differently when bought at the local wine shop. Here are ten - starting with the obvious and going to the, uh, not-so-obvious.
1. Bad bottles - There are such things as bad bottles or as happens in our mass market economy, unfortunately, bad batches. They happen. Wine can be damaged in the wine making process. With the mass market stuff, they can even be made at several different facilities, so of course, the wine will be different.
2. Vintage changes - Maybe the one you bought at the retail store is a different vintage or as above, a non-vintage mass market batch change.
3. Stemware - Could it be that the restaurant where you were introduced to the wine used a nicer stem? Maybe the dish detergent there was superior to what's at home.
4. Wine Temperature - A good restaurant knows optimal temperatures for different wines. Americans are known to serve their reds too warm and their whites too cold.
5. Decanting - Even retailers fall for this one. We taste the samples that have been open a while and, boy, do they taste good! Then we open the wine in the store for a customer and...uh-oh!
6. Food pairings - We covered this somewhat in Part 1. If you thought the wine you had in the restaurant was magical, it may have been due in part to the food.
7. Wine storage - The restaurant may do this better than what we do at home. A temperature and humidity controlled dark secluded area is optimal for wine storage and if chilling your wine is necessary, do so just before serving.
8. Bottle shock - Some types are more susceptible than others. If you have the luxury of holding wines after purchasing them, that seems to help. If it's European wine, hopefully the distributor has already done that before you purchase it.
9. Transportation and storage - This is my hot button issue and there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it, except to not purchase brands we know have been abused in the past. Make no mistake - some caretakers in the wine transportation/storage/delivery process abuse their product and that extends to the retail customer who forgets the wine in the car in the heat of summer.
10. Brand replacement - If your "foreign" wine tastes different here in the states, that may be because it actually is a different wine. This isn't as unusual as you might think. Some large European wine companies export a wine style they think Americans may like more than the traditional Euro version.
So if the wine tastes different it's not all in your head. Consider the character, Miles, the classic headcase in the movie, Sideways, who was still able to enjoy his wine even as beset with problems as he was. Then go put on your big boy wine tasting pants and raise a glass and celebrate the difference! L'chaim!