Understanding Value in Choosing Your Wine

Posted by at 10 November, at 06 : 38 AM Print

CREATING a wine list can be a daunting task. And unless you’re an upscale restaurant whose wine sales hover in the tens of thousands of dollars per week, you probably don’t have a sommelier at your disposal to decipher the cryptic codes of appellations, varietals and designations, never mind those annoying tasting notes that make you scratch your head in bewilderment.

But don’t expect all of the answers to your wine questions in this short article. For this reading, there is only one thing that you should take away from the five minutes it will take you to read it: You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a good wine. In fact, purchasing an expensive wine is no guarantee that the wine will be good, let alone exceptional. In blind tastings, it’s not uncommon for participants to choose mid-priced wines over their “cadillac” counterparts. Most wine experts will tell you, in fact, that the sweet spot of price ranges for wines (in liquor store pricing) is between $12 and $15 per bottle.

So how is it that a $15 bottle of wine can be preferred over a wine twice or three-times its price? Demand. And what drives demand? Marketing.

Wineries pay good money to marketing companies that convince you to purchase their wines. And that cost is passed along to you. Now sometimes demand is driven by down-right all around greatness. But the fact remains that you can get a very good bottle of wine in that sweet spot and it can be far better than wines priced much higher simply because the winery has a higher marketing budget and chooses to charge you a higher price for their product so that it can fund that budget.

Which brings us to the topic of wines you recognize by name. Famous wines and good wine are not necessarily synonymous. In fact, some of the most interesting and satisfying wines come from winemakers that are not well known and from areas that you would not immediately recognize as “famous” for making wines.

In fact, with a little homework, you can discover some amazing values from areas of the world where great winemaking is just being discovered.

Keep to the advice: Look beyond the marketing tricks and brand names and you will find independent wineries making distinctive, very good wines.

So, how is $12 – $15 the “sweet spot” for wine pricing?

Generally, it costs a winemaker $5 to get each bottle to your table. Taxes, packaging, distribution and retail profits eat up at least that much. Wines costing less than $12 are probably low priced because they aren’t made with integrity. But most wine experts will tell you that at $15, the $10 that goes back to the winery is enough to produce a very good product and a respectable profit for the winemaker.

Now, call your distributor, have her or him line up an assortment of wines in that “sweet spot” range, and let your tastebuds take it from there!


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