I got a news release from a California winery the other day, touting a new wine. "It’s a very nice red blend for an extremely reasonable price," said the release.
The wine costs $17.
Reasonable, of course, is relative. A 1961 Bordeaux for $17? More than reasonable. A New Zealand sauvignon blanc? Certainly reasonable. But California wine from the current vintage, from somewhere other than Napa or Sonoma? Very unlikely.
Let me add that I have not tasted this wine, which is why I'm not naming it. But it is indicative of a trend, pioneered by the largest multi-national wine companies, to make wine based on price. The companies see a figure -- and the $15-$20 range is currently very popular -- and then produce wine to fit that price. I get a dozen samples a month of wine made that way. I drink a couple of glasses, shake my head, and reach for one of my trusty $10 wines.
This is quite different from the old method, where companies figured out how much it cost to produce the wine and added their profit margin to calculate a price.
The reason Two Buck Chuck is so popular is not because it's great wine. It's because it's a great value. But too many wineries (and especially some of the multi-nationals) refuse to accept the price-value argument. They figure they can throw a cute label on the bottle, get a good score from the Wine Magazines, or pull some other rabbit out of their marketing hat and sell a $10 bottle wine for $17.
That may be great for the company, but it doesn't do anything for the consumer or for the long-term health of the wine business.