How much should an everyday wine cost?

everyday wine costThe Wine Curmudgeon, working through his tasting notes on CellarTracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory web app) found this January comment for the 2007 Robert Mondavi Oakville cabernet sauvignon: “Nice every day wine at this price point.” The price? $45. Is that how much an everyday wine should cost?

Which raises one of the most contentious issues in wine, and one that doesn’t get enough discussion: How much should an everyday wine cost? This CellarTracker user (and no, I’m not going to name names) figures that an everyday wine runs the cost of a car payment each month, $315, and you only get to drink wine seven week nights a month to ring up that total. Even Eric Asimov at the New York Times, whose savvy is as good as it gets, figures discerning drinkers need to spend as much as half of that, in the $18 or $20 a bottle range.

My views on this are well known: One reason Americans don’t drink more wine is that we’re told we have to spend too much money to do so, and so we don’t. Or, as the guy who checked me out in a grocery store several years ago said, when he saw that I had bought several bottles of $10 wine: “Why are you spending so much money on wine?” And he didn’t say it nicely, either.

But my views aren’t the only ones. Hence this poll, courtesy of Ranker (the blog’s unofficial polling app): How much should an everyday wine cost? Click on the respective price range — those of you who get the blog via email may have come to the site to vote. The poll will run until May 22, and I’ll recap the results on May 24. Vote away, and don’t be shy about leaving your opinion in the comments.

Lists on Ranker

19 thoughts on “How much should an everyday wine cost?

  • By Barry -

    EVERYDAY wine…not wine I’d serve to a visitor or have for a special occasion should average $10. Although, much $10 wine would be fine for those instances also. My $2.99 bottles from Trader Joes serve me well for an every evening small glass to relax and ponder the significant questions of the day.

  • By doug -

    My wife and I each have our everyday wine and they both come in a box. That would make it around $4 a bottle. Both boxes sit on the kitchen counter. She likes her red blend at room temp and I like my chard slightly chilled, so I add an ice cube to the glass. We have in our cellar around 150 bottles ranging from $8-$250 and we also use CellarTracker to keep tabs on them.
    But our true everyday wine comes out of a box!

  • By Jessi Pearcy -

    While I totally believe the wine industry must embrace this line of thought–the average wine drinker is obviously not living a life where that significant a portion of their discretionary spending can be put into a drink with dinner. However, the readers of this particular blog are most likely almost all supporters of exactly this idea–the data may be a little biased towards the side that is promoted by this blog, an opt-in publication. This might be different for someone who maybe is an avid wine spectator or wine advocate reader, who view wine through a different lens. It would be interesting to see how this question plays out with some more controls.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon -

      It’s an interesting perspective, Jessi. The Spectator’s audience might have different thoughts. But, having said that, only about one-third of the blog visitors here opt in, where they get the blog through email or RSS. Most visitors come via Google search or the Internet in general. And, interestingly enough, the blog’s income and education levels are about those of the Wine Enthusiast, though the blog is a bit younger.

      • By Steve -

        Isn’t the whole premise of that with most wines, 50% of the price is marketing? Who wants half a bottle of marketing… The price should be under $20 for a great bottle of wine.

  • By the Graped avenger -

    I am a member of the wine industry. I would love to drink glorious wines every day of the week, but alas I would have to do so under a cardboard box for all my rent money would be gone. So I drink a variety of inexpensive wines regularly. I also believe that this has a dramatic affect on ones perception of wine, long story.
    I do not think the industry as a whole wants to promote wanton spending, I do think that it could do a better job of producing wines at the low end that have real quality and verve.

  • By James Phillips -

    This depends greatly on where you are sourcing your wine. We are members of several wine clubs at wineries in both Texas and California and those tend to drive up the average price of the inexpensive wine we buy locally. I’d like to say our average daily wine is in the ten dollar and under range, and for locally purchased wine that is probably true, but the club shipments we also drink regularly undoubtedly drive that up.

  • By Todd Trzaskos - VT Wine Media -

    “Everyday wine” pricing is relative to the income level of the buyer, whether it be disposable income, or a built in part of the food budget. Given the general income distribution in the country, my guess is that the survey results are going to skew towards the lower end.

    That’s where I voted. We do live in a golden age of wine right now, and there has never been more serviceable to good, to even surprisingly nice wine in the lower brackets. Last night we had a nice Cali Cab that was really a blend for $10. For that price I am finding interesting things from Austria, Sicily, Portugal, and Spain ( even a $22 3L box of tempranillo that I decant and love to surprise folks with.

    Sure we’d like to drink “great” wines all the time, but the ones mentioned above are the calling card that beckon us to explore up the price scale. Enjoying good affordable wine on a regular basis helps us to appreciate the relativity of what is great.

  • By Larry Chandler -

    If the wine industry itself advertised “everyday wine” at $45, there would be a problem. And there will always be showoffs who enjoy displaying their wealth including calling a $45 wine something for every day.

    People who enjoy wine find wines that they can enjoy at a price they can afford. Who am I (or anyone else) to tell someone “how can you drink that awful $5 wine” or “this wine is a perfect everyday wine at $50.”?

    An everyday wine means something different for a person who makes $30,000 a year and someone who makes $3,000,000 a year.

    My price of choice for everyday is $10, but that means I will buy a wine for $8 and one for $12 or some variation like that. But if you look at $10 as merely an average price, you can get some really good juice.

  • By Jon Bjork -

    I have yet to find a drinkable red under $5, but have found a number of reds (particularly Columbia Crest) in that $5-$12 that can get me by and play a supporting role with dinner.

    On the white side, I’ll admit to being OK with Gallo’s Tisdale Chard at less than $3/bottle. Nice and cold and certainly nothing to waste time thinking about, which is great, because I really don’t want to keep thinking come 5pm on many weekdays.

    Do I look forward to drinking these? No really.

    But I do love those moments when I take a sip of a wine that really excites and find out it’s less than $20.

  • By Joel Goldberg -

    Thanks for this, Jeff. I agree with Todd that how one defines everyday totally depends on one’s income. Back when they were somewhat more affordable, I knew a guy whose everyday quaff was not-too-old off-vintages of first and second growth Bordeaux — no lie!

    A question I’d find even more interesting is “What type of wine do you typically buy at your everyday price point?” My suspicion is that there’s a huge divide between everyday drinkers of $12 made-to-formula California reds and the crowd that spends the same $12 perusing the shelves to find something obscure from Spain or the Languedoc.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon -

      My pleasure, Joel. I did a poll similar to your question last fall, asking people to pick their favorite cheap wine brands from among 10 selections. I tried to include some of each of what you mention, and the results were probably not surprising given this is a wine blog — — that the more interesting wines did the best. If I had done something similar on a food blog or just asked shoppers in the grocery store, the made to formula wines might have done better. But who am I to underestimate the U.S. wine drinker?

  • By carroll price -

    The difference in taste between a $10 and a $50 bottle of wine is indiscernible for most people.

  • By craig marston -

    I worked out the cost of keeping my everyday wine reasonable by making it. I invested 2k in wine making equipment. WE make 2 60 gal barrels ( 50 cases) a year, that’s 0ne ton of grapes @ $2000 a ton, with bottle and cork cost that’s $4 per bottle. We drink half and I give the other half away and my friends really like me. Making good wine is not hard. I’m in my fifth year and last year I recieved a Silver metal at the sonoma county harvest fair.

  • By Allen Dale Olson -

    $8 to $12. That’s a little more than I was paying in my village co-op in France, but then that was more than 10 years ago.

  • By Bobby Cox -

    Leon Adams said wine should cost no more than milk and if there was a three tier system for dairy?

  • By Todd Chittick -

    I chose the $5 to $12 range, but I think that price range could be changed or sub-divided. I agree with others above who defined a range from $8 to $12, and I feel that you find a distinct quality difference from wines in this price range versus the wines you find at $7.99 or less. How about $5 to $8, and then $8 to $12?

    • By Wine Curmudgeon -

      I can look at different ranges when I do this again next year.

  • By Karen -

    I agree with the poster above – you might want to rethink the categories in the future. Or consider regional variations. No way I can get a decent bottle for $5 here in Massachusetts but alcohol taxes are heavy here (plus everything is just more expensive) – that’s actually what two-buck-chuck costs in these parts. But when I lived down south the $5 range was more doable. I confess I did suffer some sticker shock when I moved here.

    But I still landed in the $5 to $12 category because a. that’s what the budget allows for and b. I despise the whole culture of American wine snobbery and the pretentious way so many wine drinkers equate quality with price when I suspect many of those folks really don’t even appreciate what they’re drinking – they’re just drinking what they read about in a magazine without even tasting it because it’s just an opportunity to show off (that could be an East Coast thing too, come to think of it) and c. I’ve had way too many bottles of bleh to bad wine that cost $20 or more so that I’m just not convinced that I need to spend that much, especially for everyday wine and d. part of the fun for me is the hunt for good wine at a reasonable price. I’ll splurge now and again but even when I do I always look for good value for money because the more expensive a wine gets the more skeptical I get.

    There’s a reason for these attitudes. I come from a family of wine-makers in the Italian Piedmont and I grew up drinking wine over there that was inexpensive by American standards and yet delicious – so much more delicious than so much of the expensive and/or trendy wines I’ve had here. Ok, I’m spoiled, I admit it. And I have a definite bias for European-style wines. But I feel like I’ve spent much of my wine-drinking life on this side of the pond being lectured by wine-snobs about how great this or that expensive wine was, when it just really wasn’t. Not to my taste, anyway.

    Sorry for the long post but I wanted to say I’m very glad to have discovered your blog -it’s super helpful. Keep up the good work!

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