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What is value in wine?

value in wineThis question comes up every once in a while in the wine cyber ether, and then there is a flurry of activity as the various angels dance on the heads of their respective pins. But determining value in wine deserves more attention than that.

It is the ultimate question for any consumer good, be it ketchup or automobiles or blue jeans. Did you get more value from the product than you paid for it? Was the wine worth more than it cost? But this is a complicated question to ask, let alone answer, given how different everyone’s palate is. My idea of value is probably different from yours, which is neither good nor bad. It just is, and people who read the blog know what I like and whether it matches what they want. That’s the best we can hope for

Further complicating the issue: Value doesn’t matter to most of the Winestream Media, which treats every wine the same regardless of price. A 92 is a 92 is a 92, and while you sometimes see a producer boasting that its $12 wine got a 91, only the most cynical or most desperate will boast their their $100 wine got a 91.

So where does that leave us with value in wine?

• Value probably doesn’t matter in very cheap wine. No one buys $3 wine for value; they buy it because it’s cheap. That it tastes good is an unexpected bonus.

• Value also doesn’t matter much for expensive wine. Who pays $200 for a bottle hoping they’re getting $300 worth of wine? Besides, who pays $200 for a bottle and then admits it was crappy? Wine has taught us that it’s an excellent wine because it cost so much, and who are we to argue?

• Value is all in wine that costs $8 to $20, despite the wine business’ best efforts to convince us otherwise. I wrote this in the cheap wine book, and I’ll repeat it until I die at the keyboard: The vast majority of wine that that costs between $15 and $20 isn’t worth it, because it sells us what’s outside the bottle – the label, the name, the appeal to the appropriate demographic – instead of what’s inside. I taste these wines all the time (got eight samples last week, in fact), and it’s the same regardless of where they’re from or whose name is on them – the least expensive grapes and the most basic winemaking, but a label that preens about the wine’s quality. Nowhere is there $15 worth of wine in the bottle.

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4 thoughts on “What is value in wine?

  • By Slapdash Gourmet - Reply

    Just wanted to thank you for your great recommendation, the Banfi Collepino (2013, 8.99), which I found to be a great value! In the same order I also got the Mas Des Bressades Cabernet-Syrah (2013, 11.99), and I’ll be re-ordering both. Thanks again.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      My pleasure. Banfi does a fine job treading the line between being too big and making quality wine.

  • By Michael Graves - Reply

    My personal definition of “value” is hard to pin down. I like to try new and different things. I find value in the new experience. However, more generally, I appreciate when I find a more affordable wine that presents a drinking experience comparable to a most costly bottle. While I like Williams-Selyem Pinot Noirs, I really love something that drinks like one of those, but doesn’t cost like a special occasion wine. It’s the $18 bottle that presents like $40 bottle.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      Well said, Michael. Would there were more $18 wines that tasted that way.

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