Premiumization has sucker punched cheap wine quality, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to spend $10 a bottle and get distinctive wine
Can cheap wine still be interesting? This matters more than ever, as producers continue to dumb down wine that costs less than $15 in their effort to produce something whose reason for being is to be smooth and inoffensive.
In addition, the perception that all cheap wine is swill and not worth drinking seems to be growing as premiumization takes hold and consumers buy into the mantra that “If it doesn’t cost $25, don’t buy it.” And who can argue with that when even a producer like Bogle, which once cared about quality, sweetens its sauvignon blanc?
But know four things before we dismiss cheap wine as a waste of time:
• Expensive wine can be smooth and inoffensive, too, without a lick of interest and just as annoying as something that costs $6. I’m not the only one who feels this way, either. The days are long gone when high price guaranteed a wine worth drinking, as opposed to a wine worth bragging about on Instagram.
• Who can afford to drink $25 wine every night? The median household income in the U.S. is about $62,000. Drink a $25 wine every night, and you’re spending 14.5 percent of that median on wine. Cut it to 10 times a month, and you’re still spending 5 percent on wine. That, by the way is six times the average U.S, household expenditure on alcohol — less than $500 a year.
• I drink wine most nights with dinner. These days, samples probably account for about one-third of what I drink, so that means I pay for 20 bottles of wine. That works out to $200 to $250 a month, at $8 to $15 a bottle. It’s not the average of $500 a year, but I drink quality wine, get twice as much, and spend about the same as the 10-bottle, $25 buyer. And how is possible I write about wine, but spend less of my income on it than someone who drinks wine as a hobby?
• There is quality cheap wine. Yes, it’s more difficult to find and it may cost $12 to $15 instead of $8 to 10, but it’s out there. The biggest problem for wine drinkers is that they’re terrified to drink something out of their comfort zone, be it varietal or region. And it doesn’t matter how much they spend. So chardonnay drinkers won’t try a $12 French viognier because it’s not chardonnay, and the Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon drinker won’t try a $13 Rioja because it’s not from Napa. In those situations, writing off cheaper wine because it’s different solves the problem of actually tasting it.
More about cheap wine quality:
• Can grocery store private label wine wine save cheap wine from itself?
• Is the $14 Yalumba viognier the new best cheap wine in the world?
• Is $15 wine the new $8 wine?