Wine Store Shopping

Are Expensive Wines Worth the Money?

If you are a wine fan like me, you sometimes struggle to find the right balance between quality and cost. According to an article by Freakonomics authors Stephen Duber and Steven Levitt, price has very little to do with quality. That led me to wonder if most of us overpay for wine.

I Really Like Wine

Let me start by saying that I really like wine. I have been in a wine club and used other sites to discover new wines and get my favorites shipped to my home. When my wine rack was full the first time, I got another. When the second filled up, I went to a kitchen shelf for the overflow. Now I am looking at getting one built in.

Like with beer, I am picky on the types of wine I like. I enjoy almost any Sangiovese or Chianti. However, I would rather just have water if my only options are a Chardonay, Sauvignon blanc, Resiling, or Moscato.

Needless to say, I have spent more than a few dollars on wine over the years.

Wine Quality Ratings

As wines come and go, professional reviewers taste the wines and give them quality ratings. These professionals have trained their pallets to be aware of the small nuances each wine has. While it is fun to go to wine tastings and pretend you can taste like an expert, most of us simply don’t have the experience, or desire, to spend that much time and money learning about wine.

Instead, focus on the main features of the wine and find wines that you like. Who cares if it scores 80 points or 99 points. If you like it, that is the most important feature.

Wine Costs

You can find wine for $2 at Trader Joe’s, or you can head to Vegas and find a bottle well over $100,000. However, according to a blind test of 6,000 wines, it appears that people think almost all wines are more or less the same unless they already know the price.

In other words, price doesn’t matter!

If you are going to the liquor store to pick up your favorite vintage for a dinner party, don’t worry about the price tag. Instead, focus on the quality of the wine and how much you like it. I have found that I can fine amazing wines for $10 that I like just as much as their $20 brethren. I don’t see any real reason to spend more than that.

Value For Your Dollar

When I decide to get new wine to overfill refill my wine racks, I usually head to Wine Till Sold Out. I subscribe to the emails and patiently wait for a wine style I like under $10 per bottle. Sometimes it only takes a few hours, other times a few days. But I am always patient and never spend more than my budget.

I find that buying that way gets me the most value per dollar spent. If I would rather mix it up a bit, I head to the local grocery store where I can get a case discount on wine when buying six or more bottles at a time. Either way, I find I am almost always happy.

How Do You Buy Wine?

How do you budget and shop for wine? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

Image by by gcfairch / flickr

9 thoughts on “Are Expensive Wines Worth the Money?”

  1. I love wine. I go to a lot of wine tastings to figure out what I like. Sometimes I just have to pick something off the shelf, but that can be cool too.

    I’ve found that wine quality follows an S-curve. On the bottom are super cheap wines that are very harsh. Then there’s a brief point where every additional dollar adds a lot to the quality. Then there’s a long tail of wines that are just more expensive without really being better.

    Depending on the wine, I find that the $10-$20 range is where you get the most bang for your buck. It’s also good to keep a more expensive bottle ($20-30) around for those times that you need to impress.

    1. I try to focus more on the style than the price. I personally love the stronger flavors, so I pick wines with certain grapes that I prefer. I think of it like choosing an IPA or a lager when buying beer. I almost always like an IPA, so picking a new one I have pretty good odds.

  2. I think it really depends on just how much someone likes wine. For someone like me, who is not all that interested, there reaches a point where the marginal benefit from spending extra money doesn’t match up with the costs. In my case, a $2 bottle = bad, a $10 bottle = just fine, and a $20 bottle = too expensive. Kind of frugal, I know.
    All this said, I know a few folks who totally see it differently than I do, and have their own higher minimum standards. They also have more $$$ 🙂

    1. You know your wine economics. To me the marginal benefit peaks out around the same place as you. I rarely find any big extra value from an expensive bottle. The best I usually find for my tastes are around $13 per bottle for a quality sangiovese.

  3. Where do you live, Eric R, where you can go into a grocery & buy a case of wine? Certainly, not Canada! I thought I was reading the Globe & Mail’s financial guy’s column.

    1. I live in Denver, Colorado. Not sure how I ended up in the Globe & Mail, but welcome. I hope you enjoy the site.

      I don’t get an entire case at the grocery store. We get a “case discount” even when mixing and matching at 6 bottles or more. Most grocery stores don’t even carry liquor over 3.2% alcohol, but the ones that do usually have the best deals in town.

  4. TylerJohnson123

    I think that expensive wine is definitely worth the money as long as you store it in the correct place such as a refrigerated wine rack.

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