I am sitting in one of those crowded coffee houses that seems to be on every street corner around the country. The line is long and seats are full of people who’ve dropped around $5 each for a cup of soy, no foam chai latte. A few minutes earlier I was in the wine aisle of a local retailer and watched shopper after shopper survey a number of bottles, but most often select the bottle that was priced right around $10. Research tells us that what I witnessed in the wine aisle wasn’t unique. According to the 2016 Survey of American Wine Consumer Preferences, 80% of Americans say they won’t spend more than $15 on a bottle of wine (51% are willing to spend between $9 and $15, with the average price spent just above $10). If you assume 5 glasses of wine per bottle, that means the vast majority of Americans won’t spend more than $3 a glass on wine when buying a bottle at retail. These are the same Americans who seem to have no problem spending twice as much on a cup of their macchiatos, lattes and pour-overs.
It’s time we defended the value of a glass of wine as at least equal to the cost of a fancy cup of joe. Crafting wine the right way, without adding artificial ingredients or cutting corners that help a company crank out cheaper bottles, is not easy. There is significant risk involved (pests, disease, weather, production problems) and significant costs that go into growing and harvesting the grapes and producing wine that stands on its own. Those who forgo taking the other shortcuts to produce an authentic wine should be rewarded for doing so. And rewarding the producer for not cutting corners typically will reward the consumer with a better bottle as well.
Does that mean that a $20 bottle of wine is always better than one that is $10? The easy answer is ‘not necessarily.” There are certainly examples of higher priced wines where the quality doesn’t justify the price. And that price doesn’t guarantee no shortcuts were taken either. But on whole, the production techniques and grapes used in the more expensive bottle of wine will result in a better end product. A Master Sommelier said it best in a recent post when talking about buying wine at retailers:
“There is a value curve that is at its peak between $15 and $25 a bottle,” said Devon Broglie, a master sommelier who serves as the wine buyer at Whole Foods. “In that price point is where you get an honest, genuine expression of what a great variety is supposed to taste like, from the region of the world that it comes from, made by an actual person.”
The next time you drop $5 on a specialty coffee consider that the equivalent cost of that cup when purchasing a bottle of wine would be $25 for the bottle. And, yes, that price is worth it.
Image Central Bottle from Didriks on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.