Whether a wine costs $10 or $50, the best are those that over-deliver on quality and price. This equates to value. It is the same concept applied every day by millions of consumers hunting for bargains on clothes, cars, food, computers, etc. Sadly, many wine lovers overspend because they believe a higher price guarantees a better wine. Not so.
Being an informed wine shopper is important. Here’s why: Based on a broad index of global sales going back 20 years, Wine Searcher recently reported that the “average retail price of a bottle of wine in the US at end of May 2019 is $73.50.” Five years ago it was $34.15. That’s a stunning 115 percent increase! (The global average price is $59.30.) I don’t know about you, but my deck-sipping wine costs less than half of the 2014 U.S. average.
While higher land prices and labor costs are helping to drive the dramatic U.S. increase, a more potent and disquieting trend looms: Big wine conglomerates are marketing higher-profit premium brands in portfolios while reducing or shedding less expensive, lower-profit labels. The under $10 bottle of wine is getting squeezed out for a $20-and-up bottle which may or may not be a better quality option based on price.
All is not lost, however. Goaded on by a wine-shopping pal, I accepted a challenge to buy a mixed 12-bottle case for $100 or less to be served to friends at a dinner party. Quality was key since my palate, reputation and pocketbook were on the line. Well, after two months of liquid research I’m proud to share not one but two value options.
The Costco Case ($98.68)
America’s No. 1 wine-seller, Costco lays claim to its own price-busting Kirkland Signature brand of U.S. and international bottlings. I found the quality ranges from average (Chardonnay from Sonoma, $6.99; California Cabernet Sauvignon, $9.99 for a 1.5-liter bottle) to very good (Carneros Napa Valley Pinot Noir, $11.99, 88 points/ Wine Enthusiast; Malbec from Argentina, $8.99, 91 points/James Suckling).
Other top values were a crisp, clean and fruity Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG ($6.59); a deliciously tart strawberry-flavored Provence Rose` ($9.89); and a velvety, 100 percent Tempranillo Rioja Reserva from Spain ($6.99).
Filling out the selections were a refreshing Pinot Grigio from Friuli ($5.99); and a lip-smacking Ti Point Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand ($9.69).
Three of the nine wines were duplicates (Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, Malbec) in order to stay on budget.
Update Special: Since completing my study, Costco unveiled a 2015 KS Chianti Classico Riserva for $8.49. It stands out because of its producer – the historic Villa Cafaggio estate of Greve. Add it to your Costco case in place of the second Malbec and save an extra 50 cents.
Designer Dozen ($98.38)
Eight countries are represented on this adventurous list of 12 wines found at most retail outlets. Three each are from Italy and Spain. The lone U.S. brand is the consistently good Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon that scored 88 points in a Wine Enthusiast review. WE gave the same score to the Portuguese Aveleda. The diverse array offers a broad range of grapes and tastes while delivering exceptional value on quality and price. Shopping for wine is great, especially when good choices are made. I urge you to do the same. Let me know how you make out.
Piccini Chianti, Tuscany, $8.99 – Simple but well made.
Dona Paula Los Cardos Malbec, Argentina, $7.99 – Silky, succulent.
Aveleda Vino Verde, Portugal, $5.99 -Apple-lime, zingy acidity.
Honoro Vera Rose`, Spain, $8.99 – Candied strawberry flavors.
Indaba Chardonnay, South Africa, $7.49 – Apple fresh and fanciful.
Turtle Bay, Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, $8.99 – Mouthwatering grapefruit.
Frisk Riesling, Australia, $7.99 – Off-dry, spritzy, uplifting.
Altopiano Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige, $9.99 – Light, refreshing, peachy.
Villa Pozzi Nero D’Avola, Sicily, $7.49 – Bold black fruit, whiff of chocolate.
Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon, WA, $8.99 – Intense; best Cab under $10.
Juan Gil Laya Garnarcha, Spain, $7.49 – Plum-berry bonanza, supple.
Flaco Tempranillo, Spain, $7.99 – Don’t make Sangria without it.