If you are a true wine lover you need to realize that you must know your price limits. There is a ton of product out there in the market spanning all price ranges, and you need to filter down the selection to products that meet your price range. Of course there are other filters that you will use to narrow down the different choices that would be suitable to you, such as 1) white, red, or rosé, 2) dry or fruity, 3) for cellaring or immediate drinking, 4) by region, 5) by grape variety, etc. But price is very important, everyone has their own price point just as we all have different other preferences based on our own individual palates. So do you know your price tolerance, and do you know what options are open to you in those various price ranges? Let’s take a look in more detail.
You should expect to have several different price limits depending on the purpose of the wine. You will have a price limit for everyday drinking wine, another higher price limit for wines you save for entertaining when you have guests you want to impress, and yet another higher price limit for those special occasion wines you open at birthdays, anniversaries, etc. But there are other price points to consider as well, such as how much you will spend on a restaurant wine, how much you will spend on a wine you bring to a BYOB party (see my previous blog post # 26 for more details on what happens there), and how much you will spend on a bottle of wine given as a gift. There are sub categories to some of these various price points, for instance when giving wine as a gift your price point will be different if the recipient is your boss, your employee, family, and depends on what the recipient knows about wine to begin with. Giving wine as a gift can be tricky because it is easy to establish how much you paid for the wine, and therefore whether you are being generous or cheap. Also, there is a lot to be said about giving the recipient what he or she likes to drink, but if their favorite wine costs $15.00 then don’t go cheap by buying them one bottle, buy at least 2 or 3, or even a 6 pack.
While I realize that everyone is different, and that many people will have different price tolerance depending on how much wine they drink and how much money they have to spend on that wine, there are certain general principles that will apply to most people:
- Wines for everyday drinking should be cheaper and of the highest quality you can get for that price. Is your spending limit for cheap drinkers $5.00, $10.00, $20.00, or higher? Some people will have higher price limits for everyday cheap drinkers, maybe $30.00 to $40.00 per bottle, and that may be at that higher limit for several reasons such as A) they can afford it, B) they do not drink wine every day, maybe only once a week, C) they are wine snobs, and D) they entertain a lot and get to write off the wine cost as a business expense. Do you know what your choices are within your price limit for cheap drinkers? I bet you did not know you could get anything in the $5.00 range, well check out my earlier blog on Microvin Inc, post # 24. They offer up a full variety of reds and whites, you can customize your order with various additives, and the result is what I think is the cheapest high quality drinking wines available in the market today. With this discovery I was able to lower my drinkers price point from about $15.00 per bottle to less than $10.00. Needless to say I am thrilled and have more drinkers on hand, and I am spending less on them.
- The BYOB party wine should probably be under $25.00 in the $20.00 range. You don’t want to be thought of as cheap, but you also don’t want to spend too much because you may not get much of that wine for yourself, and you do not want to come across as being a snob. A $50.00 bottle is too much.
- Your mid-range house wine for entertaining or family dinners should be more expensive than your cheap drinkers and in the $20.00 – $50.00 range, and you should have several different types on hand to suit various occasions. You will need a bubbly, two or three different whites, I suggest a Chardonnay, something drier like an Alsace Riesling or Pinot Gris and at least one dessert wine. With white dessert wines it is also a good idea to have both full and half bottles to cover two people with a half bottle, and 4-8 people with a full bottle. You will also need 2 or 3 different reds, usually including a Bordeaux, an Australian, and a California. Finally you need to have some kind of port for after dinner nightcaps. If you add these all up, your mid-range wines should number no less than 8 different types, also a good idea to have at least two of each, meaning no less than 16 bottles at an average cost of $30.00 per bottle, so you are going to have about $500.00 tied up in inventory just for your mid-range wines.
- Next comes your real special wines, those keepers that will last forever and that only get opened on the best of occasions. The sky is the limit here, and you can easily spend $1,000 or more on a first growth Bordeaux from a good year. However, for most people you will find some great wines in the $300.00 or less price range. You must be very careful setting your price ceiling for these specialty wines. If you spend too much on a wine and therefore you only get one, and really cannot afford to replace it, then you may never drink it. This means that you will agonize at every special occasion over whether or not to open this bottle, and you never do. Depending on your cellar conditions, you may kill your wine by keeping it too long. So be careful not to set your price limit on this category of wine too high, it must be low enough that you will open it when the right time comes, and something you can afford to replace. I would suggest having at least 4 different special occasion wines on hand, two or three of which should be red.
- Wines to be gifted to someone generally go in the $50.00 range ($30.00 – $70.00), they cannot be too cheap as mentioned earlier, and if too expensive you can make the recipient feel very awkward.
- Finally, what is your price point for a restaurant wine? Keep in mind that anything on the restaurant wine list is priced 2 to 3 times higher than what you pay to buy it from the local wine shop. Also keep in mind that if you are 4 people or more you will be opening two or more bottles of whatever you select. You must also be prepared for surprises like vintage substitutes, it is not unusual to start with one bottle of a great Bordeaux wine from the fabulous 2000, 2005, or 2010 vintages, then when it comes time to order a second bottle of the same wine the waiter tells you there are no more bottles from that same year, but you can have the 2011 or the 2013. No thanks, before ordering that wine in the first place always make sure the restaurant has more than just one bottle on hand. If you expect to drink 3 bottles, make sure they have 3 bottles or don’t order that wine.
Personally I have a problem paying too much for a restaurant wine, so I try to limit my price to $50.00 or less, knowing I am ordering a wine that costs $15.00 to $25.00 at the liquor store. If you are entertaining a client over a business transaction, in other words “wining and dining”, then you will no doubt be spending more, but be careful here not to go too far above $50.00 or the client might get the wrong impression (like maybe he paid too much for what you just sold him, why else would you be so lavish with the price of the wine!). Maybe I am old fashioned, but you should stay under $100.00 per bottle on an expense account meal. Once I hosted a business dinner for 4 in Toronto at an upscale restaurant and the wine bill alone was over $800.00. My boss was annoyed when it came time to sign off on the expense account (even though there was a legitimate reason for spending so much on wine) and it changed his opinion of me, creating the impression that I was a little reckless with company funds. You want to be careful with wine at expense account meals, too cheap and you don’t look good, too expensive and you may offend your client or guest, your boss, or even the tax auditor.
Price points are important, you must know your own. They will change as your financial circumstances change so they need to be periodically reviewed. If you just retired and now live on a very modest pension, you will naturally be downsizing your budget for wine, which means getting better value for your money. With less money to spend on wine, and more time available to drink it, you will need to find better quality wines for less. The solution to that problem is to drink as wide a variety of wines as you can when you are younger so you know what to drink when you get older and have change forced upon you.
So drink up and learn well!