I do a “wine value” blog every year about this time, as people are still getting into the new year, recovering from the recent holiday’s expenses and looking for ways to save money on everything (including wine).
But when it comes to wine, value is a deceptively complicated term. I have seen it used for bottles under $10, vintage Bordeaux that cost more $75 and just about everything in between. So is there one definition of “value” that wine lovers can use when looking to buy wine for every day drinking or their cellars?
Well, the short answer, I think, is no. That’s because value can come at a wide range of price and quality levels. And it is also significantly affected by the style of wines you like (or don’t like) and, frankly, how much money you have!
The first reason I mentioned is probably pretty obvious to everyone, as it applies to more than just wine. For example, find any two products that are about the same price. If one tastes/looks/sounds/feels, etc. better, it is also a better value. More quality for the same amount of money.
The more interesting part of this, however, is when you factor in personal style and taste. That can significantly affect your definition of value. And nowhere is that more apparent than in wine.
Perfect example — for me — is Bordeaux-style red wines. Anybody who reads this blog knows I rarely, if ever, like them. That herbaceous, woody, non-fruit driven style just doesn’t do anything for me at all. Not because it is “bad”, but just because I don’t personally like it.
So how does that affect my view of value? Well, if I don’t like the Bordeaux style Cabernet/Merlots in general, it doesn’t matter to me whether they are $15 or $150 — I still don’t like the style. So I don’t see any value in either of those or other price ranges. There are undoubtedly wines that are better than others in that style, but for me — I don’t buy them anyway, so I see little or no value.
The opposite is true as well. I love fruit-forward Cabernet from California, Australia and BC. So it’s easy for me to recommend value wines in this style in different price ranges. Same with Rhone based red wines and Aussie Shirazs. I love’em, so it makes it easier for me to find and define value.
The last piece of the value argument, though, might be the toughest one. And that’s related to price. Specifically — is there a price level above which the word value can’t really be used?
Best example? I’m going to the Caymus Special Selection tasting at the upcoming Vancouver International Wine Festival. I love Caymus, but can’t afford to buy even the regular Cab at $60, let alone the Special Selection at $150+. So if you had me try a bunch of $150 Cabs, could I tell you which is the best value?
For me, the answer is no. There is a certain price for wine — for me, its around $50 — above which I think value goes out the window. I recognize that is may be relative to income (and my $$$ figure has risen over the years), but I can’t ever imagine a day when I could say “this $100 wine is a better value than that $100 wine.”
So what’s the moral to this story? Well, know your style and budget before you start looking for — believing — a wine is a “good value”. That’s the best way to ensure you can enjoy what you pick out.