Back to another “pet peeve” of mine…the rapidly escalating price of many BC wines. The idea for this blog started with the “Best in BC” release a month or so ago, but came to a head when I saw today in one of our papers that someone in BC is putting out an $85 sparkling wine…are you kidding me?
To start, let me put few things out there.
First, I don’t see anything wrong – in principle – with high priced wines (even if I can’t afford to buy them). If the market dictates a Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon from California (at $750+) or Chateau Petrus from Bordeaux (for >$2000 a bottle) sells out regardless of price, then good for them.
But my assumption in saying that is two-fold:
• number one, the quality of those wines translates into the price; and
• number two, these wines sell out regardless of the price
And there, for me, is the nub of the problem in BC.
On the first one – quality – I readily admit that is a matter of personal taste. And that is as it should be, because if we all liked the same thing, then it would be a pretty boring world!
But, as Einstein would probably have said (if he was a wine lover), “quality is relative”! So if I am looking at a $45+ wine from BC, I automatically compare it to other options in that price range. And I think that any wine lover would find that a no-brainer.
South of France (Cotes du Rhone), Australia (oodles of Shiraz’s), Spain (everywhere, including the trendy Priorat region) and even our friends just south of us in Washington, Oregon and California…there are lots of incredible wines at that price level. So even regardless of different tastes, I find it hard to believe that the high end BC wines can compete from a quality perspective.
And, unfortunately for many of the wineries that sell these wines, I don’t think the sales of >$40 BC wines justify the price. Without naming names, just go into one of the BC government liquor stores and see how many of them are still sitting on the shelves (or check out the website; one of them still has 3475 bottles available!!!!). So the “quality justifies the price” argument obviously doesn’t work for many of them.
The question, then, is why do it? Why charge those kinds of prices?
If you take away the “gouging” argument (which, out of fairness, I won’t attribute to anyone), I don’t have any answer. It used to be said my some that it was because these wines were targeted at American tourists, who came up here on holiday and wanted to take something back with them. When the US dollar was $1.20 Canadian (or more), that was feasible. But in the past five years or so, that hasn’t been the case.
Cost of land/production could also be another reason. I have heard some people say that real estate in the Okanagan is approaching that of Napa Valley. And yet, down there, there are more wine bargains (relatively speaking), than up here.
So what is the answer to my question “how much is too much?” Being completely honest – I don’t know.
But this I will say. As a wine “dweeb” who spends considerable money on a regular basis on wine – and has over 100 bottles of BC wine in my cellar right now – I rarely buy BC wines when the get to the $35 – $40 level. I just don’t think they are worth it.
So if I am not the target audience…then who is?