THE NEW SWEET SPOT – THE $20 WHITE WINE

With the great, hot summer here in B.C. we have been drinking a lot of white wine, way more than usual. A lot of it has been local, and very good indeed!

But as I look at the bills each time I pay for it, there has been another constant – almost all of these wines have been under $20. And that got me to wondering why that was the case.

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon/Sauvignon blends, Pinot Gris, Riesling, even most Viogniers – all at that price point. And that was the case whether the wines were made by La Frenz, Moraine, Howling Bluff, Marichel or Church and State. So what’s up?

Well, part of it might be oak – or, in fact, the lack of it. One thing all of these wines have in common is they are done in stainless steel, with little or no oak aging. Oak barrels are expensive, particularly if you use new oak, and that has to be passed on the purchaser.

Support for this argument includes the fact that there are no Chardonnays on this list. I could have added in Township 7 and Quinta Ferreira (both of which clock in at about $20), but they are not quite in the same class as some of these other wines. Similarly, the Ensemble by La Frenz – a white Bordeaux clone of oak aged Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon – is gorgeous, but around $30.

So lack of oak is probably one reason for the $20 price point.

But I suspect there is another – winemakers (at lease in BC) have decided that $20 is what consumers are comfortable spending on a local white wine.

And by “comfortable”, I mean three things. First, that may be as high as paying customers will go. There are reserve BC whites that go higher than that, but they don’t seem to be as popular. Secondly, customers may well be thinking that anything less than $20 might mean the wine isn’t that good! And, given the selection under that figure, they are probably right.

There may also be one last reason. $20 might just be “the new $10”.

What do I mean by that? Well, when I got into wine almost 30 years ago, it seemed like everyone was looking for the $10 wine. And many producers – from Chile and Spain, in particular – were providing that. I can’t remember what the BC wine prices were then, because it was pre-free trade, and there wasn’t any quality wine around.

But now – whether it is inflation, incomes or just changing expectations – consumers may just look at the $20 bill and think “what can I get for that”, in the same way they used to look at the $10 bill.

Whatever the reasons, at least in BC, $20 is the new sweet spot for white wines. And with the quality available out there at that price, I am okay with that, and wish it was the same for red wines!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

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