Posts Tagged ‘price’


April 5, 2017

A slightly different approach to my yearly rant against the rising prices of BC wine…this time, I want to talk about “how much is too much” for a bottle of BC wine.

As usual, I want to emphasize that I have no problem with a wine’s price if it sells. I may not be able to afford it – see California Cult wines, most Barolos, Hermitages, etc – and I may not like its style (see Bordeaux), but if the market will bear the price – then go for it!

But I remain curious about the logic around the prices of some of the recently released BC wines. One winery, in particular, has its new “artisanal” wines priced at…wait for it…$90, $115 and $125! And they were being promoted by a local BC wine writer.

Sorry, but that just doesn’t compute with me.

First off, it is a brand new winery, with no track record…who in their right mind would spend that kind of money when there is no history of what the wine will taste like?

Second, assuming that the wines are meant to age…there is also no track record of that either! What if in 3, 5, 8 or more years, you open them up and your “investment” tastes like a glass of toothpicks!

Third, if you really want to spend that kind of money on wine (and, to be clear, I don’t), a quick check of the BCLB website shows you have a lot more reputable options. How about the 2014 Saint Joseph le Clos by Chapoutier for $119 (97 points by Parker)? Or the 2010 Barbaresco Sori Paitin for $105 (also 97 points by Parker)? Even the 2014 regular Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon at $115 (and 94 points). All of these wines have years (if not decades) of pedigree, so if you like the style, there is virtually no risk.

Fourth, who exactly is going to buy these wines? Not your average wine drinker, of course…and not even wine dweebs like me. Not restauranteurs, as they have to mark them up 2 – 3 times. So is it tourists, wanting to take something back with them? But how many of them will spend that much money on a BC bottle of wine?

Finally – and I realize this is the toughest, most subjective argument – how can these wines be good enough to charge that kind of price? Personally, I won’t spend that kind of money on any wine, let alone a BC wine (except in a restaurant, of course, where the cost has been at least doubled). And that’s because I just don’t think wine is worth that much money.

Okay, enough ranting by me for this year! But one last dig…I bet if you go looking for those wines a few months from now, they will still be available…and there will be lots of them!




October 29, 2015

Quick question for you – what do the ’13 Dancing Bull Zinfandel, ’12 Smoking Loon Syrah and ’12 Louis Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon have in common?

Yes, they are all from California…and all solid wines. But more importantly, they are all under $20 in BC liquor stores, with the first two being less than $15! And I would bet that for our friends in the US, you can find them for around $10 in Costco or other grocery stores.

My question is…how do they make this kind of quality, at this price, for the BC market?

When I first started getting into wine back in the ‘80s, I drank a lot of California wines. And there were some amazing bargains back then.

But then the Canadian dollar tanked, and for a long time many – most? – California wines just became too expensive. Even four or five years ago when our dollar was at par with the US dollar, the prices just didn’t seem to come down very much, whether it was for the inexpensive wines or the premium ones.

But now, that seems to be changing…even though our dollar is once again falling!

So what gives?

I know the wines I mentioned above – and probably many others – are made in great quantities, which helps keep the per bottle cost down. But still…with our bizarre tax regime, the only way a California wine can sell for $15 is if it “landed” here at under $10, which I assume would be the price in the US (if not less given the exchange range).

Factor in the average price of BC wines now hovering close to $20 – for far lower quality – and it presents an interesting quandary.

And one I don’t have an answer to!

If you know, please pass on the reason. In the meantime, I guess I will be buying ore California wine to drink during the week!


It’s Not Just the Price of Wine…it’s What You’re Supposed to Get for it!

August 27, 2014

I was struggling a bit about what to write about this week, the last real week of summer. But then I was dropping some wine off with Lyle, one of the members of my wine club, and we got to talking about the price of wine – and I had a topic!

But not just the price. I have done that before, and didn’t feel like just venting again. Instead, it is about what you expect to get…for the price you pay!

The conversation started around the release of a whole bunch of $60 BC wines, but it quickly expanded beyond that to all wine. And the key question was – what do you expect from an expensive wine, and how do you know you will get it?

Expectations are relative, of course, just like taste and style. But – in general – I think it is fair to say that the more money you pay for a bottle of wine (or anything, for that matter), the more you expect to get.

But with wine, what exactly is that?

Some people say “quality”. But what does that mean? And how do you judge the difference in quality between a $25, $60, or $600 bottle of wine?

Well, here are a few thoughts.

First of all, if it is a newly released vintage, I don’t think – personally – that “quality” should be about how good the wine is now. If the wine is made to drink right away, or over the next few years, there are way too many options to justify paying extravagant sums for it. The difference in quality just isn’t there.

So that brings us to a wine’s potential, which means what it will taste like after it ages. And that, I think, is a legitimate argument.

If you buy a wine that is, say, $50 now, but in 10 – 20 years will develop into something special, then I think that merits a higher price. Even if you just factor in inflation, the cost of that same wine will be more expensive then. And in restaurants – if they cellar it that long – the cost will be up to ten times more expensive.

But how do you know it will taste that much better in 10 – 20 years? Usually, for wine dweebs like me, that means the tannins (in red wines) will have softened, but the fruit will still be there, so there will be this wonderful mix of fruit, herbs, wood and other aromas and flavours. Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, Barbaresco, Hermitage, Chateauneuf du Pape, Rioja…those are all wines that offer that promise. And that’s why you will pay $50+ a bottle when the wine is young…because it will hopefully taste like a thousand dollar wine when it is mature (which is probably what it will cost).

That still leaves the question, however, of how you will know what the wine you spend $50, $60 or even $100 now will taste like that 10 – 20 + years in the future?

That, my friends, is a skill that few people develop, and even fewer get a chance to try out (given how expensive it can be to taste many different $50 wines years before they are ready).
While I don’t claim to have the skill, I do know one piece to the puzzle – the wine must have enough fruit when it is young. Because if it doesn’t, it is not going to find anymore 10 – 20 + years from now.

That, frankly, is my problem with Bordeaux, and the blends from other countries like that. They can be searingly tannic when young, and the fruit very hard to find. So how do you know it will be there in the future?

But at least Bordeaux has a reputation to build on! My bigger peeve is BC wineries making that style of wine that have no track record to back it up. Why should I spend $60 or more on a BC wine when – as one winemaker I met said – “we don’t know what it will taste like in 10 to 15 years.”?

So where am I going with all of this?

Well, if you like old wine (another subject in its own right), then go slowly, and develop a taste based on experience. For me, I have been drinking certain Chateauneuf du Papes and Barbarescos for over 15 years now and know not just how they age, but what they taste like in 10 – 15 years. So if I am going to make a $50+ purchase (which is still rare), I am pretty confident of what I will be getting.

But I won’t take that chance with some new winemaker – in BC or elsewhere. What was the line from that movie…”show me the money”? Well, “show me the old wine”…then maybe I will pay for it when it is young!


How Much Should Certain Wines Cost?

October 17, 2013

I was walking through a wine store the other day (what a surprise, eh?), and found myself shaking my head at the prices — but only in certain sections. So that got me to thinking about my perceptions of what certain wines should cost and how that effects whether I buy them or not.

Let’s start with South America, and Chile first. My first experience with Chilean wines was with the cheap/good value wines of the late ’80s, and I found that was still my expectation. Under $15 is what comes to mind…as well as lots of ripe fruit. But now? Try finding a fruity Chilean red wine for under $20.

Staying in South America, what about Malbec? I love that grape, which can make super ripe wines with lots of black fruit, almost like Zinfandel. I’m not thrilled with the oaked varieties, but the ones without it can be really nice. But price? Again, should be around $15. And yet you look at $25, $30, even $50 Malbecs…I won’t even try them for my cellar!

Next – and just so you know it has nothing to do with the “newer” wine regions – is Beaujolais from France. When I first got into wine, Beaujolais was one of my “go to” wines. Not the “Nouveau” stuff, but the 13 Crus (like Morgon, Moulin a Vent, etc). They were wonderful wines, many almost Burgundy like, and none of them over $22 or $23. But now? There are $40+ Beaujolais!! Fuggetaboutit!

Last, but not least, is BC wine (like you didn’t know this was coming). Now, anybody who reads this blog knows that I am one of the biggest boosters of wine from my home province. But some of the prices – ridiculous! There is definitely quality here, particularly among some of the smaller producers. But, really, there are very few BC wines that are worth more than $30 a bottle (Kettle Valley’s Reserve and Hayman Pinot Noirs, Nichol’s Syrahs, Marichel’s Syrah, Blue Mountain’s Reserve Pinot Noir), but most of the rest – nope! Sorry, but if La Frenz can make the quality red – and white – wines it does for $20 – $30, and wineries like Cassini Cellars, Howling Bluff, Eau Vivre, Moon Curser and Mt. Lehman can make outstanding wines for even less than that, there just is no reason for BC wines to be expensive.

To conclude, I want to be clear – if wines show they are “worth it”, I don’t have a problem if they charge more. And California is the perfect example of wine regions that have evolved over the past 30 years to demonstrate they are as good as any in the world, and therefore are able to justify world class prices.

But the rest? Give your head a shake. It may only be perception, but perception is also reality. And some wines just shouldn’t be expensive.



December 12, 2012

Okay, second last wine blog of the year, and let’s focus on the best BC wines that are currently available in the government liquor stores.

Reds first this time, starting with what may be the best BC red wine value since the 1998 Tinhorn Creek Merlot. It’s another Merlot, although this time from Cassini Cellars, and what an amazing wine! Purple, super ripe – but not jammy – black plums, a touch of earth and herbs, and no oak in sight anywhere. Incredible wine, and for $17.99, a ridiculous value as well.

For a couple of bucks more, a nice Pinot Noir from one of BC’s most consistent wineries. Nk Mip Cellars makes very nice Pinot Noir, year in, year out, and the 2010 is no exception. Look for a Cali/Burgundy cross here from a style perspective – lots of ripe, red cherry fruit, but also earth, spice and a bit of mushroom. At less than $20, this wine would give many Pinots from around the world a serious run for their money.

Finally, a Bordeaux blend. Now, nobody faint – I know they are not my style of wine. But this one – from Moon Curser – is very nice, and nicely priced! The 2010 Border Vines is a mix of all the usual grapes, but much riper than most of these kinds of wines. It shows black currants, oak and cedar, but the former is equal to the latter, making it very nice to drink. And that is the case both now and for the future, as there are some tannins here that will allow it to age and develop for 3 – 5 years. It’s $24.99 – compare that to $45+++, and you will see the value!

So what about white wines? Well, Quail’s Gate once again gives us a nice dry Riesling, which might be their best wine (next to the Marechal Foch). Bone dry, it has classic flinty, minerally, citrus fruit – crisp, medium bodied, and very nice to drink now. It is also very reasonably priced at $16.99.

Moon Curser grabs another recommendation for five bucks more with its 2010 Afraid of the Dark. This is a rarity for BC – a blend of white Rhone grape varietals, and it is a beauty. Avoiding the resiny taste that sometimes comes with these wines, it is dry, not too fruity, and surprisingly full-bodied. For $21.90 it competes well with other wines in that price category.

The final white is another new addition to the BC Liquor stores – the 2010 Alibi by Black Hills. Because of drastically increasing costs, this is the only wine I can still recommend from the winery (the red Nota Bene is over $53 now!!!). It is a gorgeous Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend, very much like a white Graves from Bordeaux. Look for a touch of oak, crisp, dry citrus, and medium body. At $24.90, it isn’t cheap, but its French cousins are more than twice that much, hence the value!

Finally, sweet and sparkling! For the latter, an amazing value given the style. The NV Brut by Neck of the Woods in Langley, B.C. tastes like a classic Champagne – toasty, yeasty, bone dry. Almost all wines of this style and quality are $50+++, so kudos to them for it!

Sweet wine recommendations are tougher in BC, but a fun one to try is actually made from fruit. In this case, its blackberries, and the NV Cowichan Blackberry by Cherry Point on Vancouver Island is like a good liqueur. A little goes a long way here, and it will do well at any holiday party!

So there is BC wines for the holidays! One more to go – my recommendations for Christmas Dinner next week.



November 14, 2012

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?