Wine Prices

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Wine prices – can there be a more contentious subject among wine lovers? We all know wine prices have been going up for many years now, but then again, most other consumer goods have as well. And, with relatively few exceptions, most of us have been paying these increases – some of which have been mildly incremental, while others have been quite significant – all in order to keep ourselves on a mailing list, build a cellar, or maintain a vertical of our favorite wines. The question then becomes, at what point does the wine’s price exceed its perceived value to each of us?

The recent world financial problems have compounded this issue. Many people are now “trading down” their regular purchases, or spending less, or not spending at all.

Where will all of this lead? Join us as the GrapeRadio bunch take a look at the current situation, where escalating prices may have met their match with today’s economy. What’s a bottle worth to you?

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Show #230
(46:05 min 31MB)

37 Responses to “Wine Prices”


  1. 1 R.W. Jan 19th, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Good show guys, I like when you have your in house round table discussions. They seem a bit more lively at times than say a show with a vintner with a solemn personality.
    Fun…

  2. 2 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 20th, 2009 at 4:18 am

    I like doing these type of shows also. They can get heated up, but we do have fun with it.

    Jay

  3. 3 JD in Napa Jan 21st, 2009 at 7:36 am

    Enjoyed listening to this on the way in this morning. A point was made that one doesn’t see tastings focused on value wines. Perhaps that’s true from the perspective of having a bunch of wine friends over to the house for a value wine tasting. However, I work the Friday night tastings at Back Room Wines in Napa, and one of the most popular tastings is for value wines. A few weeks ago, Dan did an “under $12″ tasting, and we were jammed, with a lot of the value wines heading out the door. I note that only one of the eight wines poured was from California…

  4. 4 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 21st, 2009 at 8:06 am

    “I note that only one of the eight wines poured was from California…” I think that’s so true, JD – although I do think the landscape is beginning to change somewhat, in that there are more quality Cal Cabs under $20 than there has been in some time.

    I know I’ve been banging this drum incessantly, but Spain and many parts of France have been and still are delivering on wines of great value. The southern hemisphere is banging on the door as well. Still, it seems like a sad day when you can get better value from a wine that’s being shipped across an ocean, as opposed to one that’s grown in your own backyard.

    The bottom line is there’s still a lot of good wine out there at reasonable prices. You just have to search a bit – and that’s not a bad thing, because it IS all about discovery!

    Eric

  5. 5 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 21st, 2009 at 10:26 am

    JD, Sounds like Back Room Wines in Napa is a place worthy of attention. Thus I will help things along with a link. http://www.backroomwines.com/

    Jay

  6. 6 Cesar Jan 21st, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Great show. You guys mix it up just right with studio shows and location interviews. I enjoy the shows with vintners and grape growers and would really enjoy some more technical discussion about enology and viticulture.

    The last 20 years or so have seen a huge change for the wine consumers as far as quality of wines, back then you had to shell out bucks for a decent wine and now there is such a head spinning choice for really good inexpensive wines.

    Personally I’m not a collector because I drink too often. I only buy 50$ bottles a few times a year (except at restaurants) because I feel there are so many exceptional wines at about the $30 range.

    Cesar

  7. 7 Cheap Wine Finder Jan 21st, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I think these are times where consumers are going to be driven to do more research before buying wines. Most of us enjoy finding and trying new wines from up and coming regions. Now we have more of a reason to do so.

    Good show by the way. I appreciate hearing your perspectives.

  8. 8 AJ Jan 22nd, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Loved the topic and the round table format was fresh. I know that’s not what you guys are about but it was cool. For quite some time now my friends and I have been brown bagging the wines we bring to our themed wine and food get togethers. We have found that sharing and enjoying wines in this way helps to cut through all the fog ( marketing hype, high scores etc ). Wine prices vs wine preferences and the arbitrariness of wine pricing are there for all to taste. The consumer that questions wine prices and develops their palate will undoubtably have more spare change to spend in other places. Good show, keep it going.

  9. 9 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 22nd, 2009 at 8:10 am

    AJ – truth is, brown-bagging or tasting blind is the only way to level the playing field and keep you honest. Case in point, at a Merlot tasting last night (yep, effen Merlot), we had wines from less than $10 to over $60. Because they were NOT bagged, I’m sure most of us were pre-disposed to snear or otherwise ignore the less pricey wines in the group of 16 wines. But, lo and behold, most of us found that a Clos du Bois Merlot “wasn’t too bad,” which is code for ‘hey, I’ll have some more.’

    So, here’s this $10 wine hanging out and living large with the rest of the players – all of which just goes to show that you can’t completely judge a wine by its price.

    Eric

  10. 10 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 22nd, 2009 at 10:42 am

    AJ, Truth be told, we love doing these type of shows. However, we keep asking ourselves who cares what we think? We will do more, I promise.

    Jay

  11. 11 Chris Jan 22nd, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    I liked the roundtable show too, guys. I’ve kind of missed those lately, but to be honest, the show is always good. Enough brown nosing :-).

    I’ve cut back on mailing list purchases and have been looking for more values. I have set an arbitary $30 bottle price limit for myself that I’ve been following for the past 3-4 months and intend to follow all year. I’m replacing the $40-$50 pinots with $20-$30 pinots, and good ones are out there if you look hard enough. I will miss the Loring wines, though :-(.

    I’ve also tried the new WSJWine club and have found a few nice 85-89 point range everyday drinkers for less than $15. It has the side benefit for me of exposing me to things I probably wouldn’t have tried otherwise, and that’s fun.

    Keep the conversation coming, guys! Thanks.

    Chris

  12. 12 Mark Ryan Jan 23rd, 2009 at 12:18 am

    Without doubt, one of the most timely, engaging, and heartfelt roundtable discussions you have done.

    Before I get too sappy, I will say, Jay, that Burgundy prices DO fluctuate with the quality of the vintage – 2006 as a whole is less expensive than 2005 (even considering the high price of the Euro when many importers bought 2006), and I would predict the same for red Burgundy in 2007. Wait a few more months and I’m sure you’ll see some “bargains” in 2006 Burgundy as retailers try to dump them as the 2007′s arrive.

  13. 13 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 23rd, 2009 at 4:03 am

    Mark, I was not speaking in absolutes. As a general rule, I feel there is enough evidence to support my position that prices are less connected to vintage variation as you seem to suggest. Prices for Cote de Nuits (red) 2004 went up over 2003 ,but the vintage was questionable. I hope I am wrong and your prediction comes true.

    Jay

  14. 14 Tim Beauchamp Jan 25th, 2009 at 1:18 am

    This type of show is what I have always tuned in for. Thanks for a real honest round table discussion. Even when you have a winemaker on, a good discussion before and after always brings it home and into perspective.

    As far as price. Like most things, price seems to be only one seems to be influenced but not chained to quality. I would say that a most $200 bottles of wine are not 10 times better that some fine $20 bottles of wine. And there is where it gets hard to quantify. There is more to wine than the price. But sometimes we buy a wine regardless of the price, or maybe because of it. The price, quality, consistency and image are all aspects of wine to be considered.

    And ultimately, it is not just a value proposition. You can’t base it on the cost of the raw ingredients. Your not paying for that. If you were, I will sell you some grapes, yeast and a tablespoon of tartaric acid. The consumer is paying for the winemaker’s skill of knowing what to do and when to do it. And his doing it consistently. You are paying for the winery owners putting their families savings and kids college funds into an investment depend on them making wine that people want to buy.

    We can’t reduce it down to x dollars to produce times a profit margin.

    Tim

  15. 15 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 25th, 2009 at 5:35 am

    Tim, I really do not consider how the money will be used (or justified) by the winemaker, when making a decision to buy. I think it is a value proposition. How that value is determined, and what factors considered, is highly subjective and intensely personal. For example, some people get “value” out of the ego gratification they get from owning a wine that others covet. For some, the price we are willing to pay for a wine depends on factors that have very little to do with what is inside the bottle.

    Jay

  16. 16 barnaby33 Jan 25th, 2009 at 11:28 am

    At minute 26 you discuss wine tastings etc and how people don’t bring cheap wine. Why would someone? The whole point of wine tastings is to experience new stuff. You tend to bring better wine to tastings because others are. For the price of admission of one better bottle, you taste everyone else’s.

  17. 17 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 25th, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Tim, I think “value” is subjective when discussing wine (as with many things). I do have to admit that I GENERALLY don’t consider what goes into a bottle of wine I purchase. I’ve honestly never considered what it actually costs to make and deliver the product – be it wine, or almost anything else for that matter.

    With wine, it’s usually a simple proposition for me: I consider the wine’s cost, relative to my level of enjoyment – or, bang for my buck, as it were. Admittedly, there are also times when I will gladly pay for a product that seemingly goes beyond that particular benchmark. Sometimes it’s just speculation, or maybe I know the principal(s), admire the site, or find that its relative scarcity to be worthwhile.

    And, I think emotion also plays into determining the value for me. For instance, I might readily consider a wine over $100 to be a value if it provided me with enjoyment commensurate with its price tag. Maybe it’s a gift, special occasion, unusual bottling, etc. However, even if my purchase is impulsive, it still needs to measure up somehow in my head as a logical thing to buy.

    Eric

  18. 18 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 25th, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Barnaby, I think Jay was suggesting that the THEME of the tasting be that of “Wines under $30,” and therefore everyone would be on equal footing. In that context, people would be able to experience new stuff – albeit under $30.

    However, Rusty’s point is well taken. Some people might be mortified to even attend such a tasting. And, God help you if you’re the one who drags such a wine to a “regular” tasting.

    Eric

  19. 19 BEB Jan 31st, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Great show guys. Perhaps as a corollary, you could have a round table discussion on how wine prices have dropped and/or wines have become more available (allocated wines showing up on the block or larger lots appearing or more wines available in the under $25 category) using examples from various wine auction houses.
    Thanks again for the lively discussion.

  20. 20 nick Feb 1st, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    In listening to this program about ‘Wine Prices’, I cannot help but to comment about the point made: “considering $30 as a benchmark minimum for spending; and as a point at which only good wines are to be found (even over $25)”
    This really came off as being pretty snobby – if not, living in a vacuum, especially in this economy. Anyone who really knows wine – and I think this show appeals to more savvy oenophiles – you’re not on NPR after all – knows when it pays to pay for pedigree, when it’s worth it, when it’s not.
    For everyday drinking on a typical income, there is no reason to spend more than $9-$14 and find plenty of 88-90pt red wines from southern Italy, Spain, the Medoc/Cotes de Castillon. S.American malbec is fantastic yet already overpriced, and California is delusional in price in all areas. Better going for Mexican wine – and I’m not kidding.
    One final point > any bump up in price need not exceed the $30 range for a special bottle of wine on occasion. At that price ($25-30) you should find excellent/amazing alternatives to the pedigree name players, so find Spanish MontSant/Priorat/Grenache, French Vacqueyras/Fronsac/Medoc, Argentine Malbec, Cab/Nero blends from Sicily,S.Africa,Santenay/Fixin 1st cru Burgundies, and MAYBE a cabernet from Washington St.
    Do you guys really regularly spend $75 per bottle and know something about wine?!

  21. 21 GrapeRadio Bunch Feb 2nd, 2009 at 9:42 am

    You have an interesting take on our conversation, Nick. I can’t seem to find the particular passage that you quote, or even a place where we inferred that a $30 minimum was necessary to find a “good” wine. So, it’s difficult to comment on any perception of snobbiness. Your comments do, however, provide a salient point for more discussion.

    Our intent with this show was to address today’s wine prices, mostly in general but we did bring into play the context of our current economic environment. We’ve always tried to produce a balanced show – one that educates novice as well as knowledgeable wine people. So, if our demeanor or something we said came across as “snobby,” it was certainly not our intention.

    Some further thoughts on wine prices:
    • I think any wine you buy ought to be worth whatever you pay for it.
    • “Worth” is a relative term, and is difficult to quantify.
    • Setting some benchmark minimum per bottle cost could realistically only apply to myself.
    • There is no question that others may set higher benchmarks for themselves, but given that we all different economic means, this doesn’t necessarily equate to snobbiness.
    • I feel that I can find very enjoyable wines for under $10.
    • I would agree with you – I can and do find amazing wines in the $25-30 range, but that doesn’t mean I won’t spend more for what might be impulsive, emotional or speculative reasons.

    Eric

  22. 22 Julie Lindsey Feb 4th, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    While I agree that the format of the GrapeRadio guys chatting “roundtable-style” is entertaining and can be fun, I guess I’m the only one who found the podcast mortifyingly sexist toward the end? Women buy wine in grocery stores and purchase based on label design? Really? That’s your sexist, 1950′s stereotype that you want to broadcast over the global airwaves? Let’s get with the times, guys, there are female wine enthusiasts all over the world who have discriminating palates and are willing to drop good money to get the best.

    I enjoyed the dialogue immensely until it got to that point… thanks for letting me vent!

  23. 23 GrapeRadio Bunch Feb 5th, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    I will start out by saying that I am sure Jay, Eric, and myself are probably all sexiest pigs. :-)

    But, the point we were trying to express was that women do the bulk of grocery shopping (most men are far too lazy – especially me) and therefore women end up purchasing the bulk of wine consumed in the USA.

    Don’t take our word for it – we found several sources – they are the basis for our comments:

    - 72% of all wine purchases in US Supermarkets are made by women – Source: Vineyard & Winery Mgmt Magazine
    - 80% of all wine purchased in the United States cost $10 or less. Source: Lodi News Sentinel

    Large wine companies are also well aware of these fact and I can guarantee you (based on first first-hand knowledge) that they design their labels to appeal to this demographic.

    So yes women do purchase a lot of value prices wines based on label design. I also know a few guys that do it. LOL.

    But this is no way implies that women are not sophisticated wine drinkers who can also drop big bucks to purchase the wines they desire.

    It has been my personal experience (there is a great deal of data to support this) that women actually have a much greater perception of taste and are better critics of wine then men. I believe this has to do with a women’s ability to smell which is known to be superior to that of a man – And since most taste is based on smell – well the women are better at it (We have often comment about this fact on the show).

    All my best,

    Brian

  24. 24 Rusty Gaffney MD Feb 7th, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    In response to Julie Lindsey, I would like to say your point is well taken. This was all done in good fun and tongue in cheek. The truth is, there are many women who are very discriminating wine enthusiasts and a number of them subscribe to my newsletter. There are many talented women winemakers and wine critics and I truly admire them. Speaking generally, many women just don’t take wine as seriously as men. That said, women have an acute sense of smell and taste and know a good wine when they taste it. They just don’t feel a need to expound on it endlessly to inflate their ego like men so often do. You have given me an idea – we should add a woman to the some of the round table discussions and relish in the interplay.

  25. 25 paul r Feb 12th, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    perhaps i have a different perspective than some, perhaps not. but as a long time grape radio listener, i feel compelled to speak on a number of issues.

    format – i have always loved this round table format. an idea would be to bring in a consumer or some other wine geek to perhaps add to the discussion.

    1st time – i found myself disagreeing with jay on so many issues! i still love you jay, but i found my opinion varied from yours on this show, which in general, is rare.

    julie lindsey – concur! sexist! quote all of the marketing details you want here, i found the generalizations sexist. and if one is looking for value, one does not go to a grocery store, no matter what their wine selection or how high end they are, for value. in my mind, a $10 bottle with a monkey on it is not value.

    rusty gaffney – yet again, i have enormous respect for the man and his opinion. he can come to any of my tastings any time (next one is 3/11 in wla – 2001 burgs).

    la tache – 2005 release price, if you had a relationship with a retailer who sold you the wine for normal markup the price was $1100. probably peaked at $4500 (i could have sold mine at that price). recently saw it offered for $2750.

    $80 pinot that costs $20 – winery needs to protect the channel! not every wine gets sold off the mailing list, especially in today’s economy. if the wine gets totally sold off the mailing list, then good for them. 1 issue i agree with jay on the show – markets are efficient.

    value – value is relative. 2006 leflaive p-m pucelles at $225 is not value; at $145 buyers are everywhere. $290 for 2004 giacosa asili riserva – buyers everywhere. value is relative to the pedigree.

    prices – are going down! like everything else in the economy. perhaps not napa prices, but i think a lot of wineries will go broke. especially newer ones. they paid SO much for real estate, they have to charge expensive prices to keep up with payments. old world wines definitely fluctuate in prices. 2005 bordeaux currently at first tranche prices in some instances! 2006 burgs are coming down. look at all of the retailers announcing sale this or sale that… its amazing to think that jay thinks the prices are going up. if the economy continues to tank, i think i will soon get my SQN allocation!

    very stimulating show. i rarely find value in $10 wines. but my palate is spoiled. i would love to have 96 camuzet cros parentoux as house red and 96 krug as house white/champagne. after drinking those, hard to buy the $10 wine with the cute bunny.

    paul.

  26. 26 GrapeRadio Bunch Feb 13th, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Put up or shut up Paul. :-)

    On what points do you disagree?

    Jay

  27. 27 paul r Feb 15th, 2009 at 7:22 am

    thaT prices are only going up. wine prices are currently going down.

    you also stated that there is no price variation across vintage. i disagee with that. check out prices on 2004 larcis ducasse against 2005.

    i disagree that $10 wine represents value. value must be considered within context.

    there were other points as well, but i can not remember them.

    finally, on rusty’s romantic notion of drinking his last bottle on his last day; i could not agree more. that said, as i get my affairs in order, i am leaving wines from specific regions to specific friends. and while i do love you jay, you are not on my list either!

    best,
    paul.

  28. 28 GrapeRadio Bunch Feb 15th, 2009 at 7:43 am

    Paul,

    I would say that both of us are wrong if we speak in absolutes. For every example you show for a price going down, I can also show you examples of wine prices going up.

    I think the prices for wines do not closely correlate to vintage differences.

    I did not intent to suggest that by definition, $10 equates to value. So I agree with your statement. I would add that “value” is intensely personal and is not always based on whats in the bottle.

    Why am I not on your list? :-)

    Jay

  29. 29 Randy Holliday Feb 15th, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    My first time chiming in and commenting on a show.

    I found the show interesting, but would have liked to have had some industry professional (e.g. major retailer, distributor, or comparable segment) on the show to provide more than the anecdotal/consumer perspective. You guys clearly have great knowledge and depth, but a voice from inside the business of actually selling wine would have added a bit of interest for me, FWIW.

    You did lose me however when you drifted off to the “last rites” portion of the show. With all respect, that came across as too much of “inside jokedom”. I really tune out when any form of presentation devolves into the hosts largely talking to and about each other. Save that for when the mikes are off.

    That last point a minor criticism. All in all, you guys do great shows. Keep up the good work. I podcast for gym listening, and have learned a tremendous amount over several years and shows.

  30. 30 GrapeRadio Bunch Feb 15th, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Randy, That is a good point about an industry professional. I guess sometimes we just want to stray from the “interview” format. We just wanted to talk to each other.

    I have mixed feelings about your second point. Many listeners seem to like the round table format. Te shows are not scripted so they can go off on weird tangents. However, my ego, while quite large must concede the idea that the topic is more important than ourselves. I must confess that it would be hard for me to “remove myself” from the show. You have given me something to think about at length.

    Jay

  31. 31 Randy Holliday Feb 16th, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Jay,

    All fair comments. I agree that the roundtable format is an interesting format. Your show on “Hiding Wines” was a hoot, I shared that one with several wine geek friends. We all related, even me with a very supportive wine drinking wife.

    I agree the topic of cellar inheritance has some interesting aspects. Like, when does one stop buying in anticipation of one’s own demise? I’d rather guess wrong and keep buying to the very end. If there is wine of note left behind, I figure someone will find a home for it.

    I guess a bit of personal banter is to be expected from guys who have spent so much time, energy and passion building your shows to the level its at. So, put me in a very small minority who have some bias against “host banter”. Frankly, every major broadcaster, anchor personalities, etc. all do it. I should get over my issue and let you keep yourselves very much in the show.

    Regards

    RHH

  32. 32 GrapeRadio Bunch Feb 16th, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Randy,

    We strive to create shows in many different formats. If “host banter” is not your thing, then we also have non-hosted shows and seminars. All of our videos (with only a few exceptions) are not hosted and are told through the words of the person being interviewed.

    Mark

  33. 33 Greg Mar 11th, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    I have to agree with Paul R. on the fluctuation of prices for Bordeaux and Burgundy. On average, they are rising, but there can be significant vintage fluctuation and spikes for highly rated wines – at least that has been my experience buying both futures and after. A real problem for the likes of those cult wines, like Harlan, that priced their wines since 2004 seemingly in accordance with the exponential rise in price of the 1st growth bordeauxs, is that there is no precedent for reducing prices in off years. I don’t think you will disagree that prior to 2006, bordeaux futures were priced at the perceived quality of the vintage. (Look at 2000, ’01, ’02 for recent example.) There is precedent for significant reduction in prices in Bordeaux. I think Latour could go back to a futures price of $200 a bottle with any negative market perception. I don’t know if Harlan could go back to $265 (2003 price) without a negative market perception. I do agree that, instead, they are likely to sell more to restaurants at a discount if they were unable to sell through a vintage.

  34. 34 Ben Mar 31st, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Now that’s a wide ranging show – from buying to dying.

    I read about a double-blind study in which tasters preferred the same wine when told it was more expensive.

    I think I’m exactly the opposite. I’ll be much more enthralled by a great $5 wine than a $10 one that may be objectively better. I’m just a sucker for good wine at hobo prices!

  35. 35 George Jun 8th, 2011 at 10:11 am

    @Ben

    My wife would be one that would enjoy the more expensive wine because she was told it was more expensive. I, on the other hand would be just like you, Ben. I would be extremely enthralled by a great $5 wine.

  36. 36 James Grayston Jun 23rd, 2011 at 9:04 am

    This is 10 AM of morning here and love to hear this show yeah it is also a very tensed period for Wine lovers that the wines prices raise day by day and government don’t think in that direction.

    James Grayston
    Webmaster,
    Tinnitus Miracle PDF

  37. 37 andrey Aug 11th, 2011 at 2:47 am

    i do not understand the concept behind increasing prices of hard-drinks. Every year few cents mean every month many dollars spend more on drinks. Iam not an alcoholic but with one-job in hand throwing a decent party makes me cut down on one week’s expense

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GrapeRadio is a wine talk show. Show topics cover issues such as the enjoyment of wine, wine news and industry trends - the hallmark of the show is interviews with world class guest (winemakers, vineyards owners, wine retail / wholesale leaders, restaurateurs and sommeliers). The scope of the show is international so expect to hear many guests from around the world.

GrapeRadio has received numerous awards and honors including the 2008 James Beard Award for excellence in Journalism.

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