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How much to pay for wine

Many a wine drinker has pondered this question. Well, the real answer is, whatever you feel comfortable paying. Whether you want to admit or not, the amount of money you pay for a bottle of wine has a lot to do with your perceptions of how good it really was or will be. But, at the end of the day, does it really have anything at all to do with it. There are so many things that go into pricing a bottle of wine . . . I don’t profess to know any of it from an industry point of view. Although, I think I have figured some things out from experience.
Generally speaking, a bottle of wine that costs less then $5 is going to be in all likelihood, swill. Face it; in today’s economy does anyone really think it is possible to produce something that requires a natural metamorphosis to occur under a minimal amount of quality control and ship it to your local hooch dealer for less then $5 retail. Ounce for ounce, you can’t even produce beer at these prices, which is made from some of the cheapest and easiest to grow and harvest products. Forget about it, sorry Trader Joe and 2 Buck Chuck, Mad Dog 20/20, the list goes on. Leave that stuff to anyone who needs wine simply as a means to an end.
Once you pass $5, watch out, it’s all fair game. In the simple white wine category such as Sauvignon Blanc from Australia decent drinkable fun wine can be had for less then $10 a bottle. I wouldn’t go near red wine at this price point, but I won’t disqualify it, you might get lucky. Passing $10 a bottle there begins to be enough gross margins to produce wine with a modicum of care required to reveal complex tastes for real enjoyment. Go past $20, well, the conversation gets more interesting. At this point, let me introduce Cliff, our limo driver for a first time visit to Napa Valley several years ago. We piled into his town car and one of the first questions we asked him was “How much should we pay for wine?” Cliffs’ response was insightful and a rule I live by to this day that has never let me down. Paraphrasing Cliff:
Spend what you feel comfortable spending, but in general not more then $40 a bottle. A $5 bottle of wine will be crap. A $10 bottle of wine will be at least twice as good as a $5 bottle of wine and drinkable. A $20 bottle of wine will be very much better then a $10 bottle and wine priced at $20-$40 range will be regal and quite possibly give you experiences of a life time. Beyond $40, serious marketing/exclusivity claims kick in and put the buyer in a position of paying for the wine producers indulgences or special nuances of production technique. This may be worth it for some, but probably not a beer guy on wine.
All that said, obviously its up to ones personal budget. Do I spend more then $40 on a bottle of wine? Yes I do, and more often then I like to think about. Tip; try some wine produced by Vincent Arroyo. It sells at the $40 price point and for uniqueness; complexity and joy of drinking will stand up to any much “bigger” Napa Valley wine. But then again, you would have to spend more then $40 on a bottle to prove me wrong.

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