"A vine bears three grapes – the first of pleasure, the second of drunkenness and the third of repentance."

- Anacharsis, Scythian philosopher, 6th Century BC, Inc.

What is the Importance of Inexpensive Wine?

Still thinking about the topic brought up by Dr. Vino (see: Tasty American wine under $12: why so little of it? Industry replies, part I, and Why so few tasty American wines under $12? Wine importer Bobby Kacher)…

First a point of semantics. I quite consciously used the term “inexpensive“. Another good term might be “value“. I have noticed that in the discussion on Dr. Vino many have used the term “cheap” intending its negative connotations. The discussion is about wine that does not cost a lot that is of reasonable quality. For everyone, the price point will differ somewhat depending on their means, but I would contend that the price point for most for everyday consumption is south of $15 a bottle.

That being said, what then is the importance of inexpensive or value wine? I see three reasons why inexpensive wine is important:

  1. As has already been alluded to, if you are an individual who enjoys wine with dinner most every night, paying $15 or more a bottle quickly adds up to a lot of money (a $15 bottle of wine a night would add up to $105 in wine expense per week or $5,460 per year). Many, simply cannot afford that, and many more who can simply do not want to spend that much money on wine. Speaking for myself, I almost never pay more than $30 for a bottle of wine. While I can afford it and certainly do enjoy good wine, I cannot in my mind justify what seems to be conspicuous consumption. I also think the money can be put to better use on other things – charitable contributions, my son’s college fund, my retirement savings, etc. My “house wines”, the ones I drink on a regular basis, are all under $12 per bottle (current house red is a Cotes Du Rhone, and current house white is an Australian Chardonnay).
  2. Quality, inexpensive wine can and will attract more people to try wine and drink wine on a more regular basis. Put simply, inexpensive quality wine is critical for helping to grow the market for wine and fostering an American “wine culture“.
  3. Ignoring wine that is inexpensive to the consumer may actually put wineries at financial risk as the current recession may be pointing out. A winery needs to look at their wine offerings as a portfolio targeted to different market segments. When consumers trade down to less expensive wine in hard times, wineries that do not sell less expensive wine will simply sell less or no wine at all… That is not a recipe for longevity.

Now I understand if smaller producers cannot afford to make wine to hit these inexpensive price pints. That’s fine. They simply serve a different market niche. But it is important for American wineries to provide quality inexpensive wine. If not, new wine drinkers will “cut their teeth” on foreign wine and the rest of us will look elsewhere for our “house wines”. If these foreign producers provide better value across the pricing spectrum, we will simply drink less American wine…

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