I’m exceedingly democratic about wine. I think everyone should drink it and they shouldn’t pay too much for it. But I do love wine and I love good wine and I don’t mind paying for good wine.
So what’s the go-to price for an excellent bottle of wine? How much should you spend and know you’re not spending too much? What’s the most you can expect to pay for a transcendent, world-class bottle of wine?
About thirty-five bucks, give or take.
At that point you’ll be getting wine that meets or exceeds the quality of any wine that’s two, three, four times the price. After that sweet spot of between $30-$40 the only thing you’re paying for is exclusivity, reputation and rarity–not the quality of the juice itself.
Obviously there’s some leeway on that number. For instance, you’ll be hard pressed to find a good Champagne for less than $45 but you can get some of the most interesting wines from Spain, Portugal and the lesser-known French regions for $25. California’s skewed as well, with some of the state’s best wines from Mendocino County or the Central Coast redoubling Napa Valley in quality for half or a third the price.
I don’t mean to say there aren’t good wines for less than $40 either. Far from it. There is lots of very good wine to be had for $10, $14, $20, though there’s something of a doughnut hole from $20-$30 where you’d usually be better off spending a little more and getting something truly amazing or spending a little less and getting an excellent value. Outside of the less expensive wine regions (Spain, Portugal, Languedoc-Roussillon, Eastern Europe), a $25 wine is often a wine that underperforms for the price (cf., Burgundy). There is also perfectly “fine” wine to be had for less than $10, but it’s difficult to find anything distinctive for less than $10-$12.
Are there exceptions to these numbers? Absolutely. But in general, if you go into a wine shop you trust and spend $35 you’ll be getting an exceptional bottle of wine.