Sunday, April 21, 2019

Price Vs. Quality - An International Comparison

At the end of each year Wine Spectator publishes information about their ratings by country and average price. Below, I have graphed this information to show where the bargains are, and where you pay too much.

Key: NC=Napa Valley Cabernet; CP=California Pinot Noir; O=Oregon; FBu=Burgundy; FBo=Bordeaux; FR=Rhone; IT=Italy Tuscany; IP=Italy Piedmont; G=Germany; Au=Austria; SA=South Africa; P=Portugal; S=Spain; Aus=Australia; NZ=New Zealand; Ch=Chile; Ar=Argentina 

The x-axis in this graph shows how expensive the average wine reviewed is, the y-axis is a measure of quality. The results here are very broad-brushed, and they deliver some expected outcomes, but also some surprises.

The most overpriced wines are the Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley, followed by the Bordeaux wines. This is expected. Surprisingly, while expensive, Burgundy delivers on quality. Over-delivering are the Rhone wines and wines from Tuscany. German and Austrian wines score well, too. Everything above the line is doing well, below the line is poor value for money.

Some surprises: Oregon Pinot Noir does exceptionally well on quality. And while this is expected from Piedmont wines, they are not as expensive as one would have thought (probably some Barbera has sneaked into the mix). On the negative side, and also surprising, wines from Australia and Portugal are too expensive for what they offer. In Australia's case, the very expensive Grange and Hill of Grace wines would have impacted on the average.

Argentina and Chile still score a little low on quality, as does New Zealand. The latter quite inexpensive, and the results no doubt influenced by the Sauvignon Blanc wines.

Make of all of this what you will. I thought it was worth sharing. 


Anonymous said...

Hello Thomas,
An extension of this survey, might be, how much does it cost to make a bottle of wine in these respective countries?


Bob Henry said...


Let me answer your anonymous reader's question -- at least as it relates to Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (circa 2008 harvest/vintage cost-of-goods sold).

Excerpt from The Sacramento Bee (California) Newspaper “Business” Section
(February 14, 2008, Page D1ff):

“Full Bouquet on Wine Costs;
From grapes to glass, prices vary by region and quantity”

[No longer archived on the newspaper’s website – hence no URL.]

By Jim Downing
Staff Reporter

Accompanying exhibit titled “Breaking Down a Bottle”

The value of wine grapes depends on where they’re grown. While grapes are the primary ingredient in wine, they make up only a splash of a bottle’s retail price.

Here’s a breakdown of the estimated costs in an $80 bottle of Napa Valley wine:

Grapes = $ 5.75 Cab Sauvignon (Napa Valley)

Winemaking ops = $ 6.25 small lots

Oaking = $ 2.00 French oak barrel

Bottle glass = $ 2.00 Heavy European glass

Label = $ 0.65 Small order, fancy label

Closure (cork) = $ 1.00 Highest-quality cork

Capsule = $ 0.18 Tin

Bottling = $ 0.50

Subtotal . . . $18.33

Winery mark-up = +150% Small, renowned winery

Winery mark-up = +$27.50

Subtotal . . . $45.83

Wholesaler mark-up = +35% Low volume = high m-up

Wholesaler mark-up = +$16.04

Subtotal . . . $61.86

Retailer mark-up = +30% Wine shop

Retailer mark-up = +$18.13

Total . . . $79.99

Sources: Sacramento Bee; Robert Yeltman, UC Davis; National Agricultural Statistics Service